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3 Myths That Kill Your Career

Career myth

I recently talked to career coach Kathy Caprino (who also happens to be the author of the most-viewed post on LinkedIn—ever).

One of Kathy’s specialities is guiding people, usually women, through the process of reinventing their careers—and, of course, themselves. She’s learned a lot about what holds people back from success.

Sometimes the hardest part of moving forward in your career, whether it is to a promotion, a new company or a new industry, is tamping down fear. Usually you don’t even realize what fears are keeping you stuck. Hint: they are often disguised as seemingly rational beliefs. You know, the “I can’t do that because…” statements that our minds tell us are true but that are really just our way of protecting ourselves from the unknown.

After working with hundreds of clients, Kathy’s identified assumptions that hold people back from career happiness. Here are 3 myths she commonly sees and her advice on overcoming them. (Read the full list here.)

“I’ve done this for so long, I can’t change.”

This was me. I was in marketing and product management/development in the corporate arena for 18 years, and there just seemed to be no way I could chart a new course.  People in my career success training programs start out saying the same thing – I’ve been in (PR, advertising, branding, finance, pharmaceuticals, publishing, etc.) for 15 years – I’m too old to make a change, but I hate this.

You’re not too old to change, and there is a way out, but not the way you think.  You don’t need to chuck everything that you’ve learned. You want to find a new path that taps into everything you know, draws on all the talent, experience and insight you have, and repurposes it all to achieve new outcomes that will make you happier.

This assumption – that you’re stuck because you’ve been in this one direction for so long — keeps you locked in inertia, and stops you from even contemplating what a new direction could look and feel like.

Tip: Just start exploring yourself more deeply, and opening your eyes to what change might look and feel like for you. (Take this survey as a start.) You don’t have to figure out the hows yet – just start exploring and brainstorming first.

 “A fabulous career that makes a difference in the world is for someone else, not me.”

When we’ve been hacking through life’s challenges for years, we often forget what we’re capable of, and we stop dreaming and hoping.  People who are chronically unhappy in their careers feel listless, exhausted and dejected, and make an assumption that forging a great career that is enlivening and exciting is for someone else.  They don’t believe in themselves any more, and don’t think that what they’ve got inside is compelling or special enough to be important to anyone.  They see others doing exciting work that they envy, but believe that they somehow lack what these others have.

Tip: Stop failing to recognize that you’re important and valuable too. Think back to a time when you made a difference to someone or something that mattered.  What were you doing then that made an impact, and how can you bring that forward?

“The reason I’m not happier in my work is someone else.”

I receive hundreds of emails a month from unhappy professionals who share a core belief: “I’m miserable because the people around me are making me miserable.”

I certainly know there are toxic behaviors all around us But whether it’s blaming your toxic boss, or focusing on the backstabbers and liars at work, or hating the folks around you who kiss up to get ahead while you toil and labor – you’re focusing on all the wrong factors.  You’re looking at what’s outside of your control for why you aren’t happier.

This is a harsh statement, but your unhappiness is not because of anyone else.  It’s about you, and how you view the world, operate in it, and interact with others.  If you believe that everyone else is to blame for why you’re stuck in a lousy career that you hate, then you’re dooming yourself to remain in it for your lifetime.

Tip: Get some 360° feedback today. Ask five people whom you trust to share with you their candid views about your work, your talents, skills and contributions, and how you can modify what you’re doing to be more effective, successful and impactful in what you do.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.