When you look back at your career, how do you want to describe it? If asked this question, a common answer could be “successful.” While we have covered the fact that success means something different for everyone, there are some common misconceptions that we fall victim to that can actually lead us further from this elusive definition.
In an article for Fast Company, Jillian Kramer highlights four misconceptions about success that if believed might actually lead to us being overworked, underpaid and unhappy. Since most strive for a healthy work-life balance, being aware of these common misconceptions and what you should believe instead will ultimately have a positive influence on your career.
If You’re Good At Your Job, You’ll Get Promoted
From the time we were little kids, we’ve heard that if you work hard it will pay off. While that is certainly true and you should definitely work hard, the problem is that most people would describe themselves as hard working. If you are surrounded by hard workers, how do you stand out? This is where networking comes into play.
Have you ever been passed up for a job or promotion by someone who has less experience than you, but maybe knows someone you don’t or has a better relationship with a person than you? The unfortunate truth is that this is sometimes how the work world operates. A way around this is, according to Career Coach and Founder of Strategize That, is to promote yourself. “You need to promote yourself in order to stand out amongst the sea of talent and colleagues at your firm. Being good at your job doesn’t mean you’re good at managing your career.” If you’re looking for a promotion, Scherwin says you must “put as much effort behind building relationships and focusing on the next step as you do on executing your day-to-day tasks.” Therefore, networking doesn’t stop once you get a job. You are always networking in some capacity, both within and outside of your current company. Who knows when you’ll meet someone and “open a door” to a new opportunity.
You Must Start Young
The workforce has changed exponentially over the years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average worker will hold more than 10 jobs by the time he or she turns 40, with that number only expected to increase. As a result, it is not uncommon for you to be working for years before realizing that you haven’t met (or identified) your career goals. The good news is its not too late! The saying that “age is just a number” definitely comes into play with this, as many of the most brilliant business minds did not create their company until later in life.
This is a detrimental misconception to believe in as it could lead to you always wondering “what if?” later in life. Executive Career Coach Shefali Raina put it best, “Believing in this myth leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which people choose not to pursue their big ideas because it’s too late now. The reality is that success comes at any age and there are many examples of success at later ages out there, from Martha Stewart to Vera Wang.”
You Must Kill Yourself (At Work) To Succeed
Yet another example of where the work-life balance comes into play. Many believe that long hours at work equals success. However, that is not always the case. In some instances, the long hours are necessary to get important projects done in a timely manner, but in others, this could show a lack of productivity in the workplace. Scherwin says, “All too often successful professionals romanticize stress because they think that’s how a full life is supposed to feel. People tolerate long cumbersome hours and last-minute requests as if its necessary, but it doesn’t have to be. Long hours and face-time don’t ensure you are doing anything constructive or delivering results.”
If the same quality and quantity of work can be done in far less time than it is currently taking you, it is time to evaluate your processes at work. As they say, “work smarter, not harder.”
You Must Play Politics
No, not the ongoing right-wing vs. left-wing debate that is all too encompassing in today’s society. Whether you realize it or not, some sort of politics has taken place throughout your professional career and even during childhood. Unfortunately, politics can play a big role in the workplace. Sometimes you may feel like you have to act in a certain way to appease people at work and play into the politics, but believe it or not, you don’t. According to Raina, “There is a misconception that in order to be successful in your career you have to play politics and that all politics is ‘dirty.’ When people believe this myth, they tend to avoid self-promotion or relationship-building because it might appear political.”
If you have found yourself in a role that pressures you to be something you aren’t or to brown nose to get on someone’s “good side” at work, it might be time to find a new role. Instead of restricting personal and career growth, healthy environments foster growth. Instead of playing into office politics, you can take time to build your brand, network and improve your skills. If done correctly, the company will see your worth.
One of the problems with success is that we first have to convince ourselves that we are not successful if it is something that we truly want to achieve. If you take a 30,000-foot view of your career instead of viewing it in a microscope, you can look back and reflect on whether or not you were successful at each step of the way. In order to change our perspective, and ourselves, we must first accept who we are. Once you learn to do this, you will achieve whatever you determine success is. You can start with changing your mindset regarding the aforementioned misconceptions.