Mentorship

3 Misguided Career Beliefs that Successful People Avoid

misguided career beliefs

Do you have a piece of career advice that has become your mantra?

Early on in our careers, we are given advice that forms our beliefs about how we can be successful. It influences how we work, how we see ourselves, and how we plan our career.

At some point, you’ve probably been told: “work hard and you’ll be rewarded.”

Sure, hard work deserves to be rewarded! But simply working hard rarely gets us that coveted promotion, or a raise, or greater respect in an organization.

In a recent webinar, Executive Coach May Busch shared that she received this advice early in her career. It wasn’t until she ditched this belief and changed her strategy that she was able to move from “just above the mailroom” and get promoted over time to COO.

3 Misguided Career Beliefs That Will Block Your Career Advancement.

  1. “Keep your head down, work hard, do great work and you’ll get recognized and rewarded”

Everyone has probably received this advice at some point in their career. It’s motivational – even comforting to hear that at the end of the day, you’ll get out what you put in.

Put this belief aside!

Whether or not this advice comes from a good place, realize that other factors dictate who gets the promotions, the good work opportunities, and yes – the raises.

This advice only works for your first couple years at best. “Our bosses are so busy…we have to demonstrate our value, otherwise, people don’t know,” said Busch. “And when people don’t know, you get overlooked for opportunities…you become underused.”

Rather than working harder and hoping for recognition, Busch recommends that you find your competitive advantage, then, work on your reputation.

your competitive advantageYour competitive advantage is a combination of your strengths, and what you really love to do. Combine your competitive advantage with what is valued by the firm to find the ‘sweet spot’.

Next, align your brand with your reputation. The brand we create for ourselves does not always match our reputation, or how we are perceived. For example, you may consider yourself to be ‘a great leader who is fantastic with clients’. But others might see you as ‘organized and having a great attention to detail.’ People often only see the tip of the iceberg. It’s up to you to show your leadership, client relationship skills, or special something that will set you apart from the pack and keep you top of mind with senior leadership.

Also read: The Worst Career Advice and 3 Better Ideas

  1. “I Should be Able to do This on My Own”

No successful professional goes through their entire career alone. Yet some people feel the need to accomplish everything by themselves. While this is admirable, you’ll likely run yourself into the ground and burn out.

Don’t feel embarrassed asking for help, either from a mentor, sponsor, coach, or colleague. “It’s not a sign of weakness to get help,” shares Busch, “in fact, it’s a sign that you’re using your resources wisely.”

So rather than try and solve every problem on your own, recognize that you have people on your side who are willing to help.

  1. “Being Indispensable is a Good Thing”

Sounds good on the surface, right? It’s great to be a ‘go-to person,’ and get respect for your work. But this can have a negative impact on your brand and career advancement in the long run. “Being indispensable is great if you don’t want to get fired,” said Busch, but it won’t fast track your career.

By becoming indispensable for one thing or another, you become locked into doing just that. And when an opportunity arises for advancement, management might think: “Frank is the only person here who can take care of X around here – no one can do the job better. If we take him off that project, we will create a bigger hole than the one we are trying to fill. Perhaps there is someone else we should consider.” And when that happens, your career, at least within this firm, will hit a plateau.

Busch suggests that you need to become a rainmaker – not a caretaker. “Produce commercial results beyond what currently exists in a way that’s directly tied to what matters to your organization,” she shares. You need to become someone who is indispensable for their ability to generate new business, or grow the company.

For more tips on how to advance your career, watch the class: “How to Make the Next Leap Forward in Your Career“.


Have you received similar advice that only blocks your career? If so, share in the comments below!

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