In my line of work, strategic initiatives and planning are the foundation of growth and success. Once that strategy is in effect, we must continually analyze and assess its position, perspective, and potential to increase gains and profit. The same is true for career advancement. We are each individual brands seeking growth. Much like the businesses I formulate strategies for, we as professionals will make some mistakes along the way that deter us from our full career potential. When I look back at my journey and my brand there are three outstanding mistakes that come to mind that I've found to be common among all professionals.
Career Mistake 1: Loss of Individuality
We are conditioned to look at success as having a one-size-fits-all approach and because of that we look to past performers to dictate our own success metrics. While historical context is always valuable, it cannot be the most important part of outlining your career advancement. When we seek to achieve comparable success we lose sight of who we are as professionals. When I began switching my strategic gears from entire businesses to individual professionals, I realized that more often than not professionals did not take their own values into consideration with respect to their work.
We are conditioned to look at success as having a one-size-fits-all approach and because of that we look to past performers to dictate our own success metrics.
I personally believe that what you value and hold dearest is the most powerful element of your professional persona. This area of individuality should not be silenced by your work in order to conform to the metrics set by another colleague or another player in your industry. I challenge professionals to keep a running document of what they value to most and on a 30-day basis hold themselves accountable for how these values create a unique signature for their work. Maintaining a level of individuality may not always be the easiest route, but it will allow you to advance your career in ways that are meaningful to you — not just the status quo.
Career Mistake 2: Focusing Solely on Performance-based Metrics
Our entire lives, specifically our formative years, have shaped our validation around a universal symbol of success. Think about it in terms of education, it's a universal scoring system despite class or subject. We can even look at average income by job title and regional location in the blink of an eye without even assessing skills. As professionals, if we only focus on the performance-based metrics of our current position we leave out the most critical piece of this journey: ourselves.
I am a firm believer in performance-based metrics that align with your company and your position, but I know that is only part of the puzzle that is career advancement. Performance-based metrics don't tie in our individual perspectives, skill-set growth, or our overall growth as professionals outside of our current positions. What happens when you change roles, or better yet, you change companies? Do you have to wash away any validation of your skills with the rest of the dirty laundry? Do you have to start from scratch? No. If you have your own accountability metrics that contribute to your own professional growth tracking in combination with structured performance metrics, then you are in the driver's seat of your professional destiny and not just a spreadsheet.
Hold yourself accountable to your personal and performance goals, while only competing with the person in the mirror.
I have also noticed that focusing solely on performance-based metrics tends to increase external competition. External competition can be the death of your personal validation in your professional life. This is something that I struggled with for a long time. You can get so caught up in the numbers of your neighbor that you'll lose sight of the big picture and also easily lose your individuality. Hold yourself accountable to your personal and performance goals, while only competing with the person in the mirror. I can promise you, it will be worth it.
Career Mistake 3: Only Setting Long-term Goals:
While planning for the future in certain areas of your life is critical, only planning in the long-term sense is a common misstep when it comes to career advancement. It's common practice amongst professionals to set incredibly specific, aspirational goals that are quite far out of reach. I often find that long-term goals are so extremely specific with respect to career advancement that, more often than not, they end up holding someone back from potential opportunities along the way.
To use myself as an example, when I graduated college in 2008, I wanted to achieve the title of Vice President by the time I was 30. I became fixated on this particular goal and watched those who came before me with such intensity and precision that I lost sight of my own unique value. I lost sight of the most important part of career advancement: my "why." I know now that my "why" is based on values, passion, and my ability to leverage those aspects of myself. Holding myself accountable in the short term has kept me on track for my own, new definition of professional advancement.
If I learned anything in my career mistakes is that when you readjust your focus to the present, you obtain the highest level of power a professional can hold.
Another reason I don't recommend sticking to only long-term goal-setting is that most professionals don't know how to actually get to that long-term goal or how to hold themselves accountable with tangible tactics to get there in the short term. You may wake up five years from now with the same goal and resentment that you're not there. That resentment increases negativity involving your professional life and you deserve better. It is much easier to focus on the long-term goals that seem so far away, rather than be accountable and present in your current professional life. If I learned anything in my career mistakes is that when you readjust your focus to the present, you obtain the highest level of power a professional can hold.
I have gained an immense amount of knowledge, since pivoting my business strategy skill set to focus on myself as a brand. If we hold ourselves accountable for individuality, rely on performance metrics as only a portion of our validation equation, and allow short-term goals to guide us to long-term success we'll be far more successful than we could have envisioned in our five- or ten- year plans. Career advancement is an ongoing process, this strategy, like all strategies, is not a set it and forget it. Rather, it's about learning and leveraging that which will take you to the greatest heights.
WRITTEN BYJennifer Fitta