Have you ever watched the face of people going to work on a Monday morning? The first time I did, I had a traumatic experience. It was a warm September morning many years ago on the bus going to my job. As I watched people sitting and standing opposite me, I was overwhelmed with the expressions of misery, resignation and quiet desperation on their faces. This memory has stayed with me ever since.
Since 1986 I have worked to help people escape the “Monday Morning Blues”. When people call to enquire about my services, I ask them to describe what is happening in their life right now. They often talk about a number of issues that for me indicate they believe in a number of “myths” about their career. Here are some of the more common ones, and my thoughts about them.
Myth #1: Careers just happen.
Reality: Careers are planned – or they won’t happen. What happens instead is a series of accidents – some of them lucky, most of them not.
The saddest thing in the world is a person who at age fifty-plus, finds that the thread has snapped. They put-up with work they didn’t like for a long time, but now it is no longer possible. They never gave any thought to planning and now they feel the only viable direction of their employment history is retirement in ten more long years.
Myth #2: You learn from your career mistakes.
Reality: All you learn from your mistakes is what not to do. They don’t tell you what to do. One of the key founding ideas in professional career management is that the study of individual successes, not failures, is the most valuable tool in career planning.
Myth #3: Career changes are risky and expensive.
Reality: Your career change, if correctly planned, uses more of your talents and skills and is more in tune with your personality. You will do a better job and be worth more to your employer.
In my experience, 50% of clients who change careers experience an immediate increase in income on starting their next career. But there are ground rules! It doesn’t happen by accident.
Myth #4: The job market dictates what career you should choose. Go only into growth fields.
Reality: This myth has been responsible for more failure and disasters than any other. Especially these days, markets change rapidly. A career is not built on what’s good out there, but what’s good in you.
Myth #5: Tests can tell you what you should be doing for the rest of your life.
Reality: No one can tell you what you should do. In the hands of an experienced professional, a good career assessment is one of many tools to help you recognize a career direction. However, only you can make a career decision.
Myth #6: If you are frustrated at work, quit your job and find a new one.
Reality: Most people take their career problems from one job to the next. Don’t be too anxious to leave your job. The grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence. Plan your next career move by focusing on your strengths and not on your immediate problem.
If you find it difficult or frustrating working for your boss, you will be tempted to look for another role to eliminate the source of your problem. Experience proves that problems with the boss are rarely limited to basic personality conflicts. Instead of applying a hatchet solution or trying to psychoanalyze your boss (or yourself), take a good look at the successful experiences in your life where you have worked well with people, as well as the kind of people you have respected as superiors. Then plan your next step accordingly.
Myth #7: The only way to find a job is to find a job opening or vacancy.
Reality: There are two other ways to get a job that, between them, are responsible for the majority of job offers. First, an opening may not exist at the time you make personal contact with an individual in a company. However, if you make a favourable impression, during the days or weeks following your contact, you may be the first to be considered for an opening that does occur. Second, a new job is created where there wasn’t one before. This may be either an entirely new role category, which fills an emerging need of a growing organization, or an addition to a group of jobs, such as another software programmer being added to an expanding team.
Myth #8: People are hired because they are qualified.
Reality: Many people are hired because the interviewer liked them. Technical qualifications run a poor second (If I like you, I may hire you; if I don’t, I certainly won’t).
This isn’t as unfair as it first sounds. None of us want to work with someone we can’t relate to. If you have genuine rapport with your prospective employer, their purpose and their work, you have a good chance of generating an offer. If not, you won’t want the job and shouldn’t want it – unless you are desperate. Effective career management will eliminate the need to act out of desperation. You will always know what your next step is and will have laid the groundwork to take it at any time.
Myth #9: You have to be aggressive to get ahead.
Reality: Aggressiveness leads to offensiveness and longterm career decline. What you must be is purposeful. Having a life and career purpose attracts success. Having a purpose during a job interview makes for a more successful interview.
Myth #10: It is harder to find a good job if you are over forty.
Reality: If you have a career plan and you know how to look for a job, it’s actually easier. You will be increasingly qualified for better roles as you are more experienced.
However, the over-forty myth is persistent, the people who suffer the most from it are the ones who believe it. Every time someone over forty is observed having difficulty finding a job, people think: “Aha, this proves it,” never really asking why the person is having a problem.
It is true that as you get older, employers are less willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. When you are forty years old (or older), employers expect you to know who you are and where you are going. You are increasingly expected to know how to demonstrate value to them.
No person will hire you, or refuse to hire you, on the basis of age alone. If you have a career plan, and the ability to demonstrate years of achievements based on using your greatest talents and skills, you will become more valuable to prospective employers with each passing decade.
I encourage you to keep these 10 realities in mind as you prepare for your next career move!
Need Career Help?
I provide innovative solutions to help people make effective career moves. I welcome you to be a part of the growing body of men and women who are determined to take control of their lives. You are invited to contact me for a “Career Action Plan” session to help you make your next move.
Photo courtesy of Jake Rustenhoven