5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Career

feet 166161247_9e1be2f4ff_mA job is a building block. A career is what we build. When starting out, we’re never quite sure what we’re actually building, if anything. We could end up with a useless pile of sticks or a really cool house on a mountaintop.

Careers are not built by ourselves alone. So we need to understand the roles we play (including how we play them) and the potential impact of the supporting cast.

All eyes are on you.

It’s often said: “My career should grow because I do really good work.”

But good work is only one part of it. Well-chosen and savvy professional relationships are another. Without a cadre of colleagues at all levels who attest to your competence, value, and ability to “get along,” your career will likely advance slowly, if at all.

The quality and effectiveness of your workplace relationships are noticed and become part of your personal brand. You can shoot your career in the foot easily by saying or doing things at work that  paint the wrong picture of who you are.

5 cautionary steps

These five steps can help you avoid sabotaging your career along the way:

  1. Don’t get ahead of yourself

The way employees move up is different in every company. Start by figuring out what the leadership sees in those who have been given more responsibility. Be alert to what is said about those who have been promoted. You need to know but don’t have to agree.

Advancement is not about when you think you’re ready. It’s about what the decision-makers think. Until you know, for sure, that you have regularly met the company’s performance standards, defer asking to be promoted or given plumb assignments.

  1. Keep your wants close to your chest

Managers are generally the ones who create opportunities or obstacles to your growth. You may want to assume that your boss is on your side, but that isn’t always the case. So it’s important to build a strong, credible performance portfolio.

Once you tell your boss what you want from your career, s/he has the leverage to help or hinder. So be prudent about how much you let on and when. Timing can be very important.

I once had a client who, at each job change, told his boss that he was “title sensitive” which was also code for wanting to be a big player. In each case, his career stalled.

  1. Don’t screen yourself out of opportunities

Too often, I’ve heard job seekers and careerists express an interest in positions and job challenges that are a notch up. They say, “I read the duties but I don’t meet  all of them, so I don’t think I should apply.”

It’s not your decision to (de)select yourself. That’s what management’s paid to do. It’s rare to find anyone fitting all the requirements of a job or assignment. What companies are looking for is the one who brings the best blend of knowledge and experience to the role. That may very well be you.

  1. Don’t follow someone else’s plan

The most important person to please with your career is you.

Lots of careerists pursue paths that well-meaning others have suggested or chosen for them. Then they wonder why the work doesn’t make them happy.

The first sign of self-leadership is our willingness to identify a life plan and then to start putting the  building blocks together, including those that construct our careers. When you don’t follow your own plan, it’s easy to go adrift.

  1. Don’t get seduced by the glitz

The trappings of better pay, high-sounding titles, greater authority, and any number of perks have a price. I’ve seen many people chase those things without seeing the personal and professional tolls that go with them.

There are advantages to career growth, but you need to make sure you understand how important they are to you…not to someone else…to you. Sometimes we need to see what’s behind the big door before we choose it.

Avoid self-sabotage

None of us ever sets out to make a mess of our careers. Sometimes we just do because we weren’t paying attention or had lost confidence in our ability to turn things around. By taking hold of your career, you can avoid self-sabotaging it.

Photo from davemendelsohn via Flickr

Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

To many job candidates, the all important hiring decision is a mystery. More often than not hiring managers don’t say much about the factors they considered. In January 2010, I wrote this post to lift the veil a bit, clear the air, and add some motivation.

Myth: The job candidate who flat out “nails” the interview gets the job.

Truth: The decision about who gets the job is, well, complicated. 

For all the years that I was a senior manager at a Fortune 500, every time I didn’t select internal candidates who thought they had the “right stuff,” I was questioned. Actually grilled!

Filling job vacancies from an internal or external candidate pool isn’t as simple as having an opening, interviewing candidates, and picking one. It would be nice if all business decision-making were linear, but it’s not.

It’s not always about you!

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the hiring process and it’s different in every organization.  (I’m not here to judge either the ethics or the efficacy of those processes.)

It’s just important that, as candidates, we understand that these are business decisions, not personal ones.

Typical reasons why candidates aren’t selected

The hiring manager knew the person s/he wanted from the outset. 

Many companies have a mandated hiring process whenever there’s a vacancy. The preferred candidate participates in the process along with others, although his/her selection may be a foregone conclusion.

That may sound unfair, but if you are a competing candidate, it still gives you a platform for showing your stuff. How you perform in the interview will be remembered and can one day work in your favor.

The company wants to develop a high potential employee or add diversity. 

All companies need to build a bench so they can fill sensitive positions down the road. They look for candidates who have the potential to take on increasing responsibilities or need to broaden their company knowledge.

For those companies that have been slow to incorporate diversity into their workforce and their management ranks, vacancies are an opportunity to remedy that. In both cases, these are business best practices that can add needed capabilities.

Once again, simply by being a participant in the candidate pool, you gain important visibility.

You don’t complement the “chemistry” of the hiring manager’s work group.

The ability of people to work effectively together is important to every hiring manager. Any time a new person is added to the mix, the “chemistry” of the group changes. You may have great capabilities, but if your work style and personality don’t “fit” well within the team, then you will likely not get selected.

The hiring manager doesn’t feel comfortable about supervising you. 

This is a very personal thing. Hiring managers don’t get many perks. The one they do get is to hire people who will make their work life more pleasant and easier. So if there are two equally qualified candidates, they will likely say to themselves, “When I come to work on a bad day, which one of these two people do I want to deal with?” That will be the tie-breaker.

Why this is so hard to swallow. 

If these realities are frustrating to you, I understand. Remember, for you the hiring process is solely about you getting the job. For the business the decision is multifaceted. The best hiring decisions weigh the potential for the candidate to take on increasingly more complex work and then to be ready for advancement in a reasonable period of time.

The only piece of the hiring process that you control is yourself. 

Because there are so many variables contributing to the hiring decision, your best course of action is to simply do your best. Pay attention to the way the process is conducted, the questions you are asked, the responses and feedback you receive. Build on those insights.

Remember: Hiring decisions are business decisions. So don’t take them personally.Your best approach while job hunting is to:

  • Be prepared
  • Present yourself well
  • Have confidence
  • Keep at it

In time the right position under the right company circumstances will present itself, and you will be well-positioned to accept it. In the meantime, throw off your frustration and concentrate on becoming a candidate to be reckoned with!

Photo from Giulia Torra via Flickr

Like Trump: We All Get To Hire and Fire | Your Life Is Your Business

(If you’d like a chance to win a copy of my book, Business Fitness: The Power to Succeed—Your Way, here’s how: 1.)  comment on this post and 2.) suggest a topic for a future post. Decision time: Feb. 5, 2010. The best submission gets a copy of the book. I’ll also do this with 4 future blogs to increase your odds! Good luck.) 

There’s a lot of grousing out there about hiring. So when it’s our turn to hire, you’d think we’d be really good at it. 

After all, we’re hiring people all the time. Yes, hiring people to work for us. Our life is our business, remember? 

From the time we start living on our own, we’re hiring. Mostly, we hire temps or independent contractors. 

So, who are we hiring?  

  • Personal service providers—hair stylists, manicurists, fitness trainers
  • Home maintenance folks—grass mowers, plumbers, electricians,
  • Finance and legal eagles—CPAs, insurance agents, attorneys
  • Health and wellness pros—physicians, dentists, message therapists

When it’s your time to hire, what’s your process?  

If you’re like most people, you don’t have much process at all. Your steps probably include: 

  • Asking a friend or family member for a referral
  • Going on line or looking in the yellow pages
  • Posting what you need to your social network  

Usually, we end up with the names of one or two people. We contact them and the first available person gets our business. 

When we hire services for ourselves, we generally don’t use a systematic process like businesses do. That can be a problem. 

When we’re clear about what we want, we’ll make a good hire. 

I once hired a man to save my old barn from falling off its foundation. He was referred to me by my friends at the feed mill who had used him often.

My hiring process for this construction work was very clear. I asked him about: 

  • his prior experience and his plan for this job
  • the size and skills of his crew
  • the estimated time-to-complete and cost   

The result was a work-for-hire that met everyone’s expectations. 

When that job was done, I asked if he would take down a couple old pine trees. He said, “Sure,” and I left it at that. 

I came home from work one afternoon to find him trying to cut those trees down by hand. Why? Because his chainsaw broke. The job had taken him all day. His bill was an outrageous surprise! I never used him again. So, he was fired! 

Lesson learned: I hired smartly the first time and like a dope the second. 

Too often, we don’t take our personal hires very seriously. 

Why? Because we think we’ll just get someone else if they don’t work out. The reality is that we tend not to “fire” them. 

I once had an ophthalmologist who was extremely well-trained and competent but dismissive when I asked questions. I stayed with her for 8 years because it was too much trouble to switch. 

Then her staff made two disturbing gaffs that she “blew off” when I questioned them. It was time: “Fired.”. 

When we live with our bad hires, it costs us frustration, stress, and money. Since our life is our business, we need to avoid those costs to be successful. 

Here are some tried-and-true steps for your personal hiring process:

  • Prepare a list of skills and traits, like trustworthiness, quality, reliability, and availability, that are your “must-haves”
  • Ask for and check references from people who had a job done like yours
  • Have a direct conversation beforehand about how the work, billing, and communication will be done  
  • If you have any reservations, walk away—and find someone else    

The hiring you do in your personal life is not easy. But when you do it right, your business fitness quotient goes way up. Good luck! 

By now you’ve figured out that “Your Life Is Your Business” is a series of posts  to help you manage your own life successfully. Do you have a topic to suggest for a future post? Also add a comment to win a copy of my book.

Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

Myth: The job candidate who flat out “nails” the interview gets the job.

Truth: The decision about who gets the job is, well, complicated. 

For all the years that I was a senior manager at a Fortune 500, every time I didn’t select a candidate who thought they had the “right stuff,” I was questioned. Actually grilled! 

Filling job vacancies isn’t as simple as having an opening, interviewing candidates, and picking one. It would be nice if all business decision-making was linear, but it’s not.

It’s not always about you!        

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the hiring process and it’s different in every organization. It’s not for me to judge the ethics or the efficacy of those processes.

It’s just important that, as candidates, we understand that these are business decisions, not personal ones. 

Typical reasons why candidates aren’t selected 

The hiring manager knew the person s/he wanted from the outset. 

Many companies have a mandated hiring process whenever there’s a vacancy. The preferred candidate participates in the process along with others, although his/her selection may be a foregone conclusion. 

That may sound unfair, but if you are a competing candidate, it still gives you a platform for showing your stuff. How you perform will be remembered and can one day work in your favor. 

The company wants to develop a high potential employee or expand diversity. 

All companies need to build a bench so they can fill sensitive positions down the road. They look for candidates who have the potential to take on increasing responsibilities or need to broaden their company knowledge. 

For those companies that have been slow to add diversity to their workforce and to their management ranks, vacancies are an opportunity to remedy that. In both cases, these are business best practice decisions. 

Once again, by being in the candidate pool, you gain important visibility. 

You don’t complement the “chemistry” of the hiring manager’s work group. 

The ability of people to work effectively together is important to every hiring manager. Any time a new person is added to the mix, the “chemistry” of the group changes. You may have great capabilities, but if your work style and personality don’t “fit” well with that bunch, then you will likely not get selected.   

The hiring manager doesn’t feel comfortable about supervising you. 

This is a very personal thing. Hiring managers don’t get many perks. The one they do get is to hire people who will make their work life more pleasant and easier. So if there are two equally qualified candidates, they will likely say to themselves, “When I come to work on a bad day, which one of these two people do I want to deal with?” That will be the tie breaker. 

Why this is so hard to swallow. 

If these realities are frustrating to you, I understand. Remember, for you the hiring process is linear. For the business the process may be linear, but the decision isn’t. 

The only piece of the hiring process that you control is yourself. 

Because there are so many variables contributing to the choice, why over-stress yourself in the process? It’s business. So, don’t take it personally. Your best approach while job hunting is to: 

  • Be prepared
  • Present yourself well
  • Have confidence
  • Keep at it

 In time the right position under the right company circumstances will present itself, and you will be well-positioned to accept it. In the meantime, throw off your frustration and concentrate on becoming a candidate to be reckoned with! 

Any questions or experiences to share about the hiring process? I’ll be happy to weigh in.