When 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.
- 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.