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Top 10 Career Myths – and how they hold you back (Part 3)

This is the third in a 3-part series about ten career myths that can hold you back.  While I wrote these for an audience of Millennials, most are relevant for anybody who works.  This last section concerns myths about making job changes.

What’s Your Next Move?

You’d better pick the right path because it’s too hard to change later on.  It’s too late to go back to school.

True: Making a career change and/or going back to school can be hard – especially as responsibilities like partners, mortgages and children become part of your life.

False: You have one life and you are the one in charge of managing it.  For most people, there is no one magic path.  You change, the world around you changes.  The work you loved at 25 becomes a drag by the time you’re 30, or 40, or 50.  That’s ok, that’s life.

A lucky few may find their calling at 18 and pursue it joyfully for the rest of their lives.  Most of us will need to shift jobs and careers over the course of a 40+ year working life.  The key is to check in with yourself regularly, be honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s not, and to PLAN for a change when needed.  Reflect on your strengths and what type of work is satisfying to you.  When are you in that zone where work doesn’t feel like work? Research your options.  Not every career change requires going back to school, but changing may require dropping back to learner status in a new field.  Again, that network can be so helpful here.

 If you’re not happy at your job, the best thing to do is leave and go someplace else.

True:  Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to leave a work situation that makes you miserable.  If you dread going to work every day, something needs to change.

False: Taking a new job for the sole purpose of fleeing your current one is rarely a good strategy.  A mentor asked me to consider years ago whether I was fleeing FROM something or moving TO something.  This is a very important distinction.  When you decide to make a change, be very specific with yourself about what is the different outcome you are trying to create.  Is it more autonomy, less travel, more time with your family, a more creative environment, a nurturing boss….the list is different for everybody.

Before you leave the job you’re in, have you done your research to determine if there is a way to fix the current situation?  If leaving is definitely the right solution, then take care with your new job search.  Don’t rely solely on the recruiter and hiring manager at the prospective employer for your insight about what it would be like to work there.  Use that network, talk to people who work at the prospective employer.  So that when you make the leap, it’s more about the excitement about what’s ahead rather than relief at what you’re leaving behind.

Prior Posts in This Series:

Top Ten Career Myths and How They Hold You Back (Part 1)

Top Ten Career Myths and How They Hold You Back (Part 2)



Top 10 Career Myths – and how they hold you back (Part 2)

Today’s post is part 2 of a 3 part series on the career myths that can hold you back professionally. Part 2 focuses on managing yourself at work.

Myths About Managing Yourself at Work

You need to be outgoing and liked by everyone to succeed.

  • True: It may be easier to forge productive working relationships if you are outgoing and people like to work with you.
  • False:  It takes all kinds of people to help an organization be successful.  Not all successful people are outgoing and likeable– but they advance by earning trust through their contributions.  It is important to be aware of how YOU are perceived and manage your behavior accordingly.  You don’t have to be Little Mary (or Johnny) Sunshine all the time, but you do need to ensure that your personal brand conveys reliability and quality.  Getting too personal with too many co-workers can become problematic. Building relationships with your coworkers is a positive. Just be sure that there is not a clear distinction from life inside the work environment and life outside the work environment.

You need a mentor to be successful. 

  • True: A mentor who is interested in helping you develop can be important to your success.
  • False: Your success at work comes from your ability to consistently deliver a great performance, and from making it clear you’re able to take on more by doing so without waiting to be asked.  That being said, mentors (plural) can help accelerate your progress.  Some organizations have formal mentoring programs – which often entail a 1:1 relationship with a more experienced mentor.  That’s great if you have that, but it’s not the be all and end all.  A long time ago, I heard a senior female executive talk about her personal board of directors, and I’ve leveraged that concept ever since.  You change and your job changes over time.  Building a network of advisors over time who take an interest in your career and can serve as sounding boards is very useful.

Networking is most useful when you’re looking for a job.

  • True: Networking is one of the best possible ways to find a new job.
  • False: Successful people are continually networking.  And they understand that you need to give to get.  If you only reach out to people when you’re looking for a job, without having some relationship collateral in the bank, your network won’t be as effective. There are lots of ways to network. 
  1. Familiarize yourself with professional associations – national and local  – where people in your field get together.
  2. Talk to your manager about paying for your attendance at these professional conferences as part of your development plan.  If you can’t attend in person, you may still be able to access conference presentations in online forums connected to the event.
  3. Make sure you’re a member of online communities that are active in your profession.  This can be a great way to “meet” people.  I’ve made some great connections by complimenting people on their content in forums then connecting with them by phone or in person later.
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA! You have LinkedIn – you can find your way to just about anybody you’d like to meet.  Twitter is another way to connect with people.  Share interesting information on your feed.  Compliment others on theirs.
  5. Actively look for ways to contribute back to your network – send people information you think will be useful to them, make introductions for them.

You need to focus on becoming the best functional expert possible.  Success means knowing all the answers.

  • True: Growing your career does depend on others’ perceptions of you as reliable and competent. Knowing your stuff is part of being competent.  Investing in expanding your expertise in your field will make you more valuable to your colleagues and managers.
  • False: No one knows all the answers all the time.  One of my favorite tips is from Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.   In it he says, seek to understand before you seek to be understood”.  By asking questions of others and making sure you understand the fullest extent of a situation before you offer solutions, you’ll be more effective.  Most things that happen in organizations require teamwork.  If you’re the smartest person in the room, but unable to work effectively with others, your path will be a lot harder.

Taking risks can be bad for your career.

  • True: Taking uninformed or unnecessary risks can be bad for your career.
  • False:  Since nobody can predict the future, there are risks associated with most of the decisions we make in life.  The difference between good risks and bad risks is the diligence you perform in understanding the pros and cons of these decisions.  Attitude also plays a part in determining the difference between good and bad risks.  Most of us have qualms when it comes to making changes, yet change is what propels us to learn and grow. Expanding your career means you are going to take on new responsibilities without knowing exactly how to perform.  You need to learn to prepare, then trust yourself to learn and respond.  Taking risks is one of those areas where having built your network of advisors comes in handy – not just to help you decide when to make changes, but also to help you be successful once you make a change.

Top 10 Career Myths – and how they hold you back (Part 1)

Today I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Emerging Leaders Event of the Association of YMCA Professionals (AYP). This event is a gathering of young Y professionals who’ve been identified by their leadership as rising stars, and this event is an investment in their development. You can see a few of the participants enjoying themselves below.

I was invited to speak at this event, and asked to focus on career management strategies. I put together a talk titled The Top Ten Career Myths and How They Hold You Back. Today’s post is part 1 of that talk, myths about getting started in your career. I’ll post parts 2 & 3 over the next couple of days.

Getting Started in Your Career

Your twenties “don’t count”.  You can get the job you really want later, just take what’s available now.  You just need to try a lot of different options to figure out what you want to do when you grow up anyway.

  • True: You need to make a living, and sometimes your “ideal” job isn’t available.
  • False: Making purposeful job choices in your 20’s is possible.  If you’re still unsure of your career path, choose options that will expose you to as many different skills as possible.  This builds your resume while helping you refine your vision of the path you want to be on.  Internships are a valuable tool during this period.  Look for companies that actively offer development programs that will provide you with training and the opportunity to move around the organization.

The best way to find a job is to search online job postings. 

  • True: Online job postings are one good way to determine the types of candidates that companies are looking for.  Often career websites will also tell you something about company culture, what it’s like to work there, etc.  (And of course, remember they are marketing themselves to you).
  • False: Online job postings are only one way to find your way to a job in an organization.  Networking is very important – and easier than ever to accomplish.  LinkedIn can help you find connections through the people you already know.  Online discussion groups for professionals in the field you’re interested in are incredibly helpful.  Go to conferences and networking events.

It is impossible to advance in a large organization.

  • True: It can take a while to advance to a senior position in a larger organization.
  • False: Large organizations can often offer more options than smaller ones.  Larger organizations are more likely to have resources for training and development – and purposeful programs to help you grow.  Benefits like tuition reimbursement, travel to conferences, and formal mentoring programs are more likely in larger organizations.