The 3 Scary Career Moves You’re Making (And What to Do Instead)

What's your scary thought at work?

Are you thinking scary thoughts about your work?

No, I don’t mean scary like “how will my organization handle Brexit?”

I mean scary like, “this thought is so normal and comfortable so of course it continues to be true.”

Believe me—that’s scary. I held these kinds of thoughts for many years, and they served me for a while. Until they failed miserably, painfully.

What I’ve learned is that for each scary thought, there’s a smarty thought you can choose instead. And so here’s my list of scary, and smarty, thoughts for you to try on at work.

Scary Thought: My good work will be rewarded.

Smarty Thought: My good work will be rewarded as long as I help others in my company understand how it brings value to the company.

Don’t cop to the outdated belief that your work will speak for itself. Most of your colleagues and leaders are just too busy and focused on their own challenges to really pay close attention to everything you’re bringing. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s just that it takes time and focus.

So you have to create the time and focus. You have to learn how to speak for the work, connecting the dots for others about why what you do makes a difference.

Scary Thought: If I’m not getting what I want, then I need to work harder.

Smarty Thought: I need to get really, really clear on what I want. Then I can create a plan to get there.

I used to think that what I wanted was to continually move up in my organization. After all, that’s what successful people do, right?

But when I realized what “up” looked like in my company, I surprised myself by recognizing that “up” didn’t really deliver what I wanted. Getting clear on what was  important to me, in my life, with my talents, dreams and hopes–that was the first step toward creating actions to get there. I didn’t have to work harder. I had to do different work.

Scary Thought: Because my company makes something that everyone needs, it’s pretty secure.

Smarty Thought: Everything changes. My security starts with me.

Raise your hand if you know a friend or a colleague who worked for a big-name, successful company—and was laid off. If we haven’t learned the lesson by now, let’s reinforce it: even successful, money-making companies are constantly changing their talent mix.

Even if you’re working for an amazing, great place to work company, remember that:

  • technology keeps changing (and can outdate your money-making product) . . .
  • the world keeps connecting (letting a Chinese company you never heard of buy your organization) . . .
  • people keep being people (and one person’s ethical slipup can bring down your stock value or entire leadership team).

Don’t cede control of your career. If what you have is great, love it and appreciate it, but don’t count on it forever.

Scary Thought: I’m not looking for a job, so my LinkedIn profile doesn’t matter.

Smarty Thought: My LinkedIn profile is likely the first place people (or Google) will look to find out more about me, so I keep it updated.

Here’s a gentle push to those of you whose LinkedIn profile doesn’t have a photo, includes skimpy info or doesn’t have many connections. You’re sending the message that you’re outdated, and out-of-the-loop. You may as well be wearing plaid bell bottoms.

Even if you’re comfortable in your current career, anyone new you meet professionally is looking you up and shaping an opinion about you based on what’s online about you. (And aren’t you doing the same?)

Since you never know when you’ll need your network to help you find a new resource, data point, or job, spend 15-20 minutes now getting your profile in better shape. At least add a photo, please. You’re cuter than you think.

Scary Thought: It’d be too hard to make a job change right now. I need to wait.

Smarty Thought: My life’s clock is ticking. Why wait?

Looking back, the biggest regret I have about making a change in my life at work is that I wasn’t brave enough to do it sooner.

If I’m honest with myself, I knew I needed to take fresh steps, but held on to too many of these scary thoughts and avoided making a decision about whether I should stay or go.

(If that sounds like you, check out our online course, Should I Stay or Go? Make Your Best Career Decision. It’s confidential, unbiased, and proven to help accomplished professionals like you get unstuck and make a decision about what’s next.)