Top 10 Career Myths – and how they hold you back (Part 2)

Today’s post is part 2 of a 3 part series on the career myths that can hold you back professionally. Part 2 focuses on managing yourself at work.

Myths About Managing Yourself at Work

You need to be outgoing and liked by everyone to succeed.

  • True: It may be easier to forge productive working relationships if you are outgoing and people like to work with you.
  • False:  It takes all kinds of people to help an organization be successful.  Not all successful people are outgoing and likeable– but they advance by earning trust through their contributions.  It is important to be aware of how YOU are perceived and manage your behavior accordingly.  You don’t have to be Little Mary (or Johnny) Sunshine all the time, but you do need to ensure that your personal brand conveys reliability and quality.  Getting too personal with too many co-workers can become problematic. Building relationships with your coworkers is a positive. Just be sure that there is not a clear distinction from life inside the work environment and life outside the work environment.

You need a mentor to be successful. 

  • True: A mentor who is interested in helping you develop can be important to your success.
  • False: Your success at work comes from your ability to consistently deliver a great performance, and from making it clear you’re able to take on more by doing so without waiting to be asked.  That being said, mentors (plural) can help accelerate your progress.  Some organizations have formal mentoring programs – which often entail a 1:1 relationship with a more experienced mentor.  That’s great if you have that, but it’s not the be all and end all.  A long time ago, I heard a senior female executive talk about her personal board of directors, and I’ve leveraged that concept ever since.  You change and your job changes over time.  Building a network of advisors over time who take an interest in your career and can serve as sounding boards is very useful.

Networking is most useful when you’re looking for a job.

  • True: Networking is one of the best possible ways to find a new job.
  • False: Successful people are continually networking.  And they understand that you need to give to get.  If you only reach out to people when you’re looking for a job, without having some relationship collateral in the bank, your network won’t be as effective. There are lots of ways to network. 
  1. Familiarize yourself with professional associations – national and local  – where people in your field get together.
  2. Talk to your manager about paying for your attendance at these professional conferences as part of your development plan.  If you can’t attend in person, you may still be able to access conference presentations in online forums connected to the event.
  3. Make sure you’re a member of online communities that are active in your profession.  This can be a great way to “meet” people.  I’ve made some great connections by complimenting people on their content in forums then connecting with them by phone or in person later.
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA! You have LinkedIn – you can find your way to just about anybody you’d like to meet.  Twitter is another way to connect with people.  Share interesting information on your feed.  Compliment others on theirs.
  5. Actively look for ways to contribute back to your network – send people information you think will be useful to them, make introductions for them.

You need to focus on becoming the best functional expert possible.  Success means knowing all the answers.

  • True: Growing your career does depend on others’ perceptions of you as reliable and competent. Knowing your stuff is part of being competent.  Investing in expanding your expertise in your field will make you more valuable to your colleagues and managers.
  • False: No one knows all the answers all the time.  One of my favorite tips is from Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.   In it he says, seek to understand before you seek to be understood”.  By asking questions of others and making sure you understand the fullest extent of a situation before you offer solutions, you’ll be more effective.  Most things that happen in organizations require teamwork.  If you’re the smartest person in the room, but unable to work effectively with others, your path will be a lot harder.

Taking risks can be bad for your career.

  • True: Taking uninformed or unnecessary risks can be bad for your career.
  • False:  Since nobody can predict the future, there are risks associated with most of the decisions we make in life.  The difference between good risks and bad risks is the diligence you perform in understanding the pros and cons of these decisions.  Attitude also plays a part in determining the difference between good and bad risks.  Most of us have qualms when it comes to making changes, yet change is what propels us to learn and grow. Expanding your career means you are going to take on new responsibilities without knowing exactly how to perform.  You need to learn to prepare, then trust yourself to learn and respond.  Taking risks is one of those areas where having built your network of advisors comes in handy – not just to help you decide when to make changes, but also to help you be successful once you make a change.

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