Overcoming Barriers to Your Success

by Julie Norwell

Most people focus on their career in a reactionary instead of a strategic way. That means that if things go south, it is hard to understand what went wrong.

If you’ve adapted to the status quo, switching gears is hard. You may face barriers to change that sometimes feel insurmountable. Some of these barriers are very real, while others might be self-imposed.

Either way, overcoming barriers often involves a level of self-reflection during which you analyze your career and, more broadly, your life in order to assess your innermost goals and your value proposition – that is, everything that you can offer an employer. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.

Common Barriers

What is standing in your way? If you feel stymied in your efforts to advance your career, answering that question is the first step towards overcoming whatever barriers you face.

Maybe you’re worried about money. Maybe you don’t relish the idea of starting a new career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Maybe you struggle to find time in your day to job hunt.

Many people are paralyzed by fear – fear of losing their job; fear of speaking up at work; fear of getting passed over for a job because of age, gender or race. Or perhaps you have “impostor syndrome,” the fear that you aren’t qualified to do the job your hired to do.

Perhaps your problem is simply that you know that you are unhappy in your current job, but you just aren’t sure what else to do. Or maybe you know what you want to do, but you have no idea how to pursue it.

Some people worry about lacking experience. By the way, if this is you, you’re not alone. In today’s economy this should actually be everybody’s concern because the rapid change of digital technology is disrupting business processes in so many industries.

A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed.

Only after you identify what is standing in your way to a more fulfilling career can you focus on overcoming it. But be sure to give the question serious reflection. Arriving at an honest answer here is crucial, and it isn’t always easy.

Get Clarity

You may need to dig deep to assess the real barriers between you and your goals. It may even be worth engaging the professional services of a career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group. Career coaches are a great resource for someone in a rut because they intentionally push clients out of their comfort zone and encourage them to consider perspectives and options they may not have thought of.

The methodology starts by investigating all aspects of what’s right and wrong in your life, including financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness. Ask yourself challenging questions such as:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What does success look like? or
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t achieve your goal?

Such questions help differentiate between societal ideals of success (e.g. money or status) and personal successes (e.g. work-life balance and a happy family).

Use the “Five Whys” technique to drill down to the root cause of a problem. In this approach, you identify your problem (e.g. I’m unhappy at work) and ask yourself “why.” Repeat the question five times in response to each answer.

Typically, you will uncover alterable behavior on your part that could resolve the problem. When you ferret out self-imposed barriers in the path of your career advancement, you can think through how to dismantle them.

The process can be emotionally arduous, but, ultimately, it brings you clarity about priorities and personal values in your life, and it sets the foundation on which you can rebuild career aspirations.

Commit to the Process

The clarity process is the hard part. Once that is done, you just need to come up with a game plan for advancing your goals and commit to it. First, consider how you can lessen the barriers that you identified.

Lack of experience? Up your game through online courses, reading books, or volunteering to work alongside someone who can coach you. Of course, if you’re an older worker, don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills.

Lack of time? Completely understandable! Prioritizing a career change is very hard, especially given that it doesn’t provide immediate gratification. Still, the benefits of scheduling even a few hours per week into your calendar to promote your career will build up over time.

Unsure how to pursue your goal? Start by building and nurturing your network of contacts. Reach out to them and have a conversation or solicit advice. You’ll be amazed how informative and helpful people can be.

How to Stay Motivated

Change is stressful and the frustrations of a job search can wear down the best of us. Getting organized and structuring a routine in your job search will help. Set S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

For example, schedule 10 hours per week towards enhancing your career opportunities, target three resumes per week to send out, or plan to meet 10 people for coffee per month. Revise the numbers as necessary, but stick to it!

There are several other steps you can also take to stay motivated:

  • Focus on what you can control and not on the things you can’t control.
  • Celebrate small victories whenever you can.
  • Make a list of all your accomplishments, which has the dual benefit of making you feel good about yourself and providing you with a handy reference of your career highlights to use for quick reference. It may also spark ideas about how to link different career goals!
  • Take mental breaks – looking for a new job is hard!

Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. If you ask people how they came to be doing what they are doing, they often answer that they fell into it due to chance circumstances. That may be frustrating to hear, but it should actually encourage you.

“Chance circumstances” is a testimony to networking. If you cultivate and grow your network, you will be surprised how opportunities will crop up.

Changing careers isn’t easy, but it’s easier than staying in a job you don’t want. It’s also easier when you have a strategy to overcoming the barriers to your success.

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