As an agent to broadcasters and athletes, I spend a lot of time strategizing with clients and counseling them on their careers. There are many reasons why one person thrives in a job, while the other flails. However, I have found five common explanations emerge most often when I seek answers to what keeps a talented, hardworking person from moving up the corporate ladder. If it feels like others are climbing, while you are standing still there is a good chance you are getting in the way of your own success.
Here are five common things that might be holding you back from success.
1. YOU DON’T ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
I am surprised how often I speak to people who wish for a particular job, role, or assignment but never actually ask for it. I used to believe if my bosses and peers saw me working hard and doing a good job, that would be enough to advance my career. It wasn’t. Talent and work ethic will only take you so far and often aren’t proportionate with success and promotions. If you are a female, take note. Studies show women are even less likely to push for more pay, negotiate, or ask for what they want. Decision-makers often aren’t as calculating as you might think. Don’t expect your boss to be a mind reader. If you haven’t spoken up and articulated your goals or where you would like to see your career going, you need to figure out how to find your voice and start communicating what you want. If done right, employers will be appreciative.
2. YOU HAVE A FIXED MINDSET
Do you think about yourself as unable to change individual skills? Do you complain about problems instead of offering solutions? When you receive feedback, does it feel like criticism? Do you feel threatened when your peers succeed? If you answered yes to these questions, you have a fixed mindset, probably holding you back. Psychologist Carol Dweck identified how the growth and fixed approaches influence success in her book Mindset. Your point of view plays a large role in determining your success. When I graduated from college, I wanted to be on TV. I knew it would require hard work and persistence. It would have been easy to focus on the hundreds of reasons why the odds of becoming a national sports reporter were low, but what made me successful was a blind belief that I could do it. What separates you from your more successful colleagues is probably less about talent and more about mindset. People who have a growth mindset see problems as a challenge failure as an opportunity to grow. They are more mindful, less judgemental, and more successful.
3. YOU SPEND TIME IN OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS
It’s common to keep tabs on your peers and colleagues, but when you start comparing yourself and wondering why they are getting something you aren’t, it’s not useful and sometimes even toxic. Ask yourself this. Is it something you can control? Sports are a great place to see this concept in action. Suppose you are a Hall of fame quarterback, like Tom Brady, and the Patriots move on from you. Do you put energy into feeling wronged and obsess over every play you could have executed better than Cam Newton? Or do you pour yourself into getting to know your new team, find a way to get your favorite tight end back into the NFL, and set your sights on winning another Super Bowl with your new coach and roster? You can’t control the decisions others make. If you think about what others are doing and things out of your control, you are taking energy away from yourself and your potential success.
4. YOU TAKE CARE OF OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF
This is especially true for working women according to research done by the Harvard Business Review. How often do you volunteer to do work that doesn’t get you paid or promoted? Are you the person in the office who doesn’t mind taking out the trash or volunteering to plan the company Christmas party or a co-worker’s birthday lunch? Studies have found that investing time in non-promotable office tasks will hurt your career, not help it. Not only are you taking away time from revenue-generating work doing specific tasks that lack visibility and importance, but eventually, perception becomes a reality. Doing this less valuable work, cleaning out the company refrigerator, and watching your boss’s children when they come to the office subconsciously sends a message that your time is less important than your peers. If you find yourself raising your hand for these types of chores more than the rest of your co-workers, it is time to practice saying no.
5. YOU CAN’T ANSWER WHAT YOU WANT AND WHY
As an agent, I speak regularly with people who don’t know what they want to do or why. They seek a sports career but don’t want to work weekends or holidays. They want to be the next Robin Roberts but are unwilling to move to a new city for a job opportunity. They love the idea of being a sideline reporter but expect to work regular 9-5 hours. Dreaming of a job in sports broadcasting because it seems fun is not an acceptable answer to why you want it to be your career. I can usually tell when someone hasn’t done their homework, and it is a red flag that they will struggle to be successful. How can you ever ask for and go after what you want if you don’t even know what you want? Your first step toward success is determining the answer to your wants and why.