Disastrous Career Misperceptions

By Nancy Fredericks


Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.thrivewithnancy.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

Let’s get something straight. It may not be your company holding you back. Rather, your belief about how career advancement transpires in companies today may be the real issue.

When working with executives, I’m shocked at how many wrong concepts they have about generating a successful career.

This wrong thinking holds you back. Continuing to believe them to be true will significantly harm your career progression… and, at the least, slow it down to a crawl.

Let’s bust up some misperceptions and empower you with new success techniques that align with your company’s definition.

First Misperception: Career Growth Is Linear. NO!

Career growth is often misconstrued as a clear-cut, upward trajectory. In reality, companies now expect their high-potential, promotable executives to be agile, adaptable, and capable of mastering diverse skill sets across various business channels.

Today, the rise is no longer a straight shot to the top. Being offered a lateral assignment can strongly indicate that you’re being groomed for future leadership roles.

Consider the example of January, a client who was offered a two-year assignment reporting to the company’s global CEO. Initially, January felt sidelined because the position did not come with a salary increase, nor did it include any direct reports. She perceived the role as a demotion rather than an opportunity.

However, January’s gut reaction caused her to overlook the invaluable networking opportunities and insights she would gain from working closely with her company’s top executives. This experience proved to be instrumental in her career development.

After completing the assignment, January’s career soared, and she became the highest-ranking female executive in the company.

This example demonstrates that career growth is not always linear.

Embracing lateral moves and broader, more diverse experiences can significantly contribute to your future success.
Second Misperception: Working the Hardest Will Get You The Promotion. NO!

How many executives have unconsciously locked themselves in low-level management without realizing it because they hold fast to the sole principle of mastering their current position?
The number is staggering—and sad!

There is no question that hard work is crucial in every position you hold, but what you work on is the difference-maker! An all-in commitment to the hard work promotion theory without adjusting your focus at each level will hinder you from actually growing.

The truth is, the skills that pave the way for career growth are not the same as those that achieve your four-star rating in your current role. Recognizing this and actively developing more broad-ranging leadership skills will ensure your career doesn’t slow down to a crawl.

It’s practical. If you continue concentrating on productive, more detail-oriented project work, no one will have the opportunity to see you demonstrating your higher thinking and strategic future-driven qualifications, which are the entrance fee for promotion.

Third Misperception: More Education Is The Answer. NO!

The belief that higher education is the key to career success is losing its luster. Many corporate CEOs are announcing a “degree reset,” indicating that degrees will no longer be required for many positions. A PayScale survey revealed that 1 in 3 companies no longer list educational requirements on their salaried job postings, though this has only led to a 3.5 percent change in hiring statistics.

Understanding that a degree only gets you in the door is crucial. How effectively you apply your acquired knowledge in the workplace sets you apart and determines your promotability potential.

Companies reward executives who can improve profitability, pivot seamlessly from chaos to success, exhibit both tactical and strategic aspects of their roles, demonstrate emotional intelligence to inspire and influence employees to be and do better, to pivot in the face of chaos converting disaster into success, and go beyond their job descriptions.

Fourth Misperception: When I Master The Secrets, My Career Will Be Smooth Sailing. NO!

The bad news is that you’ll always be required to evolve to meet your current challenges.

While having historical knowledge of what has worked is helpful, with the pace of business transformation acceleration, you can’t remain stuck in your “already knowing.” You must be open to new ideas and innovative solutions.

Do you think this is an exaggeration? Consider that in 1900, Buckminster Fuller introduced the knowledge curve, estimating knowledge doubled every century. By 2020, IBM predicted that knowledge would double every 11-12 hours!

With this in mind, embrace your job with your heart and mind open to challenge your “already knowing” and include emerging concepts. This approach will facilitate your growth and ensure your company’s success.

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