Avoid These 5 Common Pitfalls to Advance Your Career

You’re hard-working, dedicated, and good at your job – but for some reason coworkers who’ve been with the organization for less time are getting promoted before you, and opportunities you thought were in the bag never materialize. Sound familiar?

If you’re starting to feel like you’re spinning your wheels, it’s time to take a good look at your career. Have you fallen prey to one of these five pitfalls?

1. You don’t have a strategy

You know you want better things for your career, but you’re having trouble articulating just what that looks like – and secretly, you may be hoping that a choice opportunity will simply fall into your lap. The problem is that if you never make your own career plan, you’ll end up stuck with someone else’s.

Fix it: Just like a good blueprint is the foundation for every solid house, so a thorough plan is the foundation for every successful career. Take time to check in with yourself and decide what your goals are, both in your work and in life. How does your current career trajectory line up with your goals? What can you do to tweak it? Once you’ve got a plan, schedule regular check-ins to make sure you’re still on the right track.

(If you’re like me and have several dozen dreams and directions, try meeting with a career coach or a mentor to help narrow down your priorities.)

2. You think you can go it alone

If you were climbing Mount Everest or trying to win a football championship you wouldn’t attempt to do it all on your own, but for some reason most of us feel like we can’t ask for help in advancing our careers. Be careful of this! Relying solely on your own judgement and advice can cause you to miss opportunities and misjudge situations.

Fix it: Surround yourself with a solid support group that can hold you accountable, provide you with insights, and help you brainstorm ideas. Seek out mentors in your field and out of it, and join communities of like-minded people (like this one!). You probably already have a support group who wants to see you succeed – nurture those relationships, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you need it.

3. You’re not taking the initiative

You’ve been working hard, so you should be getting noticed, right? But it seems like while you sit there working your behind off, other people are being asked to take on projects you want, invited to conferences you hoped to attend, and getting the promotions you think you deserve. Is life that unfair? Or are your coworkers simply taking the initiative to ask, while you’re sitting back and waiting to have opportunities offered to you?

Fix it: Be clear with your boss about where you want your career to go – don’t expect her to read your mind. Make it clear that you’re interested in certain types of assignments, or that you think you’ve earned a promotion. But don’t just ask. Take the initiative to seek out opportunities and volunteer for tasks.

4. You haven’t invested in your skills

When you’re swamped with work, the last thing you may want to do is add a training, conference, or night course to your already-packed schedule. After all, you’re using your skills every day, right?

There’s a difference in using skills and honing them, however. Successful chefs challenge themselves by studying new cooking styles, successful athletes up their game by cross-training, and to be successful in your field you need to keep your nose to the educational grindstone.

Fix it: Take a good, hard look at your current strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate what skills you’ll need for the career you want to have. You may need something obvious, like a specific certification, or you may need to work on your “soft skills.” Talk to your boss about trainings and workshops that you could go to through the organization – most employers will be happy to help you improve as an employee.

5. You’re letting attitude get in your way

If you’re not thrilled in your current position, it can be easy to start letting the little things get you down. If you noticie yourself saying things like “That’s not my job,” passing around gossip, and coming to your boss constantly with interpersonal issues, take a step back. Having a bad attitude about work will get you noticed – but not for the right reasons.

Fix it: First, check your attitude. Keeping an optimistic outlook on things, even if times are a bit rough, will do wonders for your career. After all, no one likes to be around a complainer. Create a positive career plan, keep your eye on your goals, and suddenly the day-to-day frustrations won’t seem so bad anymore.

Don’t miss: Moving On Up: Advancing Your Career 101

We’re all looking to advance our skills, get better at our current job and move up the leadership ladder, but how do you actually do it? Join GovLoop on Thursday, August 21st from 2:00-3:00PM ET for a free online training as our career coaches look to answer these questions and more.

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