Career Sabotage and Your Comfort Zone

At least once or twice in the past I’ve written about some aspect of career sabotage–that is, when you have sabotaged your own career, not when someone else has done it to you. The topic came to mind again today when I read an article called “5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Career Success” by Avery Augustine.

The thing is, you’re probably more likely to spot it when someone is doing it to you than you are when you are the “culprit.” Why is that? For one thing, because we tend to take for granted the things we do and not question them too closely unless a specific situation or person forces us to. Awareness is critical. We need to be as clued-in as possible to what’s happening that could torpedo our career and take corrective action to prevent it, whether we’re the one doing it or not.

What Are the 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging?

According to Augustine, they are (briefly):

  1. Not Exploring the World Outside Your Department
  2. Not Applying for That Promotion
  3. Talking Yourself Out of an Internal Move
  4. Saying No to Big (but Scary) Opportunities
  5. Refusing to Ask for Feedback

Outside Your Comfort Zone

What do those 5 ways have to do with career sabotage and your comfort zone? Each one of them could easily require you to go outside your comfort zone in some way or other. For example, exploring what’s going on outside your department might involve talking with people you don’t know well about what they’re doing and, maybe, volunteering to help with one of their projects when you have time. Some of you might feel uncomfortable putting yourself forward like that.

It’s pretty much the same with the other four ways to sabotage your career. Here are just a couple of additional examples:

  • You can hesitate to apply for a promotion because (a) you don’t think you have a chance against the competition or (b) you’re not sure you’re up to the challenges you’d face if you got the promotion.
  • You can refuse to solicit feedback on how you’re doing because you’re afraid someone will say “not so good”! Of course, this means you won’t get input that could help you become even better at what you do and thus be able to blow the competition out of the water when you have a chance to apply for that promotion.

No Risk, No Reward

It’s probably true that there’s no reward without some risk. At least, it’s true often enough that it’s worth keeping in mind. Remember, too, that while you might need to go outside your comfort zone to avoid career sabotage–or even to boost your career success, you don’t have to leap off a 500-foot cliff your first time out. As General George Patton once said, “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”

The key here is that you are already incurring a risk by not evaluating what you might be inadvertently doing to sabotage your career and then taking action to correct it. If the goal is worthwhile, remind yourself of that and step outside your comfort zone to achieve it, if that’s what it takes.

P.S. I might not be doing any posts next week (October 14-18) because I’ll be preparing for and attending a professional careers-related conference for a few days, put on by Career Directors International. However, I expect to come back with plenty of food for thought and maybe the idea for a blog post or two!

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