How You Are Getting In The Way of Your Career Growth & How To Stop

Everyone has moments of frustration with their jobs, but if you have been consistently unhappy at your job it’s time to think about making a change. As with most important decisions in life, it’s not that simple. There are several things to take into consideration: you may not be able to find a job that pays as well as your current job, with your current credentials you may not be qualified for another role and may need to seek additional education or training to work toward the role you desire, or you might simply be struggling to muster up the energy to launch a job search.

I have been in this tough situation and I know that as unpleasant and stressful as it can be, we can make it so much harder on ourselves by self-sabotaging. We compare ourselves to our colleagues and friends, we tell ourselves to “just wait and see”, or we don’t have a definitive plan so we panic instead of doing something.  As a former pro self-saboteur I know a thing or two about totally screwing yourself over while fully being aware of it and yet, feeling unable to stop. So let’s break it down and break out of this career standstill!

How you are getting in the way of your career growth and how to stop:

  1. Comparing yourself

Comparing yourself to your colleagues or friends is going to achieve one thing well: making you feel really shitty. Sure, maybe your former college roommate is killing it as a fancy real estate agent in LA and you know this because her Instagram feed is chock-full of images of the mansions and swanky beach homes she gets sold. And perhaps one of your coworkers is creatively brilliant, while another is a great speaker and can command a room like no other. But comparing yourself to them is useless. Everyone does better or worse than others when it comes to certain skills. What one person does poorly, you may naturally have a real talent for.

Instead of comparing yourself, think about your strengths. What can you do better than most? Perhaps that old roomie of yours is making bank in the vapid west coast real estate world but can she design a website like you? Can they, like you, skillfully compose an email to a difficult client who is complaining, yet again? Can they thrive in a team environment as well as you do? Ask yourself: What do I do better than most? And OWN those strengths!

  1. You convince yourself it’s okay to wait and see

“I should just wait until the next round of performance reviews.”

“I’ll hold on until after the new year and see what happens.”

“A lot of things could change, you never know.”

If you find yourself saying these things in order to convince yourself to stay in your wretched job, you are in denial. The last thing you want to do in this situation is play the waiting game! When it comes to our careers we cannot drag our feet in the hope that other people will come along and make everything okay. I know that working a full time job that is absolutely eviscerating your energy and morale only to go home to meticulously tweak your resume and scour the internet for open positions, is exhausting. But it is a part of the process, whether you are a painter or a software engineer you have to actively put yourself out there, market yourself, and straight up hustle in order to land a dream gig. (Also as an aside can we just accept that your dream gig today will probably not be your dream gig in 5 years, and that it’s totally fine because evolving and learning is important!) Please do not wait for anyone to just pop out of the ether and offer you a great job if you haven’t put in the time and energy!

When is waiting it out a good tactic?: if it’s part of a larger strategy like saving up enough money to start your own business, or waiting to graduate from your masters program, or waiting on more funding so your company can create the roles you really want to do (in the case of startups). Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time, and if you stick to the waiting game long enough it will become a way of life and nothing will ever change.

  1. You don’t know what to do next

It’s really hard to get what you want when you don’t know what it is you want. It can be scary and stressful especially when you find yourself ready to leave your job in order to save your sanity/dignity yet aren’t sure what to do next. When you don’t know what you want, it seems like the only option is to stay where you are until the answer appears, regardless of how trapped it might make you feel.

There are limitless options but maybe you just don’t feel particularly committed to any of them because you can’t see them individually, they all seem to be lumped into this one massive cancerous decision growth that just keeps growing the more you think about it threatening to crush you.

Don’t get crushed! Start asking yourself some questions. Is it the job itself (your role in the company) or the company culture/work environment? Would you be better off in a new city? Maybe you want to spend more of your time with people, have better flexibility in your hours. I don’t think the level of clarity matters a whole lot. What matters is being able to ask some tough questions and being confident enough to go for it!

Meditation

The benefits of meditation are well known. Everyone talks about trying it. The New York Times has covered it. There are apps you can download to help you meditate. Meditation is not reserved for wealthy yoga retreat goers any longer. But as accessible as the practice has now become for many beginners it can still seem daunting. Sitting alone with your thoughts while trying to silent the mind and focus on your breath is not easy for many of us. In fact, it’s the opposite of how we have been conditioned to function.

When you start meditating you will quickly notice just how unruly the mind is. Most people assume that to meditate you have to think about nothing, or “clear your mind”. But when you have it in your head that you have to DO anything when the goal is to quiet the mind, it’s totally counterproductive. So don’t think about thinking about nothing, simply “think neutral”.

When you begin practicing meditation do not be hard on yourself. Some days you will ease into it and other days you may get frustrated with yourself and be unable to defuse the non stop thoughts from coming in. When I first started, I would be bombarded with thoughts , to do lists that I had to get to, work tasks to be completed, an itch on my nose etc. We are so used to moving and thinking and working that when we stop to be still our brains don’t know what to do. It’s like all of a sudden you are tuning into 20 different crappy mind cable channels that click through rapid fire. Click – I should get that mole checked out,  Click – should I get bangs again?, Click – can’t forget to call mom back, Click – am I a good daughter? And on and on.

Tune out, think neutral, focus on your breathe, hold a comfortable posture, and if you are still having trouble I suggest coming up with imagery that helps you. I like to picture a lotus emerging from the mud and slowly blooming. If imagery isn’t your thing maybe focus on a body part. I sometimes will pick a body part, like the top of my forehead or my hands to focus on.

If all else fails, take a seat, and smile. Smile to yourself and think about the things you are grateful for. Take 10 minutes and just dwell in that warm, cozy feeling of gratitude.

The human mind is an infinite journey. We possess the power to go anywhere and do anything but in order to do so, we must learn to tap into the depths hidden beneath our messy thoughts and meditation is a wonderful tool that can help us get there.

Letter from Fear

Dear You,

I know that I get unruly sometimes and that I may have held you back from jumping into exciting and dangerous experiences but know that I did it to keep you safe and sane. I have evolved over the years but there are a few things that will never change. Fear of mediocrity, fear of stagnation and fear of losing control.

Death doesn’t really spook me as much anymore. Violent thunderstorms no longer keep me up at night working overtime. Nightlights have not been necessary for practically 20 years! Yes, indeed, I have evolved in many ways and in doing so I’ve become complex and harder to shake, like a gob of sidewalk gum on the bottom of your shoe that with each step becomes grittier picking up filth along the way, becoming more solid, thicker and stronger with each step.

You’ve done a great job of keeping me in check but sometimes I get pushy and take over. I can linger for days and months keeping you second guessing, unsure and uneasy. I have a knack of sneaking up on you like a trench coated stranger coming up around the corner, keeping pace with you but just far away enough that you can’t make me out to be anything but a shadow cast over your quickening footsteps. For the times I have consumed you and made you obsess over thoughts that tormented you, I’m sorry. I’m intrinsically weak you see, I’m Fear and that’s just how I function. I can be motivating or stifling; I can be logical or irrational. My real purpose is to test you, to make sure that no matter how dark or overwhelming I become you don’t lose yourself in me and can tell me “no” and say “you are wrong”. I’m usually wrong and I like being wrong, please keep proving me wrong.

yours truly, like it or not,

Fear