6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as an up-and-coming leader inside a large corporation. In fact, some days you can feel like the best kept secret in the organization.

For over fifteen years I’ve been going into large companies—like Microsoft, Bank of America, eBay and BP, just to name a few— to train emerging women leaders on how to break into positions of management and leadership. As a result, I have helped a lot of women avoid the most common “missteps” that could be putting a lid on their career advancement.

If you are wondering how to become a leader or how to get promoted, be sure to avoid the following 6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement:

Misstep #1: Waiting to be promoted

Your management might have said that if you “work hard” and “do a good job,” you’ll be recognized but if you’ve already tried that route, you’ll know that it can bring mixed results at best.

You can’t afford to delegate responsibility for your career advancement to your boss. Instead of waiting for a promotion, take charge of your career trajectory by identifying the role you want next, and giving voice to your ambition. Let it be known that you are throwing your hat in the ring for that role.

Misstep #2: Allowing others to define your reputation

Inevitably, the people you work with perceive you a certain way. They have formed opinions— judgments, even— about what you are good at and not good at. You already have a “brand” or reputation, but it has taken place by default, not by design. Don’t wait for others to discover who you really are.

Instead, build your brand as an emerging leader. Identify what you want your name to be synonymous with, and create a short, succinct “brand statement” such as “the go-to person for strategy” or “the bridge between engineering and finance”. Make sure it describes something you are passionate about, skilled at, that your employer needs and values.

To build your own leadership brand before others build it for you, create awareness of your brand by adding it to your LinkedIn profile, your email signature, and your elevator pitch.

Misstep #3: Building a dead-end brand

It’s always important to do the job you’ve been hired for, but don’t let others assume you’ll be in the position forever. If people keep coming to you with requests and assignments that you’d have been excited to work on a few years ago (but now are bored by or, frankly, overqualified for) it’s a clear sign that your personal brand is holding you back.

Instead, make your brand scalable. Periodically review your “brand statement,” making sure that it describes to your current – and future – potential and not just your (past) experience. It should encompass your higher-level skills, not the ones you’d rather leave behind. For example, a financial analyst recently re-branded herself, scaling up her brand from “team player” to “change agent” and, in doing so, began attracting less “busy work” and more projects that required her to lead change.

Misstep #4: Working too hard

Believe it or not, working too hard can be a career misstep, especially if it’s work that’s neither valued – nor visible. If you are a hard worker and develop a reputation for hard work, guess what you’ll attract more of? More hard work! And not necessarily the visibility and recognition that is due to you for the work you do.

So don’t be the best kept secret in your organization. In other words, don’t spend 100% of your time at your desk, head down, doing your job. Make a point of stepping away from your work on a weekly or even daily basis, to do activities that make your value visible, and promote your accomplishments as you achieve them, not necessarily after the fact.

Misstep #5: Accepting low-visibility assignments

Leaders never operate below the radar because they know that the more visible the assignment, the stronger their brand – and potential of being recognized. There is a time and place for low visibility assignments, and they are typically at the entry level.

Seek out career-defining projects that place you at the epicenter of your company’s strategy and most important goals, while showcasing your personal brand and leadership skills. To devote to high-impact, high priority assignments that showcase your leadership skills, delegate or even say “no” to busy work to free up time. Say “yes” to high profile projects that define your career, not limit it.

Misstep #6: Downplaying your accomplishments

Humility has its place – in church! If you want to be rewarded and recognized, you must find ways promote your achievements. If this sounds too much like bragging, observe who gets rewarded in your team culture, and watch what they are doing to gain recognition. When self-promotion backfires, it’s often because it is done in a way that is inconsistent with a team’s culture.

Find a few methods that are consistent with your personal brand. For example, get on the agenda to present in a meeting and invite your leaders to attend. Or when a customer sends an email thank you for your great work, add “FYI” and forward it to your manager. Toot your own horn before somebody gets the wrong message – that you have nothing worth promoting.

The Takeaway

Could you identify with any of these career missteps? If so, please post a note in the comments section!  Let me know what you’ve discovered, and what action you’d like to take to move beyond these roadblocks and move ahead in your career.

 And watch my free four-part video series on how to build your brand as an emerging leader. I cover the six critical career missteps and the actions to take to move beyond these roadblocks. You don’t have to be the best kept secret in your organization!

Get started here.

Jo Miller

Jo Miller is a globally renowned authority on women’s leadership. She’s dedicated two decades to helping women advance into positions of influence by leveraging their leadership strengths. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, she developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap that guides women to become the leaders they aspire to be. Jo shares this proven process in her book Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw Hill, 2019.)

Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.com and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020
20 Leadership Quotes by Women to Inspire You in 2020

20 of our favorite leadership quotes by women At Be Leaderly, we’re on a mission

Happy Holidays 2019
Happy Holidays 2019

May your Holidays sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year

5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading
5 Ways to Shift From Doing to Leading

To become a leader, there is a series of key shifts in mindset and behavior

You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths
You Do You: Claim Your Leadership Strengths

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…
Leaderly Quote: We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses…

We are often so focused on trying to fix our weaknesses that we neglect to

Book Review of Woman of Influence: A Handbook for Building a Professional Brand
Book Review of Woman of Influence: A Handbook for Building a Professional Brand

The first book review of Woman of Influence is in! Here’s what Jo Miller’s hometown

Leaderly Quote: Don’t become indispensable for doing work that hides your potential
Leaderly Quote: Don’t become indispensable for doing work that hides your potential

Don’t become indispensable for doing work that… • hides your potential • sells short your

Unhappy at Work? Persuade Your Boss to Redefine Your Job.
Unhappy at Work? Persuade Your Boss to Redefine Your Job.

Every morning, Jonas backs into a parking spot at work so he can leave faster

If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.
If You’re Not Seizing Stretch Assignments at Work, You’re Doing It Wrong.

These bonus opportunities have the power to boost your leadership cred and wholly transform your

The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop
The Case for Why Millennial Women Should Job-Hop

There are strong arguments for and against the debated practice, but for millennial women, job-hopping

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2020, Be Leaderly