It’s Not Too Late to Change Careers

Time for Career ChangeAs an executive coach, I am committed to helping professionals achieve success and satisfaction on their terms. I’ve worked with many talented individuals who have overcome significant obstacles to achieve their goals. So it’s always disheartening to me when someone has a professional goal or vision but shrugs it off, claiming that it’s too late.

In rare cases, it might be too late. If you’re 50 years old and dreaming of becoming an NBA all-star, that ship has likely sailed. But for most of us, our goals are much more attainable with the right attitude and level of effort.

For some people, having a dream that they write off due to age is a way of shirking responsibility. Instead of making the effort to make their goal a reality, they blame their age and continue to suffer in their less desirable job. In this scenario, it’s not their fault that they don’t have a more rewarding career. It’s simply too late to make the required changes.

The unfortunate effect of this belief is that you give up not only your dream but also your power. You’re a victim of external forces, which hold you hostage in an unfulfilling role. Is that how you want to live?

It’s important to be realistic about what’s possible but if you really want something, it’s also critical that you question your assumptions and limiting beliefs. If you’re thinking about making a career change but worry that you’re too old, consider the following:

1. What do you want to do?

One of the greatest forces against change is lack of clarity about what you actually want. Many professionals have created an ambiguous vision that allows them to fantasize about an escape from their current jobs. The vision lacks structure so taking action to achieve it is virtually impossible. But it serves the purpose of giving them something to think about when times are tough. Is that what you’re doing, or is there something more?

Before giving up on a dream, take time to clearly articulate what you would do if age and other factors were not an issue. Be as detailed as possible. Don’t stop until you can visualize yourself in that role.

Taking the time to clarify the vision can often make it feel more attainable. Once you’re clear about what you want to do, you can begin to recognize it in real settings, rather than simply imagining it in your mind. That makes it far easier to explore the possibilities and the changes you would need to make to successfully make a transition.

2. Why do you want to do it?

Once you’ve painted a clear picture of what you want to do, ask yourself why. What is it that motivates you to want to do this? Think deeply beyond the superficial reasons that tend to surface immediately.

Is this simply a mental escape from your current job or is it more than that? What would this type of work offer you that you’re not getting today?

Exploring your motivations for wanting a change can be very powerful. Not only does it help you to gauge your level of interest in making a change, it can also help you to recognize opportunities for change in your current situation. Perhaps the change you really want can be achieved by making some tweaks to your current role, or by taking on a new role in your company or industry. Many times we think we need to make dramatic changes to achieve our goals when small changes will have the same effect.

Be clear about what is driving you to make a change. And recognize that the vision you’ve outlined is likely only one way of achieving your goals. Are there other ways you can satisfy your need for change?

3. How badly do you want it?

Making a career change at any age isn’t easy. As you get older, though, it does tend to get more complicated. Complications aren’t a function of age but of life. As you get older, family and financial responsibilities make it more challenging to shift gears. Change is possible but it requires effort. The more badly you want something, the more likely you’ll be to commit to the process.

On a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want this? Is it something that you deeply desire? When you imagine yourself in the role, how does it make you feel?

If you’re like most people, you haven’t had an opportunity to truly think about these questions. Take some time to seriously reflect on them. Think also about another important question:

At the end of your life, which will you regret more: pursuing a more fulfilling career, regardless of the outcome, or remaining in your comfort zone, however miserable you may feel today?

If you can clearly articulate your goal, tap into your deeper motivations, and determine that you truly want to achieve it, don’t let age stand in your way. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and uncertain about how to proceed but you don’t have to go it alone. There are countless resources available to help you explore and execute this type of transition.

Most importantly, remember this. You can’t change your age but you can change your circumstances. You can either be over 50 with an unsatisfying job or over 50 with meaningful work.

This is a post on behalf of Job Action Day.

Job Action Day

hidden fear

The Hidden Fear that Undermines Your Career

hidden fearFear is a natural part of the human experience, especially as we embark on any type of change. Anything that involves a shift in routine or a step outside the comfort zone can feel intimidating. As an executive coach, I partner with clients who are all engaged in some kind of transition. Some are making a dramatic career change, while others are simply growing within their existing roles. Regardless of the nature and intensity of the change, fears naturally creep in.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that many professionals experience a fear of failure. They worry that they’ll make it to the next level and then not be able to meet expectations. The risk of failure often overpowers their motivation to succeed, which holds them back and keeps them from reaching their goals.

What you might find surprising is that many also have a fear of success. Sounds funny, right? Who wouldn’t want to be successful? Most of us wouldn’t admit to a fear of success, even if we consciously recognized it within ourselves. There are actually a number of success-related fears that, if not addressed, undermine many talented professionals’ careers.

1. Fear of increased visibility

You’re in a groove right now. You’ve figured out how to perform at your best and still fly under the radar so that you don’t attract too much attention. Could you do more? Sure! But that would mean increased exposure and you’re not sure you’re ready for it.

Once you reach a certain level, you can’t hide anymore. Being successful requires that you assume a more prominent role, which often means taking center stage in meetings, actively promoting your work, and experiencing increased scrutiny by your colleagues and leadership team. If you’re not comfortable with greater visibility, you might choose to avoid higher profile opportunities, which will inevitably cause you to plateau in your career.

Don’t let your fear of visibility keep you from maximizing your talents. Begin by reflecting on the fear itself.

Are you an introvert by nature who prefers not to be too visible?
There are many highly successful introverts who’ve found ways to both authentically express themselves and effectively adapt to the environment around them. As you look ahead, don’t compare yourself to the spotlight-stealing extrovert who always knows just what to say. Be clear about who you want to be and leverage your own strengths to achieve your goals.

Are you uncomfortable communicating with others?
If you struggle to articulate your ideas, you’re not alone. Often it’s not your communication skills that are the issue but your lack of clarity about your message. If you’re worried about your ability to convey information in a succinct and compelling fashion, practice ahead of time. Translate your thoughts into words before talking with your audience to ensure that you’re crystal clear about what you want to communicate.

Do you lack confidence in yourself?
Lack of confidence is often the biggest culprit. We have a tendency to focus on our weaknesses and disregard our strengths, so we don’t see ourselves as special. Take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that each step in your career (and life) has required an adjustment. And while it might not have been easy, you’ve found a way to navigate all of the changes thus far.

Becoming more visible can feel scary but it’s also a great opportunity. It offers you greater influence, a stronger voice, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. Before you let your fear of exposure keep you from pursuing a better opportunity, try to address the underlying issue that stands in your way.

2. Fear of rising expectations

You’ve set the bar for yourself at a certain level and are currently comfortable meeting your own and others’ expectations. You work hard but you’ve also determined where you can cut corners. Your work has a comfortable rhythm to it and the predictability, while sometimes frustrating, feels safe.

When you reach the next level, expectations change. More people are paying attention, which means you have to step up your game. Your new peer group has also set the bar higher. You can no longer afford to coast through your job.

It’s time to decide what’s important to you. Do you want to feel challenged? Do you want to fully utilize your skills and talents? If you do, you’ll need to consistently push yourself.

Think back on a recent challenge and the feeling of victory you experienced after conquering it. Was it exhilarating? Would you like to feel that more often? Comfort is a double-edged sword. We feel safe but there’s not a lot of excitement. What do you want to be known for? Performing a predictable role with ease or challenging yourself to always be the best version of yourself?

And remember, your last role didn’t start out smoothly and predictably. What feels natural to you today was once a new and uncomfortable role with increased expectations. The learning curve is often a challenge but someday you’ll be cruising through the next role.

3. Fear of upsetting the status quo

Many people have mixed feelings about success because of what it represents to them. If, for example, you belong to a family where everyone has maxed out at middle management, rising to the executive level might stir up feelings of guilt or shame. You might worry that your family will resent you or see you as “one of them.” You might also worry that success will change who you are.

Our perceptions of success also tend to be tied to money. We expect that rising levels of success will be accompanied by increased compensation. Money tends to trigger a lot of emotions in people. Some feel that they don’t deserve it. Others view it through the lens of income inequality and fairness. Still others worry about what it will do to their relationships.

It’s important to remember that you are not defined by your title and compensation. Your work is just one piece of your identity. That being said, these are complex issues that can be difficult to overcome. If these resonate with you, it would be worthwhile to address them with a coach or other objective party who can help you to clarify your values and reconcile your professional goals with your personal identity.

Have you experienced these success-related fears in the past? Maybe you’re facing them now. If you believe that your fears are keeping you from increased success, as you define it, seek support to help you address them. However stubborn and deep-rooted your fears may seem, it is possible to overcome them and reach your goals.

does your work matter

Does Your Work Matter?

Does Your Work MatterWhen I reflect back on my career, I can vividly recall the moments when I felt most insignificant. I remember times when, no matter how busy I was, I felt like my contributions were entirely inconsequential. While I recognized opportunities for improvement and proposed solutions to challenges, despite my best efforts, my voice went unheard. Each day was a soul-crushing experience.

Throughout my years as a coach, I’ve talked with countless professionals at levels ranging from entry level to senior executive who question the significance of their roles. Regardless of their title, compensation, and other external attributes, they don’t feel that their work matters. It’s a devastating feeling that leads to decreases in confidence, motivation, productivity, and self-esteem.

Above all else, we as professionals want to feel like we’re making a meaningful contribution. High salaries, competitive benefits, good working conditions, etc. lose their value when a sense of purpose is missing. These are just some of the comments I hear regularly:

  • “I want to make a difference in my organization.”
  • “I want to feel like I’m adding value.”
  • “I want to use my skills in a more meaningful way.”
  • “I want to be recognized for all of the work I do.”

If any of these sound like you, try the following strategies:

Reconnect with your company’s mission

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget the strategic purpose you serve. When you’re busy attending the same meetings, analyzing the same reports, or responding to the same questions, you can easily lose your connection to the bigger picture. Take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why does my position exist?
  • How do my goals align with the goals of the larger organization?
  • If my position were to be eliminated, what would the impact be on the group, as well as the company?

Engaging in this process will help you to strengthen the link between your work and the company’s mission.

Another way to reconnect to the mission is to ask questions. Instead of blindly tackling projects or half-heartedly engaging in meetings, inquire about the significance of what you’re doing. Make an effort to understand the reasons behind your work rather than accepting it purely at face value.

Recognize your contributions

Most of us tend to take our own strengths and contributions for granted. We recognize greatness in others but we don’t see ourselves as special. Without consciously acknowledging the many ways in which you add value, it’s difficult to feel as though your work matters.

Begin documenting your accomplishments on a weekly or monthly basis and you’ll likely be surprised by the many contributions you make to your organization. This is a great way to not only boost your sense of self-worth, but also prepare for future performance reviews, promotions, interviews, etc. It’s unlikely that anyone else is logging your successes. Take the initiative to track these yourself and you’ll begin to feel much better about your situation.

Seek feedback

As much as we’d all love to have more consistent feedback, most managers are not in the habit of proactively providing it. They’re more likely to wait until a performance review or other formal opportunity than to offer it casually. To get the feedback you desire, you’ll likely need to ask for it.

Feedback on your performance is a great motivator. Positive feedback will boost your confidence and reinforce your value. And negative feedback, while tough to hear, will give you professional development areas to focus on, which will make you feel as though you’re investing in yourself and acting with purpose.

Take initiative

Maybe you’re in a rut and no matter what you do, you feel like your contributions are insignificant. That means it’s time to step up your game. Look for opportunities to stretch yourself while adding value in new ways.

  • Are there cross-functional projects you can participate in to broaden your skill set and expand your visibility?
  • Are there opportunities to mentor others on your areas of expertise?
  • Are there responsibilities you can offload from your manager that will help him/her while offering you a greater challenge?

In a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment, you can’t wait for others to come to you. Make it a habit to always be on the lookout for opportunities to get more involved, take on additional responsibilities, and strengthen your skills.

Find a better fit

If you’ve tried all of these strategies and you still feel like your work doesn’t matter, it’s probably time for a change. That change could be an internal transfer to a new department with a new set of responsibilities, or it could be an entirely new role that allows you to apply your unique skills in a fundamentally different way. Before you embark on a career change, though, take some time to reflect on what you truly want.

  • How can you maximize your skills to add the greatest value?
  • What’s missing from your current role and where will you find it?
  • What, specifically, do you need to do/have in order to feel the greatest sense of purpose?

If you’re feeling trapped in a role that has you questioning your value, you don’t have to live like that. Take action to reignite your sense of purpose and connection to your work.

Are there other strategies you would recommend?

Yes, You Do Have Time to Advance Your Career!

career advancementIf you’re like many professionals, you’re probably feeling one of the following ways about your career:

  • “This job is killing me! I need to get out of here.”
  • “I really need to step up my game. I’m not fully using my skills and strengths right now.”
  • “I’m ready for my next step. I’m long overdue for a promotion.”
  • “I’d love to go out on my own and start my own business.”

You’re likely also thinking, “If only I had the time…” As a coach, the number one reason my clients offer for not pursuing their career goals more aggressively is time. They’re too busy with their current job responsibilities. Their personal time is limited so it’s too precious to spend on career-related activities. They’re traveling too often to focus on career advancement.

The funny thing about time is that we all have the same amount of it; we just choose to spend it differently. Nobody has any more time than anyone else. But while you pass days, weeks, and years without ever reaching your full potential, others have decided to make career success a top priority and have achieved their goals.

If reaching your career goals is important to you, time should not be a factor. The time will pass regardless of how you spend it. Would you rather reshuffle some commitments now to make room for the right opportunity? Or would you rather wake up one day, years from now, and realize that you’re still unhappy and unfulfilled because you spent all of your time in the wrong job?

If you take a careful look at your life, you’ll find that you do have time for career advancement. Here are some things to consider:

Stop hiding behind time.

Think back on a time when you did something that you really wanted to do. How did you find the time to do it? Did you need to make adjustments to your schedule? What did you re-prioritize to make it happen? Were you even consciously aware of the shifts you were making to accommodate this new commitment?

Let’s face it, when we really want something and we finally summon the courage to go for it, we find the time. Sure, most of us have legitimate time constraints that require us to make choices, but more often than not, time serves as a convenient excuse not to do something difficult, confusing or scary. It’s much easier to blame a lack of time than it is to face your fears and take action.

Take a moment to reflect honestly on where you are in your career. What is truly standing between you and your goals?

Get clear.

One of the greatest challenges facing professionals who want to advance their careers is lack of clarity. They know they want “more” but they have no idea what that actually looks like.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you want to go on vacation. You’re not sure where you want to go but you want it to be fun and adventurous. You decide to start packing but you feel overwhelmed. You have no idea what to bring with you. You might even get in the car and start driving but you end up going around in circles. If you haven’t clearly defined your destination, how could you possibly plan your trip?

The same logic applies to your career. If you’re unclear about where you want to be, it’s only natural that you feel overwhelmed by the process of getting there. Define your goal first and the journey will be less time-consuming and more efficient.

Take incremental steps.

Taking the next step in your career, whether it be expanding your existing role or transitioning to an entirely new field, can feel like a monumental task. Most professionals tend to look at the big, hairy change that stands before them and decide that it’s just not doable given the competing demands on their time.

Rather than try to boil the ocean, break your goal down into smaller, more actionable steps. Even if you can only realistically commit to a few, short blocks of time per week, doing this consistently will create a cumulative effect. For example, set a goal to send three emails and make one phone call per week regarding your career advancement efforts. You can insert these into your regular routine and, within a short time, you’ll build some great momentum.

Seek support.

When you have limited time, you can’t afford to waste it on unproductive or ineffective career advancement strategies. Rather than engage in an inefficient trial and error approach, find a trusted resource who can help you. An executive coach, mentor, or friend can help you stay focused, fight fear, navigate unfamiliar territory, and adjust your action plan to maximize your success.

There will, unfortunately, never come a time when you feel as though you have the bandwidth to make significant changes to your career. You will always have other responsibilities and pressures that sidetrack you. By following these steps, however, you can take control of your career and create change within the constraints of your current schedule.

Want to Be More Successful? Stop Doing This!

blame successWhen you’re not reaching your goals, it’s much easier to point the finger at someone else. If only you had a more supportive manager… If only your company offered more growth opportunities… If only that hiring manager realized what a great fit you were… Sound familiar?

As long as there is someone else to blame for your lack of progress, you don’t need to look in the mirror. It’s not your fault that you didn’t get that promotion. It’s not your fault that your company doesn’t recognize all of the untapped talent you bring to the table. It’s not your fault… You get the picture.

Blaming others protects you from the harsh reality that you bear responsibility for your own career. Managing your career is a lot of work. It’s much easier to sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to tap you on the shoulder. And as long as they’re not, it’s their fault, not yours.

One of the many problems with this approach is that it strips you of your personal power to control your own destiny. Sure, it’s easier to let others do the work and take the blame, but it also leaves you at the mercy of external forces who may or may not have your best interests at heart. The only person at work who truly cares about your career success is you.

If you aren’t maximizing your current role, reaching the next level, or otherwise achieving your career goals, stop pointing fingers and start looking in the mirror.

Ask yourself:

  • Which of my current behaviors are disruptive, unhelpful or even toxic to my success?
  • How is my attitude contributing to my current situation?
  • What am I not doing that could accelerate my progress?
  • What small step can I take right now to move closer to my goal?

To reclaim power and responsibility for your success, take the following steps:

Be clear about what you want

Many professionals get frustrated when they reach a plateau in their careers. They want more (responsibility, challenge, satisfaction, etc.) but they don’t know how to get there. Getting there, however, isn’t the problem. The problem is that they haven’t developed a clear vision of what they actually want.

What do you specifically want? Do you want to add new responsibilities to your current role? Do you want to be promoted to a higher-level position within your organization? Without a clearly defined goal, you can’t establish an action plan to achieve it.

Clarifying what you want so that you can articulate it to yourself and others can be challenging. Give yourself adequate time and space for the critical process of reflection. Consider also engaging a trusted advisor who can help you sort through your thoughts, questions, and fears.

Stop waiting for others

If you’re waiting for your manager, mentor or divine intervention, you’ll likely be waiting a long time. Stop putting your fate in the hands of others and start driving your own career. Once you’ve clarified what you want, begin taking action to make your vision a reality.

The specific actions you take will depend, in large part, on your particular goal and surrounding environment. To determine how to proceed, consider the following questions:

  • Are there gaps you need to fill to achieve your goal? If so, how will you fill them?
  • Are there resources you can leverage?
  • Are there trusted colleagues/leaders you can engage?

Step outside your comfort zone

When you’ve gotten clear on what you want and recognize a path to achieve it, the excitement alone will likely propel you forward. Eventually you’ll reach a point, however, where things get scary and hard. If you’re like most people, you’ll be tempted to stay where you are rather than experience the discomfort of change.

Fight the urge to stay in your comfort zone by staying focused on your goal and reminding yourself how you feel today. It’s easy to justify giving up by re-writing history and telling yourself that things aren’t as bad as you thought they were. To prevent this from happening, document your thoughts and feelings now and re-read them when you start to experience doubts.

As long as you continue to make excuses and hold others accountable for your lack of progress, you’ll never achieve the success you desire. Follow these steps to take control of your own career.

Feeling Unhappy, Underutilized or Unchallenged in Your Role? Speak Up!

Unhappy maximize your potentialAll too often, high potential professionals suffer in silence in roles that fail to fully leverage their strengths and meet their professional needs. In many cases, they began in positions that were a fit but, over time, were propelled along career paths that no longer align with their interests, values, and skills. They want to do more, make a bigger contribution, and feel better about their work. But they feel stuck.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • You’re good at what you do but it’s no longer fulfilling. You feel like you’re just going through the motions.
  • You could add more value if you applied your skills and background in a different way.
  • You’re ready for a new challenge but you worry that you’ll threaten your job if you express this to your manager.

If any of these resonate with you, you’re certainly not alone. You’re also not alone if you’ve assumed that raising your concerns would pose too much of a risk to your career. At a time when most professionals feel insecure in their jobs, it is only natural to worry that your honesty will threaten your position or leave you exposed in other ways. An important point to remember, though, is that nobody benefits if you keep quiet about your concerns.

If you’re feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in your current role, you’re not realizing your full potential. And if you’re not realizing your full potential, your company isn’t experiencing the best of you either. You owe it to yourself and your organization to recognize how you can maximize your value and then take proactive steps to do so.

Maximizing your value could take many different forms. Some examples include:

  • An expansion or re-structuring of your current role to include new or different responsibilities
  • A transition to a new functional role in your department or elsewhere in the company
  • A promotion to a higher-level position
  • A transition to an external opportunity that better leverages your skills

If you work for a supportive manager, communicate your goals and concerns to him/her. Most managers will appreciate your initiative and willingness to assume greater responsibility. If you’re a strong employee with a reputation for high quality work, there are likely projects, meetings, etc. that your manager would love to delegate to you. They may also be willing to brainstorm new paths and facilitate introductions to their colleagues if you can’t meet your goals in your current role.

If you don’t feel comfortable discussing this with your manager, find a mentor or trusted advisor who can help you develop a plan. Your plan might involve researching other groups in your organization to identify opportunities that are a better fit for your strengths. It might also include discussions with other leaders about how they’ve made these types of shifts in their careers.

Whatever you do, be proactive and strategic in your efforts. Every moment that you spend feeling underutilized, unchallenged, or unfulfilled is a moment you could be using to maximize your impact on your organization and your career. Nobody is going to do that for you. You must speak up to create the change that is right for you.

Feel Like a Fraud?

impostor syndromeDoes this sound like you? You’ve been promoted to the next level or asked to lead an important new initiative in your organization. Your first reaction is to feel honored to be chosen for such an exciting new opportunity. Soon, however, that excitement turns to anxiety. You begin to worry:

 

 

  • What if I fail? What will happen to my career and reputation?
  • I’m not qualified to do this. I feel like a fraud.
  • How long before my management realizes I have no idea what I’m doing?

What you’re feeling is known as the impostor syndrome – a sense that your success is a fluke rather than a result of your efforts. High-level professionals who experience the impostor syndrome often believe that others will soon realize that they’re not really qualified for the responsibilities they’ve been given. They worry about being exposed as a fraud.

It is not uncommon for executives to struggle with this from time to time as their careers advance. While seemingly counterintuitive, the impostor syndrome tends to be most common among the highest performers – those who are most conscientious and capable of doing their jobs. Professionals who are most committed to their success seem to be the most insecure about their performance.

If the impostor syndrome is getting in the way of your career advancement efforts, try the following strategies:

Clarify expectations

Assuming a higher-level role, leading a new project, or developing a new program presents an exciting opportunity. The challenge, growth potential, and autonomy are highly rewarding. At the same time, these changes can produce crippling anxiety. Much of this anxiety stems from uncertainty about expectations.

Each time you take on a new role or embark on a new assignment, begin by taking the time to fully understand your leadership team’s goals and expectations.

  • What is your role in this effort?
  • What are you specifically expected to accomplish?
  • How will you be measured?
  • What resources (human, financial, technological, etc.) will you have available to you?
  • How, when, and to whom are you expected to report updates, issues, and results?

Some professionals are afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to appear unprepared or uninformed. The exact opposite is true. Asking good questions is not just a valuable way to gather important information; it’s also a powerful leadership skill.

Recognize your strengths.

If you’re like most professionals, you take your strengths for granted. Because they are so central to who you are, you don’t recognize them as unique or special. You assume that they are universal or insignificant. Instead, you focus your attention on your weaknesses, particularly in unfamiliar or uncertain situations.

When you feel insecure about your ability to be successful in your role, take time to acknowledge your strengths and accomplishments. What do you do better than your peers? What traits differentiate you from others? What past successes led you to your current level

When you take the time to focus on your strengths, you increase your self-confidence and remind yourself that you indeed earned your current opportunity. And by doing so, you stop emphasizing your weaknesses, which only serves to undermine your efforts.

Utilize your resources.

When faced with a new challenge, it’s natural to want to prove yourself. You feel pressured to perform at your best so that your leadership will know that they made the right decision. And because you don’t fully trust yourself, you don’t trust your team as well. As a result, you take on much greater responsibility and control than is productive.

While you may feel that the best way to demonstrate your value is to heroically do it all, this will only serve to reinforce your feelings of insecurity and incompetence. Without the proper levels of delegation and resource utilization, your work will suffer and you’ll burn out. Once you understand what is expected of you and how your strengths map to those expectations, seek out others with complementary skills to help you more efficiently and effectively achieve your goals.

Request feedback.

Many of us shy away from requesting feedback because we’re afraid of what we might hear. Burying your head in the sand, however, does not make the problem go away. If you have doubts about your performance or are unsure where you stand, ask your manager and other trusted colleagues for feedback.

Consistent feedback will ensure that you uncover issues or problems before they escalate. And you’ll get valuable insights and advice on how to move forward successfully. It’s also important to remember that not all feedback is negative. When you receive positive feedback, you’ll boost your confidence and feel more secure in your position.

If you’re struggling with the impostor syndrome, know that you are not alone. Many successful professionals have experienced this at some point in their careers. Follow these steps to address feelings of doubt and focus your energy on achieving your goals.

 

 

How Asking for Help Can Benefit Your Career

asking for helpAs a high performer with a reputation for excellence, it’s difficult to acknowledge when you need help. You worry that you’ll be perceived as less capable if you can’t do it on your own. You know that others are just as busy as you are and don’t want to burden them with your needs. Or you simply don’t know where to turn for support.

It’s unfortunate that many accomplished professionals view asking for help as a sign of weakness. We all intellectually recognize that we’re part of a bigger team and that our individual efforts are not as individual as they might seem. When it comes time to lean on those teams, however, we often hold back.

Here are a few scenarios when your best option is to ask for help:

  • If you’re unclear about what is expected of you, clarify this with your manager by asking questions and getting better guidance.
  • If a deliverable falls outside your area of expertise, seek the support of someone who can collaborate with or mentor you.
  • If you have limited bandwidth and can’t fit the effort into your crowded schedule, delegate it to a trusted member of your team.

Asking for help is not only NOT a weakness, it’s a strength. The ability to recognize your own capabilities and limitations is an important level of self-awareness that allows you to establish realistic goals and successfully achieve them. Here are some ways in which asking for help can benefit your career.

Maximize Your Efficiency

Every minute that you spend floundering, engaging in lengthy trial and error processes, or doing work that can be better or more appropriately completed by someone else is precious time that could be used productively to advance your goals. Time management is a critical skill that requires you to set limits and focus on the highest value activities. Don’t try to be a hero by taking on tasks that are not a good use of your skill set.

Build Powerful Relationships

Asking for help demands a high level of trust – trust that the request won’t undermine your credibility, trust that the other person has the right competencies to help, and trust that your resource(s) will follow through on time. As a result, the best collaborations occur between professionals with good working relationships. Being vulnerable and acknowledging their strengths are a great way to show respect for your colleagues and to earn their respect in return. The trust and respect that result from these engagements form a strong foundation upon which powerful relationships can be built. These relationships have the potential to benefit you in numerous other ways as well.

Strengthen Your Brand

Your work is a reflection on you as a professional. Naturally, high quality work elevates your professional brand, whereas poor quality, late, or incomplete work damages your brand. Going it alone when you’re unclear or unqualified doesn’t inspire admiration; it simply risks errors, delays, and other issues. Asking for help from the appropriate resources allows you to do your best work and strengthen your reputation in the organization.

Demonstrate Leadership

Being a strong leader requires the ability to prioritize, delegate, and utilize resources appropriately. The best leaders don’t know everything or do everything themselves; they seek expert support from their network of resources. By recognizing your weaknesses and engaging others to help, you demonstrate that you can be strategic, problem solve, and manage your time wisely.

Want to Reach the Next Level? Stop Doing These 3 Things!

next levelTo reach your current level, you’ve done a lot of things right. You’ve established yourself as a reliable professional with significant expertise in your field. Your team values your contributions and seeks your input on critical matters. By most accounts, you’re a rising star but lately you’ve begun to feel stagnant.

While your current approach has served you well, to get to the next level, you’ll need to make some changes. Here are three things you should stop doing if you want to advance your career.

Relying too heavily on your functional expertise

To reach higher levels in an organization, you must excel in your functional area. It is through this functional expertise that you gained visibility early in your career. As a go-to expert, your colleagues and leaders began to value and respect you and your work. This opened the door to new opportunities, enabling you to move ahead in your career.

That same expertise that propelled you forward also has the potential to hold you back. As a leader in your organization, your leadership, problem solving, and communication skills take on much greater significance than the technical skills that got you there. You must be willing to let go of the day-to-day activity and focus on the bigger picture.

Unfortunately, functional activity often becomes a trap for emerging leaders. As an area where you’ve traditionally excelled and been rewarded, it becomes a natural comfort zone, particularly amidst the ambiguity and complexity of higher-level responsibilities. Reverting back to the tasks that came easily to you offers a sense of satisfaction and productivity that is much more difficult to measure at the strategic level.

To advance your career, you need to step out of your comfort zone and embrace your role as a leader. If you’re unclear about how to effectively make this transition, seek support from a manager, mentor, or other trusted advisor.

Limiting your professional network

If you’re like most leaders, you feel overwhelmed by your workload and can’t justify using your limited free time (if any) to build relationships. Because they are the constituents who are most directly tied to your success, you focus most of your attention on your manager and direct reports. While you recognize the value of networking, it’s a luxury you simply can’t afford right now.

While it might seem counterintuitive, this is precisely the time to invest in your network, particularly your peers. By limiting your focus to your immediate team, you risk creating an inefficient silo. The lack of cross-functional communication and teamwork leads to redundancies and missed opportunities to leverage others’ expertise.

Your peers have the potential to offer insights and support that can help you prevent or minimize problems that would otherwise consume your time. They may also have resources available that would free up some cycles on your team. And, if you do need their help, having strong relationships will move you to the top of the priority list.

Perhaps most importantly, your peers can influence your career path. Having strong allies can help you more effectively drive your agenda, gain higher-level support, and stay in the loop on critical, behind-the-scenes information. While it might feel more productive to stay at your desk, neglecting these relationships can cut off your access to invaluable resources, news, and expertise.

Waiting for direction from others

When you’re in an ambiguous situation and feel unclear about what is expected of you, it is tempting to wait for direction from your superiors. You worry that making the wrong move will hurt your reputation. Or, you recognize the criticality of a particular effort and want to ensure that you approach it as strategically as possible. Rather than take a risk, you seek counsel from your boss on how to move forward.

There is nothing wrong with validating expectations before embarking on an important initiative. As a matter of fact, that’s a wise step to take. Waiting for direction, however, undermines your credibility as a leader. You were hired because of your expertise and potential. Your leadership team is counting on you to be proactive and resourceful. Don’t wait to be told how to proceed.

Taking calculated risks is part of being a strong leader. You will rarely have a blueprint to guide your decisions. Leveraging your past experience, tapping your resources, and trusting your instincts will help you navigate unfamiliar territory.

Have a Difficult Boss? Try This

difficult bossIf you’ve been in the workforce for any length of time, you’ve noticed that not all managers are equally qualified to lead others. While it would be ideal if all managers reached their positions based on their leadership abilities, individual performance, politics, and other factors often drive promotions. As a result, many executives reach leadership positions without the right skills and experience required to effectively lead people.

As an experienced professional, you’ve likely worked for at least one challenging manager throughout your career. In the process, you’ve suffered the anxiety, frustration, and fury that result. Even if all other factors are positive, having a challenging manager can make your job unbearable.

So what are your options? While it’s only natural to feel powerlessness in these types of situations, you have more choices than you may realize. Here are some steps you can take:

Change Your Perspective

How well do you actually know your manager? Do you understand what drives him? Can you relate to the pressures he’s experiencing? What are his communication preferences?

The frustration and anger that accompany a bad working relationship can cloud our perceptions. Once we’ve determined how we feel about someone, it’s difficult to change that impression. As challenging as it might feel, try to see things from your manager’s perspective. Doing so could help you to gain a deeper understanding of him and ultimately improve your view of the situation.

Communicate Openly

Much of the conflict we experience with our managers results from poor communication. Take a moment to reflect on a time when you approached a new initiative or assignment with confidence but your manager later dismissed or criticized your work. What happened? More often than not, the problem was not your work or your manager’s response; it was the fact that you each had very different expectations.

Many workplace (and personal) relationship challenges would be avoided if clear expectations were established upfront. Unfortunately, many managers are too busy or distracted to confirm that their communication is clear. Unless you say otherwise, they will assume that you are in alignment. Even if you think you understand your marching orders, ask clarifying questions and gather as much information as possible to ensure that you and your manager are on the same page.

Seek a Mentor

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your relationship seems irreparable. This can be particularly damaging to your career if your manager is a highly influential or politically connected figure in your organization. If you can’t get your manager’s support, it is critical that you seek support elsewhere.

Find a mentor or other influential leader you can trust to help you navigate the challenges you’re experiencing. Having someone who can offer insights on how to effectively approach specific situations can help you feel more confident and comfortable in your role. You must be strategic, however. You do not want to be perceived as going around your boss. You might even find it helpful to connect with an outside resource, such as an executive coach. The key is to engage a trusted resource confidentially who can provide critical support without undermining your manager’s established authority.

Be Professional

It’s very difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you’re frustrated with your manager. Not doing so, however, will only make things worse. To best protect your reputation and avoid hurting your career, it is critical that you act professionally at all times.

Do not engage in gossip, bad-mouthing, or other behaviors that can come back to haunt you. If you have a difficult boss, others likely feel the same way about him and can feel your pain. Behaving unprofessionally doesn’t endear you to others; it simply damages your image.

Explore Your Options

In any situation, it’s critical to acknowledge what you can and can’t control. The steps outlined here allow you to take some control of a difficult work environment. Ultimately, though, any relationship involves two people. In order for change to occur, the other person must be responsive to your efforts.

If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, it’s time to consider other options. Are there other roles internally that would not only allow you to escape your difficult work situation but also help you to advance your career? Are there external opportunities you can begin to explore?

There are few things more frustrating in a job than working for a difficult manager. It can, however, be a great growth opportunity. If you strive to become a more effective leader, learning to communicate with others of all types will be critical to your success. Take advantage of this time to strengthen your own communication and leadership skills. And always remember that you do have options and support available to get you through this challenging time.