Don’t Dance with this Career Saboteur

by Janine Moon

Careers used to happen this way: you paid your dues in one position, and awaited your promotion to the next. Your manager identified your career direction, often several different positions, and even if you were “fast tracked,” the organization controlled where and when. Whatever training you needed to move along your path was defined by your manager during your yearly performance review.

Career Saboteur # 1: you think it still works this way.

The economic changes that drive organizations don’t allow for much career planning, let alone a sense of direction for you. Every organization is focused on competition, its customers and an almost continual review of its business model in order to ride the rapids of the global economy. Look at it this way: if your organization isn’t doing this review, then your career direction may be the least of your worries!

This saboteur gives you the really false impression that waiting for career direction from your manager is appropriate…that’s how it’s done, that it would be frowned upon to take things into your own hands, that it’s somehow not up to you to sharpen your skills. Logic, on the other hand, tells you that the game has changed, but your distaste for change (especially initiating it) overcomes reason.

You own all the ideas in your head. Since you do, you can choose to change them if you want. This is one you must change!

Look around and see what your organization does with careers…if it does. Are you aware of openings or new business direction that fits your skills and experience? Do you get a once a year performance review, where your manager encourages you to ‘hang tight’ through this bumpy economy? Do you see consolidations, and activity in business units where your skills don’t lie? Can you look around and see that no career activity is happening and that you will be treading water in your same position next year at this time unless another reduction gives you more work and fewer resources or moves you to outplacement?

Whatever it is, acknowledge it…see it…and don’t let fear allow you to ignore it. Fear creates a paralysis that kicks your self-talk into high gear and reinforces your human desire to hunker down and do nothing…physical and mental homeostasis. That’s the last thing you need! Many workplaces are themselves in ‘hunker down’ mode where the modus operandi is scarcity, the word is be-glad-you-have-a-job, and development opportunities are only expenses to be cut.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to believe this, too, in order to be secure in your position. The only security you have is that which you create. Your best bet? Get outside yourself, get with a professional–a coach–who can provide an objective and reality- based view of the workplace to get you around the paralyzing self-talk and work environment.

Look around to find those who would be advocates and supporters. Are managers trained in how to help you figure out career direction? Who in HR will assist you to implement a career plan, to pick up new or expanded skills and to help you find a mentor or sponsor? Will someone assist you in defining new paths based upon your strengths? Can you develop relationships in growth areas so you might create project or shadowing opportunities?

Your task now is to figure out: Am I comfortable with someone else “taking care of” my career? Who has my best interests at heart? What would it take for me to begin to own my career now, to take steps to move in the direction that’s best for me?

What it usually takes is direction, strategy and accountability. You learn to shift your beliefs and habits to support that strategy. Once your direction is perfectly aligned with your talents, a coach can hold you accountable and support your success. The support helps you get where you want to go, and to avoid the victim-thinking that has sabotaged you up to this point.

Now: take just a minute and let me know what has popped into your head: I know your voice is saying “Yes, but…” Leave a comment and let me know what internal arguments keep you from moving ahead. Your comments will help me help you to uncover resources to move away from this career saboteur!

6 Responses

  1. You are responsible for you!

  2. Well and succinctly stated, Jim…thanks for the confirmation!

  3. As always Janine, you hit the nail on the head!

  4. Thanks, Ann…take a look at the latest, too!

  5. you mean there isn’t some sugar daddy out there to take care of me?! Yeah, right. It’s been difficult to take control under these economic conditions. FDR said the only thing wrong w/ capitalism is greedy capitalists…I think the younger generation gets it, that they have to be in control of their destiny, that no corporation will employ them forever and give them a great pension. How ludicrous that we thought it might be so…it’s our parents who got/get to enjoy that situation. Maybe this is why it’s difficult for them to help their offspring. Many of us will work until we’re in our 70s…like pioneer days on the farm, being productive.

    P.S. You know Ann Klein!!? Get me some fashions!

  6. Hi, Carol: you’re right–the younger generation does get it. They’ve watched all the downsizing & rightsizing, and recognize that the promise of “be loyal and we’ll reward you” is a pretty empty one, today more than a year ago even. It’s hard for many people to take the blinders off, even after they live the reality a second and third time…we’re creatures of habit, even when it’s not good for us!

    Thanks for commenting…I appreciate your pragmatism!l


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