Not everything you say will stand out. But you can’t make a difference unless you’re also willing to risk voicing your opinion
For every step forward you take in your career, how many steps are you taking back? Do you actively recognize and pay attention to mistakes that limit your career?
Those who succeed at work do not have special skills and abilities. They aren’t more intelligent or talented than others. What makes them stand out are the little decisions they make every step of the way — how they behave and come across to others, how they deal with situations at work, and how they take charge of their own growth instead of challenging blaming others.
These little things may seem insignificant individually, but consistently repeated they become a significant part of your career success.
If you’re frustrated that your growth isn’t aligned with your effort, identify which of these career limiting mistakes you are making.
What do you do when you’re stuck at work or find something difficult to do?
Thinking that asking for help will make you appear incompetent can prevent you from reaching out to others. Your ego may get in the way.
Refusing to seek support when you need it slows you down. Leaving an issue open for too long can turn a minor problem into a major disadvantage. Prioritizing ego over progress is a career limiting mistake that many people make.
Asking for help when you need it does not make you inadequate, it only signals that you’re self-aware of your limitations. Success at work isn’t about “doing it alone.” It requires support from others.
It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.
― Amanda Palmer
Do you often eat lunch at your desk to save time? Do you prioritize working on a new feature over a feedback discussion? Do you rush from one meeting to another without pausing to connect with people?
Prioritizing work over getting to know your coworkers, hanging out, and spending a few fun moments with them is a big career limiting mistake.
Even if you use every minute of your waking hour working, your work will not be done. There will always be something else — another task or another problem will get your attention.
No one will remember the number of hours you spent solving a problem. But they will remember how you connected with them. Since a large amount of time at work is spent collaborating with others, building relationships with people goes a long way in making it easier to get work done.
You don’t have to go out of your way to build meaningful connections. Look for small opportunities — chat with people in between meetings, take small breaks and use that to connect, or talk to others while grabbing a coffee.
Knowing others beyond work will not only make work more meaningful, it will open up new opportunities for you. When others trust you, they’re more willing to work with you.
Do you go on mute in meetings? Do you hesitate to share your opinion with the assumption that you have nothing productive to say or speaking up will make you look stupid?
Keeping what you have to say to yourself is safe, but it also limits your career. You can’t be trusted with higher-level responsibilities unless others know how you think. Convincing people to your ideas and getting yourself heard is a great leadership skill.
Speaking up is scary initially. But like any other skill, it only gets better with practice and experience. Say what you have to say without hesitation, without worrying about what others will think.
Speaking up gives you a voice. Others can identify you with that voice. They can recognize you as someone with their own ideas and opinions. Not everything you say will stand out. But you can’t make a difference unless you’re also willing to risk voicing your opinion.
Do you say yes to everything that comes your way? Do you think working extra hard will make you look good?
The belief that you’ll be recognized by the number of hours you spend working is a myth. Work is no longer about the quantity, but the quality of hours you put in.
People who are recognized at work aren’t the busiest. They are known for doing more in less time. Being productive, working smart, doing a few things, and doing them well is more valuable than working hard.
Saying yes to everything limits your career. Keeping busy with inconsequent activities makes you lose important opportunities. The side effects of working long hours — exhaustion and burnout — are not to be taken lightly. Not only do they limit your career, they are harmful to your mental health and personal well-being.
Instead of getting drowned in work by saying yes to everything, lift your head and identify what’s worth your time. What are your strengths and how can you put them to use to generate the maximum impact?
No is easier to do, yes is easier to say. No is no to one thing. Yes is no to a thousand things. No is a precision instrument, a surgeon’s scalpel, a laser beam focused on one point. Yes is a blunt object, a club, a fisherman’s net that catches everything indiscriminately. No is specific. Yes is general — Jason Fried
Do you try to prove to others how smart and intelligent you are? Do you evaluate everything with the goal to raise your self-esteem?
When you focus on “being good,” you care less about learning and more about proving. Your sense of self-worth is tied to specific outcomes. Instead of taking up challenges and building new skills, you play safe and do things that come relatively easy to you and make you look good.
Doing everything with the goal to appear capable and talented is a career limiting mistake that’s hard to see. Unless you are a self-aware person, you may not notice the thought process that drives your decision-making process.
Instead of trying to be good, focus on becoming better — the most capable person you can be, rather than proving that you already are.
When you’re trying to be better, you’re less focused on achieving a certain outcome and more on enhancing your skills and abilities. It’s about resetting the expectations to align with the progress you’re making. How much are you improving each day? What strategies are working? What solutions do you need to implement to get over the unexpected obstacles and challenges?
Heidi Grant explains it “When you pursue the goal of being good, you can quite easily become a victim of a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy — believing that you don’t have what it takes, you stop trying, which dooms you to fail. Which of course just reinforces the (mistaken) belief that you didn’t have what it takes in the first place.”
She advocates for getting better —
When we pursue mastery (get-better) goals, we are less likely to blame our difficulties and poor performances on a lack of ability, because that wouldn’t make sense. Of course I lack ability — I haven’t mastered this yet! Instead, we look to other, more controllable causes. Am I putting in enough effort to learn this material? Should I be using a different strategy? Should I ask an expert for help? When people run into trouble in pursuit of get-better goals, they don’t get depressed and helpless like the be-gooders — they take action
Do you worry that stating a contradictory opinion will make you look bad? Do you tend to go with the majority, even though you disagree with the decision?
It may feel safe to blend in instead of standing out, but doing what everyone else is doing leads to mediocrity. Disagreeing with others can make you unpopular for a while, but the positive effects of those disagreements lead to building trust and respect in the long term.
The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special — Bill Taylor
Don’t limit your career by doing what everyone else is doing. Practice the courage to stand out with your unique ideas and opinions.
Do you have a tendency to constantly complain or turn a perfectly good outcome into an unsatisfactory one? Do you carry a negative outlook toward challenges and setbacks?
Your cynical, gloomy, and defeatist behavior not only emotionally drains you, it impacts others around you. Once they’re trapped in your negativity it hurts their productivity.
Constantly complaining and agonizing is a big career-limiting mistake. You assume that you’re just being may by sharing your concerns and what might go wrong, but your negative energy has such a devastating impact on others that it makes them resent you.
Instead of being a problem poser, be a solution provider. Instead of complaining, take responsibility. Instead of only talking about what might go wrong, also share about what might work. When others look at you as part of a solution rather than a problem, it changes their perspective.
Do you assume that simply doing great work will get you the recognition you deserve? Do you think your work will speak for itself and others will see your talents and abilities?
Keeping head down and focusing on producing your best work while handing over your career to others is a big mistake.
A combination of hard work and right skills is important to stand out at work, but it’s often not enough. With the fast pace of work environments today, others can’t see you. You have to make yourself visible.
Don’t downplay your achievements, put them out in the open for everyone to see. Don’t shrug off praise or a compliment, acknowledge and accept what you truly deserve with gratefulness. Ruthlessly advocate for yourself. Speaking about your strengths and what you bring to the table is not bragging. It’s necessary to make sure that others understand your worth.