In the world of career counseling, we often spend a great deal of time working with clients to discuss what steps they should be taking in their professional planning. These steps can be technical in nature, such as formatting your resume, or more abstract, such as developing a vision for your future. However, the reality is that sometimes, no matter how successfully you complete some of the little steps along the way, you may still struggle to attain your goal.
Is it possible that you are somehow sabotaging your own professional success? The answer could be yes, and I think this phenomenon is more common than many people realize. To illustrate what I mean, here are a few examples of how job-seekers can hold themselves back from attaining their career dreams:
Being a Perfectionist
Your career is important – I get it (trust me). BUT, are you being so analytical that you are stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for that “perfect” opportunity to come along?
Getting caught in the perfectionist trap of “analysis paralysis” is a pretty common occurrence, and it can be hard to recognize when it takes place. After all, you DO want to be strategic and selective when making important decisions about your career. I know how difficult this paradox can be, because I tend to be a perfectionist myself and I have been stuck in this situation before. The truth is, there really is no such thing as the “perfect” job.”
The solution? Take a step back occasionally and ask yourself if you might be setting the bar a little too high. Try to figure out exactly what it is that is preventing you from action. It could be that you just aren’t as ready as you thought to make your next career move, or you still may need to do some research to understand exactly what it is you’re seeking. Whatever the case might be, try to take your perfectionism into account when evaluating job opportunities so that you can objectively evaluate whether or not that position is right for you.
Lack of Perseverance
This is another tough roadblock that is also common, especially for young job seekers who are just entering the market for the first time. Most of us are not used to rejection – and when I say “most of us” I mean myself as well, since I am also a part of the Millennial Generation. Let’s face it, a lot of us have had it pretty good growing up. Our families have encouraged us to be successful in school and in our careers, and we’ve received a lot of recognition for our achievements along the way (even if they did come in the form of participation trophies). However, all of that ends when you enter the job market.
Do NOT get discouraged when you hear “no” from an employer! It can be very disheartening the first few times you experience rejection, but the reality is that you can’t get defeated every time a refusal occurs. Try to educate yourself about WHY you’re getting rejected: Was it your resume? Your interview? Your qualifications? Then, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on. That’s just the way your professional life goes some days. Have faith that when the right opportunity does come along, you’re going to shine!
Lack of a REALISTIC Vision
Yet another common form of sabotage for young job seekers is an unrealistic expectation of what their first job could (or should) look like. Career counselors see this often – someone comes into the office with hardly anything on their resume and starts talking about the management position they would like to pursue in a Fortune 100 company…NOT going to happen!
Do not get derailed into wasting your time, energy, and money pursuing a position that you have no chance of landing. You MUST research the industries and careers of interest to you, and come up with a professional vision for yourself that is realistic. If you have some good networking connections or a strategy that you can utilize to leverage yourself above other candidates, then perhaps you can set a more ambitious goal for yourself. If not, then back up a little and start thinking about some middle steps you can take to reach your end goal. For example, if you want that management position at a Fortune 100 company, you may need to start out in a sales role or even pursue an internship that can help you get your foot in the door. Think strategically and if you get stuck, reevaluate your job search to analyze whether or not realistic goal-setting may or may not be a relevant concern for you.
Another stereotype of the Millennial Generation is that of hyper-involvement. Young people today are very passionate about their careers and their communities, and their resumes reflect this characteristic through a high level of engagement. While there are definitely some perks to this approach, it can also cause your downfall (or, at the very least, add a great deal of stress to your life). Do NOT spread yourself too thin!
I am huge proponent of saying “yes” to new opportunities that come your way, but I also believe that you can overburden yourself if you’re not careful. Are you taking on too much at work in an effort to please your boss? Are you involved in too many clubs and activities on campus? I know I certainly was over-committed at certain points in my college career.
Overcommitting causes burnout, and perhaps more importantly, it increases the chances that you will turn in poor quality work or fail to meet an obligation. These negative outcomes are some of the worst professional mistakes you can make – don’t let it happen to you!
NOT Committing Enough
Are you pursuing YOUR goal, or someone else’s? As Millennials, many of us are people pleasers, and we often have a hard time saying “no” to others (see ‘Overcommitting’, above). That being said, I sometimes see students who are trying their best to pursue a career dream (i.e. doctor, lawyer, banker) that belongs to someone else – usually their parents. Yes, most of our parents have sacrificed a great deal for us along the way and taken great strides to help us be successful. However, that DOESN’T mean you should cave to the pressure of letting someone else dictate your career path.
Think about it this way – are you truly passionate about and interested in the career field you have chosen? Trying to conform to someone else’s vision for your future often means it is hard for you to fully commit to the path. No matter how hard you try, if your heart isn’t really in it, you may not be able to give it 100%. At the end of the day, your career decisions belong to you and you alone – you need to make decisions that will allow you to thrive professionally!