Some time ago I developed a survey to understand the complications we face in the workplace. I wanted to know what keeps us from being successful. In this post, I list the top 14 roadblocks identified in this survey. I’ll also provide some insight on how to getting around each one.
Here are the top 14 roadblocks that hold us back from being successful in our career. You should note that most of these are internal; that is, we create these challenges for ourselves. Even among all of the madness in today’s economy, we are still the limiting factor to our own success. Let’s take a candid look at each roadblock.
Roadblock #1: The failure to clearly establish and focus on bigger life goals.
Solution: This points to a suitable work-life balance. The first thing to do here is define your goals for your career and your personal life. Without these goals, you’ll never get a balance. As a married man with 3 kids, I can’t focus all of my energy on my career. I must balance the time I have with my family and my work. This is the life of a family man. Solving this problem requires a lot of trail and error. Of course, you’ll never find a solution if you don’t try something. So, try something.
Roadblock #2: Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of leaving your comfort zone.
Solution: Fear seemed to come up in the survey many times. Unfortunately, we respond to the wrong fears. If you want to let fear drive your career, consider this list instead:
1. No job
2. No money to buy food
3. No money to pay your rent or your mortgage
4. No safe environment to work or live in
Maslow tells us these are our needs. If you have these covered, the fears you have aren’t real. Ignore them. Move on. Focus on your goals. Pretend you have the ball on the five yard line and you have to traverse the length of the football field to score the touchdown. Run. Run. Run. You can recognize that others are trying to tackle you (fears) and you may respond to them (move around them) but you can’t get to the end zone if you stop running. Just keep running.
Roadblock #3: Everyone should make plans in his/her professional career and make improvements.
Solution: When you go on vacation, you load the car with a map, GPS, cell phone, plenty of clothes, food, drinks, safety kit, etc. You have everything you need and are prepared to handle just about any emergency. Do this with your career. When you go to work, carry your career map (tasks, goals, etc.), list of contacts in your network, contact info for your peer support group, etc. Prepare for career emergencies. Don’t wait until you’re in one.
Roadblock #4: No Right Opportunity – Not being able to be at the right place at the right time with the right contact.
Solution: Don’t try the ‘I’m a victim’ thing. Be proactive. The world isn’t going to just walk up and hand you the keys to the kingdom. Finding the right opportunity starts with finding opportunities. Get out there and network. Meet people. Engage yourself in groups, associations, etc at work and in your neighborhood. The more opportunities you encounter, the more likely you are to find the right one. It’s a game of numbers.
Roadblock #5: Certifications and training.
Solution: This is easy. Find out what you need and go get it.
Roadblock #6: I feel like the largest obstacle that holds me and others I speak to back is job board job postings. Companies receive hundreds to thousands of resumes in response to one job posting on a job board.
Solution: You’ll have to accept this. Too many people don’t have a job. Don’t focus on responding to job postings. Contact people in companies and ask for their assistance in finding work.
Roadblock #7: I am in a different place in my life and don’t spend too much time focusing on my career.
Solution: Another easy one. If your career isn’t important now, don’t expect it to go anywhere.
Roadblock #8: Risk.
Solution: Really? A job anywhere today has inherent risk. My brother once worked for an EOD group (i.e. bomb squad). Talk about risk! If your risks are bothering you, do an assessment on them. Study the impact each one would have on your career. Then create a mitigation plan to deal with them. Write it all down so you force yourself to think about them. Once you analyze them, you’ll find that you’re worry about things that aren’t important or completely out of your control.
Roadblock #9: It’s more and more difficult to ‘shine’
Solution: Of course it is. You have to develop a desirable brand for yourself. There are a lot of articles on this site to address that. Read them.
Roadblock #10: I make “too much money” [to change jobs]
Solution: Doesn’t sound like a bad problem but maybe it’s painful to earn this money (such as a bad boss, too many work hours, too much travel, etc). You have to answer the question, “What’s more important?” I know people who taken a step back in pay and are a lot happier for doing it.
Roadblock #11: Current position has not provided any real hard skills that translate to the corporate world
Solution: Go find some. Go back to school, take on projects that develop some, tackle the big issues your company has and so on. If you need to get into the corporate world and the skills required to function there, you’re job obviously isn’t providing them. Go get them from somewhere else.
Roadblock #12: Competing with recent grads in a tight market.
Solution: Many graduates can’t find work either so this isn’t going to change anytime soon.. It’s all about selling yourself. Learn to do it.
Roadblock #13: Can’t market my soft skills well enough.
Solution: This almost sounds contradictory. If you’re good with people, you must be a good communicator. The best way to market your soft skills is to constantly put them on demonstration. Don’t tell me how good you are, show me.
Roadblock #14: Effective networking with the key decision makers
Solution: Networking is easy. Just do it. Contact these people and let them know what you need. If they don’t respond, wait and try again. I contacted a guy for an interview for over 18 months. Don’t give up. I didn’t and I got my interview.
Roadblocks do exist but many appear to be signs of procrastination. We don’t do something because we don’t know how. This is an easy dilemma to overcome. Do something and see what happens. The result will point you in one direction or another. Every attempt will bring you closer to your goal. Doing nothing (or the same thing) gets you the same results every time. How do you get around the roadblocks? Keep your foot on the gas pedal.
Todd Rhoad, MSEE, MBA is Director at BT Consulting, a career consulting firm in Altanta, and author of Blitz The Ladder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.