The biggest mistake you can make in your career is not something you goof up on the job, like forgetting part of your pitch during a client presentation or getting caught complaining about your boss at the coffee station (although this is a big no-no for every employee).
The biggest mistake you can make in your career is the one you make against yourself. It’s underestimating your value, doubting your ideas, shrugging off praise that’s well-justified, or settling for a lower salary than you’re worth. It’s taking a so-so job when you know your education and experience qualify you for a better one. Or jumping on an offer for advancement simply for the title, rather than taking the time and effort to find a position that better fits your talents.
We all make these mistakes sometime in our career. Shoot, it’s likely that for most of us, our very first job felt like we were not utilizing our greatest abilities. I’ll confess: mine was folding and hanging women’s apparel at an indistinct and long-ago closed department store where my coworker taught me the ins and outs of shoplifting. She never got caught, and I never tried it, but…still! But even then, I believe that every job we hold adds value to our overall character and work experience. (Check out my recent article, Do You Have to Like Your Job?, to read more about this topic.)
So, yep, we all have made plenty of not-great job choices, failed to speak up when we had the answer, or doubted our worth in a staff meeting. But in today’s world, when there are ever-expanding career choices and opportunities, it’s important to know how to protect and advance your career.
Here are 6 things you can do to build a strong career:
1. Believe in your value.
Repeat this to yourself: “I am valuable!” Every one of us has great worth to add to the workforce, and the only thing that keeps it hidden is our own self-doubt. I’m not advocating being bossy or aggressive to prove yourself, but instead being confident and assertive. Make sure that the position you seek and take matches your gifts and talents, your education and experience, then lean on that knowledge as the foundation for your inner belief system. Remind yourself of all the work you’ve put in to get where you are, and that your employer hired you because they believe in you.
2. Embrace your abilities.
Most of us have failed to speak up on occasion when we know we have a good answer or suggestion. Facing a boss, a paying client or a sea of faces around a conference table can be very intimidating! We don’t want to go around bragging about ourselves, or what we did at a previous job, but we need to be bold when we know we have an idea or skill worth sharing. A good way to banish self-doubt and trust your abilities is to be prepared. Put together the facts and tools you need to present and defend your idea ahead of time (and take written copies for everyone else if that will help). Just the preparation alone will bolster your confidence enough to actually stand up straight and get those words out of your mouth.
3. Enjoy the spotlight.
It’s sometimes easier to let others get the applause rather than calling attention to our successes. This is especially true if you’re an introvert. But shining a light on something noteworthy that you’ve done is a good thing—including your accomplishments at work. You don’t have to be a boaster or braggart to make sure that who you are, what you do, and what you contribute are noticed. Be humble, but don’t let anyone fail to recognize your participation in a project or your success with a client. Those are the building blocks to advancement in your career. You will only hurt yourself if you stay in the shadows at your workplace.
The biggest mistake a woman can make in her career is the one she makes against herself.
4. Trust yourself to build strong relationships.
For many of us, the word “networking” makes our heart race and our hands sweat. But relationship building—both inside and outside your office walls—is critical to your daily job satisfaction and future goals. You don’t need to force relationships or put on a fake front with people. But it’s wise to identify the coworkers you admire and would like to emulate, and show interest in their work. Make an extra effort with your clients so that all of them can speak highly of your ethics and character. Little steps made in work-related relationships can go a long way toward helping you enjoy your work today and get ahead tomorrow.
5. Say only kind words.
Gossip can be a career killer, ladies. Talking behind someone’s back reflects poorly on your character, and nothing can hurt you at work more than that.
6. Develop a career plan.
I’ll bet most of you have a plan for your future. Maybe it includes marriage and the exact number of children you want to have. Or travel, and a list of countries you are determined to explore. Some of you make highly detailed plans for each and every vacation or holiday. But many of us never stop to consider the wisdom of making a career plan. We get a job, and we settle in and roll with it. We don’t think too much about all the ways that what we’re doing today could propel us into a higher and better position in a few years. Take some time to ponder where you want to be at work in three, five, and 10 years and set some goals for how to get there. They’ll be a good roadmap to help you achieve your career desires smarter and possibly faster. And if something comes along that completely changes your course, you’ll be able to look back and feel good about all you accomplished along the way.
You will only hurt yourself if you stay in the shadows at your workplace.
Ok ladies, now you know how to protect and advance your career…so go ahead and get started now!
You’ll also like The 6 Qualities That Make a Female Leader Strong, The Truth in the Gender Pay Gap, 20 Things You Should Avoid Saying in a Job Interview, and don’t miss our recent podcast: Does Your Self-Confidence Need a Boost? – 018!