3 Big Things that Are Holding You Back in Your Career

3 Big Things that Are Holding You Back in Your Career

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Brittney Morgan
Feb 4, 2017

New year, new you, right? Maybe 2017 is the time to move towards new heights in your career. And whether your goal is seeking a new opportunity or trying to land a great promotion, you might be surprised to hear there are a few things that could be holding you back. Luckily, they're things you can work on... at home and on the job. Whether it's learning new skills through an online course or taking on new tasks, don't worry—you've got this!

You're not honing your skills

For most of us, going to work every day means exercising the same task muscles over and over. It's great to hone those skills, but the repetitive nature of your days might be bad news for the skills you never get to use. For instance, I spend most of my day writing, editing, and doing brainstorming ideas, but I rarely ever have to worry about things like public speaking—which means that when a speaking opportunity does come up, I'm nervous and feel ill-prepared.

In order to move forward in your career, you need to be constantly honing the skills that aren't part of your day-to-day work. You need to make daily or weekly efforts to learn new things and keep up with the latest developments or brushing up on old skills you may have already learned but almost never use. You never know when they might come in handy: Your well-rounded talents can help you land a promotion or score the new job of your dreams one day.

Depending on your career, "honing your skills" can mean doing anything from learning more effective speaking and communication skills, to practicing your writing skills, to learning Photoshop—and pretty much everything in between. Resources like Lynda.com can help you learn new talents online (everything from animation to web development). Lynda requires a membership, but if you belong to a library, you may be in luck: some libraries offer access to Lynda with your library card. Also double check with your employer, because they may offer (or decide to offer) the service to employees. And if public speaking is the area you need to work on (I know I do!), Coursera has an online class that you can audit for free.

You're not seeking out new challenges

Another way that you can further your skills and experience at work is to be more willing and able to take on new challenges. Going to work, finishing your to-do list and punching out at the end of the day is great, but in order to move forward, you need to stand out. You don't have to ask for tons of extra tasks on top of your already full workload (don't take on more than you can handle, or your work and your mental health will suffer!), but volunteering to take on a new project or try something new that could benefit the company can go a long way in helping you get noticed and move up in your job. For one, it gives you a chance to practice those new skills you're learning—or the ones you already know, but never get to use—plus it shows your boss that you and initiative go hand-in-hand, and that's an association you want to make in their mind as they consider you for future promotions or when it's time for employee evaluations.

You're not asking for promotions

Has it been a long time since you've moved up in your career? If you're doing all of the above but you feel stagnant in your job, it could be because you're not asking for what you want. One of the biggest mistakes people make in their careers is assuming that if they stick it out, an opportunity will come to them. But the truth is this: You have to make your desire to move up be known. Show it in your work, of course, but you also shouldn't be afraid to come out and ask for it (or at least inquire about future opportunities). According to a 2014 survey by Accenture, 68% of people who asked for promotions received them, but only 44% of overall respondents actually asked for one.

Obviously, asking for a raise isn't easy, or more people would be doing it, right? So, in order to do it right, make sure you also sharpen your negotiating skills. There may not be an opportunity to promote you in your current role right away, but maybe there are other arrangements you can work out with your supervisor, like taking on special projects or shadowing other employees and learning more about different aspects of the company— you just have to know what to ask for.

Negotiation skills are doubly important if you plan on looking for a new job, too. The good news: There are plenty of resources to help you brush up on your negotiating skills so you can be confident in your career—this online class on Coursera is a great option, and you can take it for free (although you can pay the enrollment fee if you want to earn a certificate when you're done).

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