You’re dedicated. Hard-working. You come in before sunrise and leave after sunset. You work nights and weekends. You pour your heart into your work. You’re a team player.
And it may not matter.
Sure you’re needed. You’re the cornerstone of the operation. You keep the business afloat.
And that is exactly why they are keeping these secrets from you and conspiring against your career growth.
They may not tell you (why would they?) but it is there all the same. A seething, slithering, snake. There to prevent your passage to the promised land of a stellar career. Fame and fortune. Okay, maybe not that great. But you catch my drift.
So what is happening here?
They’re holding you back. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes they’re not even aware of it. But it is like a cinder block on your chest. Weighing you down. Preventing you from advancing.
It isn’t obvious. They aren’t discriminating against you in the classic sense. They know all about protected classes and take extra caution to avoid those landmines. Companies don’t want to be sued and HR departments are always on high alert for their managers unlawfully discriminating – they’ll deal with that quickly and harshly.
But people discriminate all the same. In different and more subtle ways. And many times you or they are not even aware it is going on. So what are the ways they discriminate against you that are potentially killing you career?
10 Career-Killing Landmines
Are you living under the radar? Do you avoid conflict? Do you come in and leave at the same time? Do the same work day after day?
Progressing in your career requires setting yourself apart. How can you do this?
Take on additional tasks that need to get done. Being that go-to person will get you noticed.
Don’t be afraid to give yourself a “afterthought compliment”. For example, “That was fun seeing this project through. I think I learned a lot about doing X with Y for Z in the process.” By doing this you aren’t coming off as bragging, you are just doing a little light self promotion. It is relatively easy to work that into the conversation when the appropriate topic arises.
Is there a critical project? Take it on. Lead it. Be part of the team that makes it happen. You’d be amazed at how many people shirk additional work. That is often the difference between succeeding in your career and life and not. Just like the “kick” in the last 100 meters of a distance race, going the “extra mile” can be the career boost you need.
#2 – You’re The “Nice Guy”, Not The “Bad Boy”
Tips from the dating world. Women want the nice guy but fall for the bad boy. What is this phenomenon? It is all about mystery, unattainability, adventure, and breaking the rules.
They say they want predictability and security and someone who’s a good husband and father. But then they get on the back of the Harley and ride off with the guitar player with more tatoos than common sense.
It is the same on the job. If you’re too reliable and too willing to go along with everything, they start to think you can’t think for yourself. That you’re not valuable enough. And not in demand.
If they think you’re the “Company Man” instead of the “Hired Gun” then your value to them has just tanked.
Are headhunters hunting you? Are you an “A Player”? Do you have a relaxed, nothing-phases-you aire about you? Are your skills bigger than the job? Or are you just treading water.
It is okay to learn on the job. But at a certain point if you want to be a leader, you’re going to need to be able to “kill-what-you-eat”. And sometimes that means stepping on some toes, taking some risks, and making things happen (instead of waiting for others to make them happen).
#3 – You’re The Glue
You’re the “It” person. You’re the one everyone goes to when they need things handled. You’re the information treasure-trove. You’re who’s been around forever and knows the inner workings of the company like no one else.
And if that’s you, you’re career is on life-support.
Because they can’t have you leave. And if you’re in that critical role, they can’t afford to promote you either. What you’ve learned over your time there is stuff that they can’t teach. It would take three or more people to do your job.
But even though that is the case, they can’t afford to pay you that way. They just don’t see your role translate into bottom line dollars. The waters have been muddied because you don’t fit your job description anymore.
So your options are either say in the role forever, or leave the company. And leaving the company can be difficult as well, because just like your company can’t fit you into a single job description, a new company can’t either. So the only way you get out of these situations is the company goes under or gets sold and you get laid off, or you move on.
#4 – You’re Home-Grown
They hired you away from the local coffee shop you were a barista at. You became their receptionist, then a coordinator or admin assistant. But how do you jump from that to the next role? Maybe it is a project role or manager role.
You may qualify for that project role having learned the necessary skills over the prior couple years. But does your boss see it? Or do they still see you as you were when you joined the company?
This is the biggest career-killer I see on a regular basis. Whether is the the boss or clients. They don’t view you as the market does. When you submit your resume for a new job opportunity outside your company, they largely take your resume at face value. They don’t already have experience with you. So you are evaluated on your resume, your interviewing skills, and what others say about you and your skills. And often they don’t ask your prior boss (or the boss just refers the question to HR who avoids answering it to minimize liability).
How do you move up when you’re home-grown? You need to perform and create demand. Often it requires having other job offers before they’ll see your added value. And even with that often they won’t because they’re caught inside their unchanging view of you in their mind.
#5 – Your Next Role Doesn’t Exist
This is another big one people miss. You want to take that next step. You’ve met the requirements. You’ve earned it. And you don’t get it. Why? Because it doesn’t exist.
Positions don’t exist in a vacuum. Workload and economics must support the hiring or promotion need. If the need isn’t there or the company can’t make money with someone in that role, then it doesn’t get filled. And you don’t get promoted.
This is especially true in consulting/project-based companies. With the ebb and flow of project workloads, job positions are especially fluid. What you do today may be totally different tomorrow – even in the same job classification. But adding that new role requires justification at many levels. And any point in the approval chain can deep six the opportunity.
Effective communications are key to professional effectiveness. An the higher you go in an organization, the more important that skill set is to success. What communications stink?
- Bad spelling and grammar
This can really stunt your growth into management. If that is you, I’d highly recommend additional schooling or training to handle this. If you have no designs on management then you can probably get by. But people will judge you by the words you use and how you use them.
- Negativity/Attacking others
This happens all the time in emails. Assuming bad intent often turns emails into nuclear escalations. Similarly your demeanor around others – whether the water cooler or the boardroom – can affect how others view you.
- Unclear or Cluttered
Do you make your case and get to the point? Do you back up your points with facts or examples? Do you write emails your boss would be comfortable forwarding without editing?
Are you stirring up trouble? Trying to manipulate others to get your way? Backstabbing, spreading gossip, trying to overthrow the regime don’t get you on people’s good list. And even if they’re part of your master scheme, your compatriots won’t value you either.
I remember watching episodes of “The Bachelor” where one bachelorette would be scheming and two-faced. They would lose because the rest of the women would see it and rat her out. But also the one who tried to rally the other women to rat her out. She would also get tossed.
Manipulation and conniving, although great for TV, is bad for your career. Don’t do it.
#8 – You’re A Threat
Who? Little ‘ol me? Yes you. Are you great at what you do but your boss is worthless? Then you’re a threat.
Do you bring a more impressive resume or skill-set that your boss is intimidated by? Then you’re a threat.
Have you gone over your boss’s head with a grievance or promoting your ideas? Then you’re a threat.
Do you have your coworkers behind you? Then you’re a threat.
Do you have other options outside your current job? Then you’re a threat.
Anything that limits your boss’ power to get things done through you without risking his or her own job can be a threat. And if they are threatened by you, they won’t help your career.
Go find a boss who isn’t threatened by you and your career will blossom.
#9 – You Can’t Be Counted On To Deliver
Do you miss deadlines? Forget things? Not show up on time…or at all?
If that is you you probably aren’t reading this. But for everyone else, don’t forget that consistently meeting commitments ensures that you can be counted on by others. And if you are, they’ll want you around. And that is good for you.
How do you do it better? Set phone reminders in your calendar. Give yourself extra time to arrive early. Set interim targets and a due date before the due date to ensure you meet your commitments.
#10 – You’re “Low Energy”
“Low Energy” comes in several forms. There’s the “slow talker” who takes 30 seconds to say what someone else can get out in 10. Or it takes you all day to respond to a simple email. Or you don’t appear to have a sense of urgency.
Not sure if this is you? Ask someone around you and they’ll tell you. Often you’ll notice because they finish your sentences, interrupt, fidget in your presence, send you a text or email rather than talking to you on the phone or in person.
Particularly in the project world or wireless system development, lack of sense of urgency is a definite career killer. You’ll be labeled a producer but never a project manager or leader or the go-to person. In this world, time definitely is money. Want an example? Take a project that has a fixed duration. When the project is over you’re expenses end. But during the project many expenses are fixed, not variable. A project manager’s time, although sometimes can be shifted to other projects, often is required for the project duration. So if you wrap up the project in six months instead of nine, you save three months of salary and benefits. And that difference drops straight to the bottom line.
So don’t be “low energy”. Look at your work-life as an opportunity to get more accomplished in less time. Your team will appreciate it.
What to do next…
Is your career stuck? Do you see yourself stepping on any of these landmines? Need help?
Check out these resources: