Experience, a strong network and an excellent resume are important aspects of a strong career. But to truly propel your professional development, take stock of your personal influencers and make sure they aren’t stifling your career potential.
Even the most independent among us have people who influence our decision-making, whether consciously or not. I learned this lesson in my first job as a babysitter. One of the families I worked for was awful. The job came with low pay, a messy house and out-of-control children. I hated working for them, but I did it anyway on many occasions.
I didn’t need to keep saying yes when they called. I had enough business without them, but I kept returning out of guilt. They would say they didn’t know any other sitters, and I would feel bad. I was ready to move on but let personal feelings keep me there much longer than I should have.
Variations of this scenario happen all of the time, in every industry, for every age. Whether you realize it or not, there is probably someone in your life right now who is keeping you from taking that next step in your career.
Here are some of the most common culprits:
1. The Bully
A coworker, boss or even a lowly intern—anyone who uses schoolyard tactics to scare people away from an opportunity qualifies as a workplace bully. The bully will start rumors about company layoffs or complain about how it’s impossible to find a job. A bully demeans your accomplishments and publically points out every tiny mistake you’ve ever made.
Bullies can hurt your career progression simply by making you feel like trying to advance your career is a hopeless pursuit. Worse, bullies may even go out of their way to make you look bad to superiors. Chasing after an opportunity is worth your time, so don’t let a coworker convince you otherwise.
2. Your Mom
Mom doesn’t always know best. When it comes to your career, you are the authority. No one knows your abilities and ambitions better than yourself. Your mom (and the rest of your family and close friends) may want you to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.
Every time my mom finishes reading a book, she tells me, “You could have written that!” Though the sentiment is kind, it’s not quite true. Will I get a book published someday? I hope so. Will it automatically be a worldwide phenomenon like the Harry Potter series because my mom said so? Not as likely.
Parental support can go in the other direction, as well. When I decided to major in Writing, several family members thought I was crazy. They wanted me to choose a more “stable” career path. Your family loves you, but you are the person who will live with your decisions. Follow the career path of your dreams, even if it seems out of reach. If you work for it, you can get there.
3. The Bandwagon Fan
The bandwagon fan is the coworker who jumps ship every time a better opportunity comes along. This type of person gets excited at the start of every new project or position, but the motivation fizzles out as soon as the honeymoon period is over. Starting a new project with this person can be risky, because you will be left picking up the pieces if your coworker bails. Make sure the follow-through is there before beginning.
Watching the bandwagon fan jump from job to job could also be a bad influence on you. It’s easy to get caught up in the initial enthusiasm of the bandwagon fan when he or she starts proclaiming the greatness of a new position or company. This type of person often tries to bring others along when moving, so proceed with caution. Do your own research about the job before making any decisions.
4. Your Workplace BFF
Having friends in the workplace can help keep you engaged and improve your mood during the workweek. However, work friends are not always the best people to advance your career. Friends enjoy your company and know your talents. They may not want to lose you to another opportunity. They might even deter you from pursuing a new job with another team or a different company.
Even if friends don’t actively try to prevent you from making a change, it’s easy to let your decision be overly influenced by loyalty to friends and comfort with a job. While these are important factors, they should not be deciding factors. You need to consider the opportunity as a whole—where it fits into your desired career path, who you’d be working for, all of those important details.
Your friendship can survive a career move. If it can’t, then, to quote my mother, “They weren’t a true friend to begin with.”
When it comes to career roadblocks, you are often your own worst enemy. There are many forms of self-sabotage that can keep you from moving forward. Bullies, work friends, family and bandwagon fans might influence your choices, but in the end the person responsible for your decisions is you. (Click here to tweet this idea.)
The best way to stop hindering your own career progress is to figure out the cause. For me, the offender is usually fear. The worry that I won’t be able to succeed has kept me from even trying on more than one occasion. To gain the confidence I needed to get over my fear, I first had to acknowledge it.
Determine who or what is holding you back. Once you know the issue, it will be much easier to solve.