You Are Solely Responsible For Your Career
If there is only one takeaway for you from this post, let it be this – “You are solely responsible for your career.”
Make no mistake. Your manager, peers, mentors, family, and friends – all are going to support you. But you need to be clear about what you want from your career.
7 Mistakes That Are Damaging Your Career Advancement
#1 Not Knowing How Performance Is Being Measured
Have you ever discussed with your manager how your performance is being measured? If you haven’t this is the first step you should take. If there isn’t clarity around how your performance is measured, most likely there will be no clarity on how you can progress. Some companies do a good job of documenting expectations from each job position at each level. Others, leave it to be hand-wavy. Either way, you need to bring this up to your Manager and have a detailed (and repeated) discussion on this topic. You having this discussion will inform your Manager that you are serious about your career. If the expectations are not documented, partner with your Manager to establish some standards. Write these down. Re-visit them periodically to see how you are faring.
#2 Not Having A Career Conversation With Your Manager
How often do you discuss your career progress with your Manager? Do you know how you are faring, not just on your current task but in all aspects of your job?
I hear people say this all the time. “My Manager is so busy I don’t feel like asking for feedback on my career”. That premise will set you back a ton. Your Manager will never have free time on their hands. So, will you wait forever?
It’s important for you to have periodic discussions with your Manager regarding your career progress. How are you doing? Are you focused on the right tasks? Did you set goals? Are you tracking progress towards your goals? What help do you need from your Manager? Your Manager will be impressed you take your career seriously and will be glad to provide you feedback and guidance.
One of the important aspects of having a successful Career Conversation is to document your achievements, accomplishments, and goals. My team and I would take a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon and document our achievements every month. This helped us draw focus on how aligned our work has been with our goals. It also enabled my team to have a healthy candid discussion with me to discuss the next steps. Don’t shy away from the documenting. You will not remember everything you did one year from now. Making timely notes is important. TIP: Don’t focus on just the tasks you did. Think about their impact? How did your work help your customers, your stakeholders, or your team members?
#3 Not Asking For 360 Feedback
How do your peers and stakeholders perceive your work and behavior? Have you ever asked for sincere feedback?
There is value in getting a 360 feedback because it allows synthesizing feedback from people you work with. It provides an overall impression of your work. Is their perception of your work and behavior aligned with your expectations?
If you feel shy to solicit this feedback directly. Ask your Manager to make the ask.
Does their feedback resonate with you? Were there any surprises? Is the positive feedback aligned with your strengths? Is their negative feedback aligned with your weaknesses?
Don’t let all this feedback go to waste. Identify 1-2 positive areas of feedback. How will you double down on these?
Likewise, identify 1-2 areas of opportunities. What can you do to improve in these areas?
#4 Not Investing In Your Learning
Continuous Learning is vital to your growth. You already know this. But are you prioritizing it? Are you intentionally spending the time and energy on learning skills, tools, or technology that will help you improve your performance and advance to the next level?
Here are two common pitfalls that may happen to you. Firstly, you may feel so busy and consumed in doing your job that you may decide to postpone your learning. Don’t fall into this trap. You need to keep up your learning so you continue to grow and contribute better to your job.
Secondly, remember to prioritize your learning activity. If you think you will learn something new when you have some free time – News Flash – you never will. You need to actively prioritize your learning. Block your calendar. Inform your manager, team, and stakeholders. And when complete some learning, share with them. You will be surprised by how deep your understanding becomes when you have to teach it to someone.
#5 Not Being Clear About What Is Required To Advance To The Next Level
The next level can be anything from a new project, new responsibility, promotion, or new team. Whatever it is that you want next, do you know how to get there? What are the expectations from your Manager? What work do you need to complete? Do you have the opportunity to do the required work? If not, have you discussed the lack of an opportunity with your manager?
I hear people say this a lot. “When I am good for the next level, they will see me and I will be rewarded.” That’s just wishful thinking. If you have not stated your intentions, how will they know? If you yourself aren’t clear on what is needed to advance, how will you know how to get there? You will be left wondering all the time if you did enough or was something lacking.
Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch. Be actively involved in understanding what is required to move to the next level. Have an open candid conversation with your Manager to help you get to the next level. Don’t just wait and watch.
#6 Just Cruising Along, Being Too Comfortable & Not Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Getting outside of your Comfort Zone is hard but absolutely needed. I cannot tell you how many times I hear vague excuses for not taking action – “Now is not the time”; “Let me wait for 6 more months”; “I am waiting for my Manager to get promoted and leave the group”; “Next week/month/year will be different”; and the list goes on.
Change is hard, so I don’t want to trivialize it. But if you don’t take action because you are afraid, you will never progress. Staying in a role, team, or company simply because you know your way around, isn’t enough for your growth. Don’t get caught in complacency.
Seek growth. Growth is challenging and yet inspiring. It keeps you moving. Don’t strive to find a role that allows you to cruise along. I guarantee you, sooner or later you will be bored. Find something that allows you to be stretched.
#7 Not Asking For Help From The Community Of Mentors & Coaches
This one is classic and common. You want to prove that you can solve all the problems. That you are independent and capable. And so you just keep doing the work, trying to learn on your own, without tapping into the community of mentors and coaches available to you.
In my early career days, I did not use the help of any coaches or mentors. Truth is, I didn’t know whom to approach. I feel differently now. As I progressed in my career, I understood what a critical role my mentors and coaches played in my success. Mentors and Coaches teach us technical and leadership skills that enable us to have successful careers. Don’t shy away from using advice and help from this valuable community.