What's Holding You Back? Debunking Myths.

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When it comes to careers, there are several myths that may be holding you back. Do you believe the following statements are true?

  1. Career success is primarily achieved by moving in a vertical direction.
  2. Investing energy in alternatives to vertical movement (including special or temporary project assignments) is a waste of time and should be avoided.
  3. It’s who you know that counts.
  4. Networking is something you do only when you’re out of a job.
  5. Working harder, maintaining a good relationship with your boss, and achieving or exceeding your goals are all you can do earn the career opportunities you deserve.

While there might be a grain of truth in these statements, they are more myth than reality. Holding any of them to be mostly true will only hinder your ability to see or act upon opportunities for career growth.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these statements and debunk the myths.

Myth 1: Career success is primarily achieved by moving in a vertical direction.

Reality: Career success is an ongoing life-long process, and is not the result of a single move in any one direction. Success is achieved through the realization of a series of career goals that will take you in multiple directions.  Career success is predicated on selecting career goals that fit your interests and values, and enables you to develop your abilities to their fullest potential. When you reframe career success in this way, you empower yourself to move beyond the all- or-nothing thinking about one position and think more strategically about your future.

Myth 2: Investing energy in alternatives to vertical movement (including special or temporary project assignments) is a waste of time and should be avoided.

Reality: Lateral moves, temporary project assignments and job enrichment opportunities promote cross-functional knowledge and help you develop and hone your skills.

Myth 3: It’s who you know that counts. 

Reality: It’s not so much who you know that counts, but who knows you and what they know about you. Career success requires taking steps to become more visible, perhaps by volunteering to work on a highly visible project that can showcase your talents. It requires managing your reputation by proactively seeking feedback from multiple sources (boss, peers, clients and direct reports) and making changes if the feedback is less than desirable.

Myth 4: Networking is something you do only when you’re out of a job.

Reality: Building your network and nurturing those relationships is ongoing. A vibrant network of people can provide ongoing coaching, advice, information, connections, or direct sponsorship to opportunities.

Myth 5: Working harder, maintaining a good relationship with your boss, and achieving or exceeding your goals are all you can do earn the career opportunities you deserve.

Reality: Having a good work ethic, maintaining a positive relationship with your boss, and achieving or exceeding work objectives are important, but are not always enough to earn the career opportunities you deserve. While your boss should be included in your network, it is unrealistic to expect him or her to have all the information, connections, and sponsorship capability that you need. Develop relationships with employees and managers outside your department so you will be thought of when new opportunities become available.

Your personal lens governs how you pursue career opportunities. Stop and pay attention to the way you’ve looked at issues in the past, and the way you want to intentionally change that perspective.

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