Seven Career-Killing Myths

Posted at 3:00 pm on 08/07/2018 by Yvette Gavin

Recalibrating your mindset to prepare to go after your dream career requires you to take an honest look at the beliefs you hold. Our culture is inundated with false beliefs about how successful careers are made. These are the myths that keep people day after day dragging off to jobs they hate. These are the lies that keep you from landing your dream job or earning enough money to have the lifestyle you want.

As you read through these myths, and the truths that contradict them, reflect on what you actually believe about your ability to design the life and career you desire. Consider why you think that way and what that kind of thinking may have cost you.

It's time to fulfill your potential. Decide today to change your way of looking at your career. Start by assessing whether you have fallen prey to any of these myths and working to adjust your mindset to one that's always looking for opportunities and expecting to find them.

Myth #1: You have to be ruthless to survive in corporate America.

You see it in the movies all the time. The high-powered female executive wields her tongue like a sword. There's a slight chance she might be nice at home, but at the office, she talks down to colleagues, demeans the people who work for her, and more or less alienates everyone around her. She is, to put it bluntly, a diva, and she usually ends up wealthy but lonely. Sitting in the theater audience, we're supposed to be convinced that her nastiness is both a blessing and a curse, at the same time the key to her success and the reason her employees fantasize about poisoning her coffee.

The kernel of truth in this myth is that taking charge of your career does require a certain amount of courage and even some toughness. However, the reality in most companies is that you'll have more influence when you win allies than when you create enemies. Being ruthless is not only unnecessary; it's counterproductive. Fully satisfying careers are built on a foundation of positive relationships, and you can't create those when coworkers resent you.

Myth #2: You have to compromise your values to succeed in corporate America.

My client, Barbara, was particularly concerned about this. In some of her self-assessment work, she explained very clearly why she wanted to increase her income. She was determined to raise the standard of living for her two children, a goal to which most parents can relate. However, being a Christian, Barbara worried that she'd have to compromise her faith in order to succeed in the world of business. She felt torn between the desire to increase her income and the fear that it would require her to sell out to greed, backstabbing, or a willingness to lie and cheat.

Perhaps some people do get ahead by taking shortcuts or throwing co-workers under the bus. Sometimes the bad guys do seem to finish first, but the chickens always come home to roost, and whether we see it or not, those bad guys pay a price. Just think of the white-collar criminals carted off in handcuffs while their prized possessions are auctioned off to the highest bidder. For every one of them, there are thousands of people who have quietly achieved their success with their integrity intact. You can too.

Myth #3: To get ahead in business you have to be political.

Have you ever worked with an office kiss-up? Maybe she spent a little too much time in the boss's office. Maybe his disposition was too flawlessly positive or he went out of his way to socialize with his superiors outside of work. What about the annoying coworker who seemed to know just a little too much about what was going on behind the scenes? Any of those people could be accused of playing into office politics. And maybe they were. It's hard to know what anyone's real motives are.

Use your power and influence for good; being political can be one of your greatest strengths.Office politics are real, but the problem is that politics has gotten such a bad reputation we forget there's nothing inherently bad in being political. In its simplest form, it just means you seek and exercise power. Anytime a diverse body of human beings comes together to reach common goals there will always be conflicting priorities and differences of opinion.

Alliances will form, and you may have to choose a side. This only becomes a problem when the differences become toxic and people take on a "win at all costs" attitude. If it's happening where you work you can either rise above it, strive to improve the situation or look for somewhere else to work. Use your power and your influence for good, and being political can be one of your greatest strengths.

Myth #4: You need 100% competency for a job before you apply for it.

This is a dangerous belief because you may never be able to check off every detail of the requirements for the job you really want. As a hiring manager and as a career coach, I've noticed that men tend not to care as much as women about having all the qualifications for a job. They'll happily apply for a position they're sort of qualified to do and come into the interview full of swagger and ready to go. Women, on the other hand, tend to shy away from applying for a job until they get a little more experience,

Obviously, I'm generalizing along gender lines, and there are plenty of exceptions to contradict those observations, but by and large, my experience bears them out. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. No, you shouldn't apply to be an emergency room doctor if you haven't gone to medical school, but the competencies you'll use in most environments tend to be more fluid and obtainable. If you're 80% qualified for your dream job, it's time you apply for it. You have the talent and intelligence to learn the other 20% on the job.

Myth #5: Full-time positions offer real security in a company.

For most of us, the days of joining a company at a young age and working there until we get the gold watch are over. However, many people still believe the greatest security can be found in holding a full-time position with a "solid" company. The recent recession reminded us of how quickly a seemingly stable job can disappear when employers are forced to go through layoffs. The kicker: in that climate, some companies choose to keep contractors while letting go of full-timers.

The wise professional knows the only real job security comes from making yourself incredibly valuable and distinguishing yourself from your peers. It doesn't matter how long you've worked for a company or in what capacity. You should position yourself so that you're the last one they want to let go, and even if you fall victim to a layoff, you're such an attractive candidate that other employers are clamoring to hire you. In other words, security with any one company, in a permanent, full-time position or otherwise, is a myth.

Myth #6: If you're really good at your job your career will grow on its own.

You show up to work on time every day, put your head down, and do everything that's expected of you. You even go above and beyond your job description because you believe a job worth doing is worth doing well. If that means staying late, you're willing to eat dinner at your desk. Of course, your boss will notice that you do more than your counterpart two cubicles over, and you'll be rewarded accordingly. Right?

Not likely. When you don't ask for more you rarely get more, and I'm not talking about the yearly 3% increase most people can expect to see in good economic times. Think about it. Does that tiny increase make a material difference in your life? The way to reap your reward isn't just to work harder. You have to make sure people recognize your efforts and accomplishments. You have to document them, talk about them, and use them to ask for more money on your current job or the next one.

Myth #7: You should accept whatever offer you receive for a new job.

Anyone looking for a new job could consider themselves to be in a position of weakness. You're the one in need. They're the ones with all the power. You're hungry, and they have the bread. So, you go in, and you do your best, and you hope they choose you, and when they do, you're so grateful to be at the table, that yes, you're happy to take whatever salary they offer.

No, ma'am. Whether you've been laid off or fired, haven't worked in a decade, or still have a job to go to every day, you have value. Once you identify what makes you a unique candidate and understand how to make the most of that value in the job market you'll see that you absolutely do not have to settle. When you know your worth and demonstrate it to others, you can command the salary you deserve.

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