7 Strategies for Women Who Want to be the Boss at Work

Even today, there are some unspoken double standards for women and men in the workplace. Sure, we’ve (hopefully) moved on from the worst of the Mad Men style of blatant sexism in the office, and these days you can find women working alongside men at all levels of an industry. Still, stereotypes and differences linger in every field, every industry, every job. So what can you do, as a professional woman, to help get through this minefield of professional issues and excel at work?

1. Dress the part.

This is definitely one of those double standard gray areas. Do you let yourself dress casually (or even on the slouchy side) like some of your male colleagues might do, to show that you’re their equal? Or do you lean into the idea that women should be dressing more nicely at work? It’s a valid debate, but whenever a work dress code is up for discussion, always err on the side of dressing up a notch or two. But unfairly or not, women are often held to a higher standard—and the more professionally you dress, the more professional you seem.

If you work in an office where jeans and sneakers are the unofficial uniform, you don’t need to bust out your fanciest pantsuit. A jacket or blazer over your jeans can bump up the professional factor in a super-cazh office, or that same blazer over crisp, tailored pants in a business-casual environment works as well. Always on the “don’t even think about it” list: low-cut anything, tops that show more skin than they cover, short skirts, and flamboyant jewelry or accessories. Wearing these things can distract attention from how well you’re doing your job, and give people a reason to take you less-than-seriously.

2. Don’t let others undercut your authority.

If you have direct reports or are in a position of authority, make sure people treat you accordingly. I’ve been in situations where clients would automatically start talking past me to my boss or to male colleagues in the room, when I was actually the one responsible for making day-to-day decisions and getting things done on the client’s behalf. If you can feel someone eroding your authority (and they may not even realize they’re doing it), firmly remind them of your role. Make sure that people understand what you’re bringing to the table: “As Chip’s supervisor, I’ll be the one making sure our team reports the sales.” “In my experience as a ________, I can see what the challenges will be here.”

You’ve worked hard to get to your role, and you deserve to be acknowledged for it.

3. Be assertive (but not overly aggressive).

In a perfect world, my advice would be “go for it, lady! Show them what’s what, in no uncertain terms!” In this imperfect world, however, women perceived as aggressive bosses or colleagues can quickly find themselves tagged as “witches” (or the similar word we all know), “ballbusters,” and the like. This can be just as damaging to workplace respect and progress than being a pushover. It’s totally unfair, because everyone has their own personal style, and some people are just aggressive—but these perceptions are a fact of professional life, at least for now. So how does one find that place where one is upfront about what one wants but isn’t perceived as some kind of monster? Where is that sweet spot of straightforward respect and authority?

Essentially, the best way to get there is saying what you want, but being careful about how it’s phrased. Making blunt demands, or giving feedback like “that’s wrong” is likely to turn off your audience, male or female. This is where stellar communication skills come in handy. Use a tone that’s non-confrontational, so that the other person isn’t automatically feeling defensive and ready to mutiny. And even when you disagree, try to find some common element that you can use as an olive branch before explaining what you want to do differently: “I see what you’re saying, and although I do agree that we need to raise revenue, I see it a little differently.”

One strategy is to ask questions instead of diving in with statements. That way, you can be part of starting a dialogue instead of something that can be perceived as an “attack.” Asking clarification questions like “where do you see this going?” or “how does this impact our goals?” opens up a communication line with the other speaker, and will give you an opportunity to say what you want to express as part of the back-and-forth.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

When I was younger, I was told things like “never disagree with your boss in public.” And now that I’ve been around longer, I think that’s true—to an extent. I’d modify it to, “if you disagree, do it respectfully—and pick your moments.” One of the biggest challenges facing many professional women (especially younger ones) is the idea that they should hang back and let more senior people hash things out. And while I don’t recommend inserting yourself into every single debate in every single meeting just for the sake of being heard, remember that you’re in the room for a reason. If you disagree with something being discussed, don’t be afraid to say so—but again, always phrase it as respectfully and diplomatically as possible.

And again, pick your moment. If your boss is giving a presentation in front of bigwigs, and you see that she’s wrong about something, don’t throw her under the bus in front of everyone, or give a loud and long dissent in the meeting. If you’re directly asked about your opinion, give it carefully. Or talk about it offline with your boss later. Your opinion is valuable, and your insights can earn you respect and acknowledgment if they’re expressed well.

5. Don’t let people talk over you.

We’ve all been there: you’re talking about something work-related, and a colleague (often older and male) breaks in and, in a dismissive tone, gives an opinion about why you’re wrong, without letting you finish the thought. Unless you’ve been filibustering the floor with a long monologue, this is poor form on the interruptor’s part. And no one likes this kind of bullying tactic. So how do you handle in the moment? Politely interrupt them back, and ask to finish your point, or try to turn it into a dialogue instead of a lecture.

6. Advocate for yourself.

This is, hands-down, one of the best things you can do to get respect at work. Knowing what you want, and how to ask for it, is a skill that will serve every professional (male or female) well throughout a career. Being able to negotiate is a key leadership skill, and one every woman should have at the ready as a professional. Asking for what you want is a great first step, but you also need to know how to navigate what comes next: an offer, a counteroffer, and when to agree or walk away.

7. Know when to fold ‘em.

If you’re in a work situation where you try all these strategies and you’re still not getting the level of professional respect you deserve, then it could very well be time to walk away. You’re not obligated to stay in a role where you are defined and treated according to stale old perceptions about what women are and should be, so if you find that you’re spending more time counteracting stereotypes than actually doing your job, it could be time to get out. There’s no shame in wanting to find a better environment for your skills and personality. And with your brushed-up negotiation skills, your next opportunity could be right around the corner.

Every professional deserves respect: male, female, young, old, green, experienced. Stepping up to request and take that respect, however, can be a big challenge. We still have a long way to go before everyone in the workplace is completely equal (even in the most gender-balanced fields and the most supportive companies, decades-old perceptions tend to die hard), but in the meantime, we hope you never stop striving to get everything you can out of your career.

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7 Warning Signs Your Talent Is Being Wasted at Work

So you sought out a job, went through the interview process, and got hired. Whoo hoo, so exciting! What’s more, you even feel confident that you were the best out of the bunch of candidates. But all the same, maybe since you started you haven’t been quite sure that your talents and particular skills are being used to their full effect.

Take a look at the following warning signs that you are not reaching your full potential. If a few of these signs apply to you, you might want to consider seeking out a bigger pond, one where you can stretch your wings, challenge yourself, and reach the career goals you know you’re capable of reaching.

1. Your boss is threatened by your best ideas.

If all your ideas end up in the “Maybe Someday” file, and your manager seems to prefer bumping along with the status quo rather than pushing the envelope, you’re not going to get much traction. Maybe you’re hearing a lot of “but this is how it’s always been done” and not enough “that’s a great idea; we should try it,” or getting shut down (or outright ignored) by your boss for ideas you know to be good. If any of this is the case, then maybe it’s time to start to worry.

2. You work with automatons.

Instead of everyone pitching in to realize some long-term goal or vision, you find that all of your coworkers are merely on autopilot, doing task after task that doesn’t seem to generate any new sparks or momentum.

3. You never receive any sort of appreciation.

If you’re working hard and no one at work sees you for the superstar you are, then you A) haven’t shown them, or B) they’ve seen your talents and are choosing to ignore them. Your once bright future starts to grey.

4. You’re trapped.

Are you confined by your title? This could be your own fault or the fault of your workplace: you’re so hemmed in by your specific role and tasks that you don’t feel the freedom to be able to fluidly reach out to your team members and help with other projects and initiatives when necessary. Even if this kind of effort might require you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, it can be good for your growth.

5. Your boss is putting your light under a bushel.

Whether your boss is afraid of change or threatened by your rising star, perhaps he or she isn’t being the kind of mentor that lets you shine. Maybe they even call you in and tell you to hold back a little, or pipe down in meetings, instead of batting around your best ideas.

6. Your company values policy over passion.

You’re a rule-follower, and you’re feeling stifled. It’s possible that you’re very comfortable where you are, but still—biding your time and knowing real change and real challenge are too far around the corner to be feasible it a recipe for nothingness. Meanwhile, you keep on toeing the company line and following policies you don’t think are best practice. You’re going nowhere, and slowly.

7. You’re burnt out and bored.

After your first entry-level gigs, you should probably never be bored at work. If your job is boring you, it’s time to move on for sure. Watch for burn-out also; it’s not just for people in high powered careers that work too fast and too hard. It can strike anyone who’s been grappling with long-term demoralization and lack of inspiration. Remember, you’re a person, not a robot just completing tasks.

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How to Decline a Job Offer With Class

You’re job searching and you got an offer. Congratulations, that’s great—no matter how you slice it. Downside? You don’t really want that job. Either you’ve been offered something better, or you’re holding out for a more appropriate opportunity to your skill level and experience.

Whatever the reason, if you need to decline a job offer with politeness and class—and without burning any bridges—here are five steps to follow for a graceful exit:

1. Acknowledge.

Don’t just let the offer letter sit in your inbox—or the offer message in your voicemail. Promptly acknowledge your receipt of the offer, making sure to reiterate your gratitude and sincere appreciation for both the offer and their time and consideration, and confirming timetables. When do they need your decision? Or if they haven’t imposed a deadline, suggest that you’ll get back to them with your answer by a certain (in the very near future) date.

2. Stay in touch.

Keep a line of communication open with you and the recruiter or hiring manager during your deliberation. You never know when a company might be open to negotiate to sweeten the deal for you. Not to mention, ignoring a company that’s just made you a job offer is a great way to look seriously unprofessional and childish. Put on your big girl panties and let them know where you are at.

3. Dot your ‘i’s.

Before you decline offer A (if you’re doing so because you also got offer B), make sure that you’re all finished with the preliminary on-boarding obstacles at job B before declining offer A. And please don’t post on any social media (especially LinkedIn) that you are accepting any offers until you’ve notified all companies you mean to decline and you’re well on your way to bringing in your plants and pictures to the job you are taking.

4. Rip the Band-aid.

The best approach, once you’ve decided, is to get your decline over with as quickly and succinctly as possible. With an email or phone call, give a good brief reason, whatever that reason is. Either you’ve decided it’s not the best time to move/leave your current position/transition to a different role, etc. Or you’ve opted to pursue a position that allows you to be better challenged in one particular area of expertise. Or you’ve simply decided to accept an offer from another company—no further explanation needed unless asked. Elaborate only to the extent that it makes sense in the context of your prior conversations with this company. Remember that any intel you provide will help them in their hiring process and give them greater insight into their own process.

5. Don’t ghost.

Reiterate at this final stage how much you enjoyed meeting the team. You really enjoyed your conversations, yada yada. But why not stay in touch? Just because you declined an offer, provided you did so reasonably and with a certain degree of professionalism and class, there’s no reason at all to go burning any bridges. Connect on LinkedIn to stay abreast of future employment opportunities. Reference a conference you might be attending together as a point of future contact. If none of this makes sense, simply state that the process was a pleasure and you wish them all the best.

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Why You’re Not Getting Paid More Money

Employers love to be vague about the salary they’re prepared to offer for any given position. You’ll often see “Commensurate with Experience” or “Dependent on Experience,” or other similar wordings. Basically, what you’re offered will depend on where you came from and what you’ve worked on.

You may look at such a job posting and count up all your innumerable years of experience and think: gee, I have a ton of experience. I’m going to make bank. But the calculations can be on the fickle side.

Experience ≠ Years Worked

The major takeaway is this: the salary such an employer is prepared to offer you will depend upon a range of factors—including but not limited to your experience. Even if the job description asks for a specific number of years experience in a specific role, if you have more—or more targeted—experience, you might be eligible to make slightly more than an incoming hire or candidate with just the minimum.

Be careful to make sure what you’re calling “experience” is the kind of experience the employer has in mind. You might have five years experience managing a team of employees at a boutique company, but they might be looking for someone who oversaw multiple teams at multiple locations across a much larger company. In that case, your “experience” wouldn’t make for a massive salary bump. Before you go into an interview boasting what you think is an impressive history (and it very well might be!), make sure it will be impressive to your interviewer. In this specific case, he or she has the only opinion that matters.

Your Former Stats Matter

An employer will also take into account your previous salary history, your level of education (and sometimes even the “level” of your institution). They’ll also measure your geographical location and the cost of living there, so two positions in suburban Ohio and New York City, respectively, would be compensated differently.

You’re Working Within a Window

Usually, most employers have a salary range in mind. Where you fall on that predetermined range will be decided based on all these factors we just mentioned. So “commensurate with experience” in this case doesn’t mean “sky’s the limit” if you happen to be super experienced. It might, however, mean you’ll make more than the slightly less experienced new hire with your same job description. Or less than the slightly more experienced one.

That said, whenever you see the phrase “commensurate with experience,” or something like it, be prepared to negotiate, at least a little. That salary is not set in stone. You might not have much leverage, but it’s at least a crack in the window for you to give it a try. Make sure to do your homework about the cost of living in your area, what other people at your level seem to be making, what the range of salaries at that company appears to be, etc. And remember to take extra care when detailing your work history in your application—both on your resume and in your cover letter. Figure out your strengths as precisely and as powerfully as you can, knowing they’ll be scrutinized when deciding where you’ll fall on the salary spectrum once you’re hired.

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8 Signs You Need To Get Out of Corporate America

There are a lot of perks that come with working in corporate America: the pay is usually good, there are usually decent benefits, and sometimes you get to sit in beanbag chairs and get your work-out in during your lunch break.

But there are also a ton of drawbacks. Here are 7 reasons you’re probably not well suited to the corporate climate and might consider getting out. You shouldn’t necessarily quit and run off to join the circus, but, you know, start looking around for other opportunities.

1. You’re not a natural brown noser.

Schmoozing is a requisite for the corporate world. Your talent and skills and the work you deliver—no matter how top notch—is not enough to get ahead. You could be by far the strongest link on the team and still get passed up for promotion in favor of some guy who just knows how to kiss butt. If you’re not the type to cultivate this skill, or you find the whole process abhorrent, maybe corporate is not for you.

2. Phonies make you sick.

Ever had a conversation with someone in the business world where you can tell they’re not really listening, not really there? Laughing at jokes like a zombie chorus when the jokes aren’t even funny? Coming out with lines that sound right out of an HR ad? Spewing corporatese left and right with no idea what they’re really trying to communicate? If you can’t handle a world of fake smiles and meaningless buzzwords anymore, just remember: it’s not you, it’s them.

3. You yearn to be in charge.

You’re not in the driver’s seat for your career—the corporation is. It will look after itself first and foremost: its own health, goals, longevity, and profit margin. If you want more control or agency in the way your career moves forward, try smaller businesses or other career avenues.

4. Benefits go bye-bye.

You used to get great perks and full benefits packages in corporate gigs. But nowadays, more companies are cutting costs by passing those costs on to their employees. Keeping their workers loyal, healthy, and happy is not as much of a priority anymore compared with profit margins and appeasing shareholders. You’re just a cog after all—and totally replaceable. If you want to be valued for your loyalty, maybe start looking elsewhere.

5. You’re not into being cutthroat.

People are leaping over the backstabbed dead bodies of their colleagues to get ahead. And this type of behavior will always be rewarded. If you’re a bit too tenderhearted for this, then you should rethink where you’re working. Especially considering you’re not necessarily being rewarded for your talents.

6. It’s all about the money.

No one cares about you personally in a corporate job—and certainly not your partner, your aging parents, or your kids. No one really cares about making a difference or saving the world—despite what their commercials lead you to believe. What they care about is profit. That’s the bottom line. If you’re more altruistic, or just a little bit less profit-obsessed, maybe move along.

7. The hours are too much to handle.

It’s one thing putting in ridiculous hours for a job you really love, one that’s really doing something for your life and career goals, i.e. doing what you love. It’s another thing entirely to be slaving away nights, weekends, after hours, when you know you’re not personally valued and the work you’re doing isn’t making much of a difference in the world.

8. You’re too creative.

Never mind being too tenderhearted for the vicious Game-of-Thronesy work climates, you’re just too darned creative for the structure and the monotony of meetings and memos that comprise the corporate 9-to-5. Maybe you find yourself unable to focus with all the meaningless noise. Maybe you’re not productive on the normal daily schedule, and work best from, say, noon to six. Maybe your brain works best in fits of productivity, with plenty of time to roam around and do other tasks in between, to rest your juices. Maybe you’d be much better off getting paid a higher amount per hour, and working fewer hours. Maybe you just feel a cubicle is a cage for your brain. Maybe numbers aren’t your jam. And maybe, just maybe, you’re incredibly talented and need a bit of an unorthodox structure in a place that values your particular set of skills. Either way, you’re very likely to be stifled in the corporate world.

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6 Reasons Why Your Company Is Not Your Friend

We all want to believe that the company we work for has our best interests in career development at heart. We want the company to be our friend, our rock, our resource. We want trust. But the truth is, when it comes to your company, you are the resource. And the only thing you can really trust is yourself.

There are some rare companies out there that truly care about their employees. Yours might be one of them. That doesn’t mean you can let your guard down for any length of time. Loyalty used to be an important thing, but as employee tenure at different jobs has shrunk from long-term to medium-term and even shorter, and as layoffs and cutbacks become more common, you’ll have to look out for yourself.

Here are a few reasons to help convince you to remember you are number one.

1. Loyalty is a joke.

Imagine this scenario: you work late, come early, put in all the extra time and effort—thinking that will be rewarded. Then the wind changes and you’re tossed out on your very loyal rear end. Your employer gets to walk away thinking itself a shrewd and prudent business, and you’re left devastated. You should have kept your eye on the ball.

2. HR is likely not there for you.

You may think Human Resources are there for you—to help you, protect you. Think again. HR is really a mechanism to handle paperwork and payroll—and sometimes training or morale-building—so managers can concentrate on their own work. And though they are there to try and settle disputes, they will side with the company every time. They’re paid by the higher-ups, remember. Not by you.

3. You never know when…

A layoff or a merger or even just a wholesale staff-culling might be just around the corner. Don’t stop looking for a job just because you found one. Keep your feelers out there. Keep a few opportunities on your back burners at all times. You’ll never know when you might need one.

4. They need you more than you need them.

This may seem contradictory, but if you keep this mindset, you’ll be able to adapt better when things go awry. If you get stuck in a position and you start feeling desperate—and scared you might not be able to find another job quickly—then start looking to build your confidence and flexibility back up.

5. You’re never valued enough.

Again, there are outliers here. You might be valued every bit as much as you should be at your current job. But if you aren’t—and you start to feel as though you’ve faded into the wallpaper, or worse, you’ve become a doormat, remember that you should be looking out for you. Find yourself a better opportunity and make a change.

6. Opportunity doesn’t knock often.

If you’re so loyal that you find yourself passing up opportunities because your boss “needs” you or your company can’t do without you? Danger sign! Of course they need you. But you are almost always replaceable. And they will remember that when convenient for them—and most likely inconvenient for you. Make your path your priority instead.

Loyalty can cloud your perception of how things are going in your department. Don’t let it. Keep your eyes open for signs that your company is imploding. Get out with the first rats, rather than the ones that go down with the sinking ship.

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How to Overcome Insecurity in the Workplace

Workplace insecurity is a thing—even for people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves “insecure.” Particularly for women, feeling less than on the job is a constant struggle—and usually, the feelings aren’t even warranted.

Help yourself diagnose the most common workplace insecurities and figure out how you can overcome them. You’ll be much more productive and fulfilled if you do.

1. Lack of Talent

Okay, so right away you can probably write this off. You got hired for this job, didn’t you? So you can’t possibly be as underqualified or untalented as you think. Take a step back and stop comparing yourself and your work to that of your peers. Remember that your skill set and experience is unique and might bring something slightly different to the table than those of your coworkers—even if those might seem more impressive from where you’re sitting. And if you’re still feeling like you could know and do more… learn a new skill or get a new qualification in an online course.

2. Lack of Advancement

You’re watching people get promoted all around you and you’re worried that you’re not advancing as fast as others. Don’t let the envy or resentment pull you down. Focus on your work. Sit down with your boss and have a chat about what you need to do to grow and start moving forward. Get clear on your expectations and then figure out how to exceed them!

3. Lack of Money

You’re not supposed to talk about money in the office environment, but chances are you’ve been observant enough to know (ballpark) what the people around you are making. If this makes you feel inadequate, remember to make the focus on you: what could you be doing to qualify for a raise? Talk to your boss. Look around for other jobs, especially if you feel you’re not being rewarded for your skillset and work level.

4. Lack of Popularity

If you feel your social skills aren’t quite up to par, start stepping up. Ask how you can be of help to coworkers. Go the extra mile. They will remember when the tables are turned and you need help. Plus, you can use their gratitude to build rapport and a better, warmer relationship.

If you’re really stuck, there are lots of resources out there for improving your public speaking and social skills. Make use of them! And if you feel invisible on the job, start looking for ways to make yourself stand out a bit more. Take on high profile projects, come early, stay late, etc. A few calculated risks can put you in a much better position to be noticed and then valued.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes and everyone is afraid of getting fired—at least at some point. Show up on time, do your job well, present yourself personably and professionally, and you should be in good stead. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to solicit constructive feedback. Ask questions. Find allies. Trust your gut instincts.

But more than anything: do your job and do it well. Go above and beyond. Rise above. There’s no better way to combat your insecurity than to achieve beyond even your own expectations. Just remember to take a proper moment to celebrate those achievements every time they occur.

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8 Ways to Make a Terrible First Impression

You know how important the first impression is. That’s why it can be really easy to screw it up—even if you only screw it up by trying too hard. Here are a few ways to really make a belly flop of your first impression. Study them and make sure to pivot in another direction!

1. Try Too Hard

We know you want to be memorable. So do they. If you’re too witty, too eager, too high energy; if you finish your interviewer’s sentences or jump in too quickly with a personal anecdote or some sidebar to explain some aspect of your resume; if you’re generally just too RIGHT THERE rather than making an effort to listen to your conversation partner rather than perform… then you’re trying too hard. And whomever you’re talking too is probably more tired than intrigued.

2. Being Too “Different”

If you’re laboring to point out your personal quirks in a transparent effort to set yourself apart from the crowd, you might actually be doing yourself a disservice. There’s nothing wrong with being average or above average. You don’t have to shout how unique you are at every conversational turn.

3. Bad Body Language

How you carry yourself matters, too. Try not to cross your arms across your chest. Make sure to smile and make eye contact—as failure to do both can make you seem hostile and untrustworthy. And whatever you do, be respectful of others’ personal space. Don’t be the space invader.

4. Inappropriateness

Don’t gossip. You’ll come off looking terrible. And don’t make rude or inappropriate jokes—particularly off-color ones or potentially political or bigoted ones either. No one will want to get to know you better if you’re rude or racist.

5. Rudeness

If you keep checking your watch—or worse, staring at your phone the entire time, then you deserve to make a bad impression. Grow up. Put your devices down and be present for the five minutes it takes to make a good impression.

6. Oversharing

Don’t try to forge instant intimacy by sharing all the intimate details of your life. Your personal history should stay at least a little personal for the first 10 minutes of a new connection. And you never know when you might put your foot in your mouth because of not knowing anything about the other person’s personal history. Also, you and this person have literally just met. How can you be sure they’re trustworthy?

7. Nosiness

On the other hand, don’t ask a bunch of nosy personal questions to try and find out that other person’s intimate personal history. Let that stuff happen naturally over time as the relationship builds. If you even make it out of the conversation with a relationship to build, that is.

8. Steamrolling

This includes filling every silence with chatter… and assuming the other person agrees with you about everything you say, and then ranting on and on about it. Take a moment to step back and give your conversation partners some space to speak. Try listening for once and don’t be too stingy to relinquish your spot in the driver’s seat.

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9 Reasons You Might Be Failing at Your Career—And How to Fix It

The time has come to talk about the “F” word. (No, not that “F” word.) Failure. No matter who you are or what you do, that word usually has the power to strike fear. If you suspect you’re already failing in your life (for example, you’re not where you thought you would be at this point, or you’ve experienced setbacks), that can be incredibly intimidating. It may keep you from shaking off bad habits and picking up new ones that would get you in a better place. This is especially true in your career. It can be super easy to fall into an inertia bubble and then find yourself shrugging helplessly when you know it’s time to get out.

Let’s look at some of the reasons you might think you’re failing at your professional life, and what you can do about them.

1. You feel helpless to make changes.

This is one I struggle with all. the. time. You may not think you’re helpless per se, but maybe you just feel overwhelmed by daily minutiae, and you feel like staying afloat is all you can accomplish. If you’re managing only what comes your way, you’re troubleshooting rather than improving.

What to do about it: Realize that you do have a say in your daily life, even at work where things might seem very regimented or non-negotiable. If you want to take more agency and control in your life, it starts with you. Learn to advocate for yourself, and negotiate what you want. You’d be surprised at what you can get if you learn to ask for it in the right way.

2. You’re too busy blaming other people.

I’d be much further along if Susan weren’t getting all the attention and good projects at work. I’d be making more money if Frank paid more attention to what I’m doing. I’d have a better job if it weren’t for my cat/my parents/my therapist.

What to do about it: You do you. Your career is yours, and yours alone. This means that ultimately, your decisions are your responsibility—not your cat’s, your parents’, or your therapist’s. It’s time to stop blaming, and instead start thinking about what it would take for you to get what you want: that raise, the good projects, the job you want. Blaming others takes up a lot of mental energy, which you should instead be using to do an internal audit of why things aren’t working out the way you want—and what steps you can take to make progress.

3. You’re settling for a mediocre status quo.

This is an especially insidious kind of failure. You’re comfortable enough, have a job that pays your bills, but you’re not really going anywhere. It’s settling for the good-enough-right-now, at the expense of what is good for you in the future.

What to do about it: Do things that scare you a little (within reason). You don’t have to go busting every piece of your status quo right now, but if you start by doing one thing every week that is outside your comfort zone, you’ll likely find that “status quo” expanding around you. Take on a project that is a bit of a stretch. Take a class in a new skill. Apply for that reach job. If you find yourself hesitating, ask yourself why, and what you have to lose if you go for it. And if the answer isn’t “it’s physically dangerous” or “this will cause a divorce,” then consider moving forward with it after all.

4. You don’t have the resources or education.

If you avoid applying for jobs because you don’t have the necessary skills, experience, or education, that feeling of failure may creep in while you’re browsing job openings. It’s hard not to feel like a failure if all you can see are closed doors.

What to do about it: Take a class! Going for a new degree (or completing an old one) just may not be feasible for everyone, but there are often ways to get around the traditional “going back to school” model. For skill-building, sites like offer free or relatively inexpensive courses you can take on your own time. There are also many universities and colleges that offer part-time degree programs, or non-degree courses online. There are so many ways to stay academically active and keep learning, even when time or money is tight.

5. You’re avoiding hard truths.

Facing reality is hard. That’s why we have 8 million things to distract our attention at any given time. Cat videos, TV, social media—we all have ways of decompressing and avoiding reality for a while. Those are all temporary, though. Ultimately you’ll have to think about new and different ways of doing things, or facts that make you uncomfortable. If you’ve been avoiding thinking about your professional future because it might lead to uncomfortable realizations about the choices you’ve made and the ones you will need to make in the future, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

What to do about it: Time for a little self-audit. Where are you in your career, what’s keeping you in it, and where do you want to be in five years? This is an exercise just for you—no one else will see or judge, so it’s important to be extremely honest about what you have, and what you want.

6. You think you’re too old to make changes.

We often pick our career paths pretty early in life, based on what we want to study in college, or what we think we’d be good at doing when we’re 18. And think about it: how well do many of the life decisions you made when you were 18 still hold up? How many of your hobbies and interests are the same? You’re not locked into a career that you chose because it seemed like a good idea at the time. As you change, you’re never too old to change your professional path.

What to do about it: If you feel stuck in a path that doesn’t interest you anymore, think about making a change—no matter how significant. Think about what it is you want to be doing, and start doing real research into what it would take—like education, certification, or skills. These are all things you can work on in the meantime, before you make any big moves.

7. Your fear of failure has you pinned down.

Failing because you fear failure? Is that a thing? Yes, yes it is. It’s possible to back right into failure while you’re on guard against it, avoiding risky changes or proactive steps that could result in failing. This kind of failure is sneaky, because it comes right from the place you thought you were watching.

What to do about it: Don’t be afraid to be bad at something, or to make a bad decision once in a while. Failure can actually be one of the great learning experiences, painful though it may feel in the meantime. By letting fear of failure paralyze you, it can kill your career progress. Your professional life thrives on both your successes and your failures.

8. You’re overestimating your abilities.

Full disclosure: I’m failing at being a ballet dancer. This is because I am the biggest klutz ever, I don’t have the right body type, and…oh yeah…I have very few ballet skills. So Misty Copeland’s title is probably safe. But if I expected to be a ballet dancer at this point in my career, I’d be making a fatal assumption that I could be one in my current state. It’s one thing to be confident in the abilities you have, but another thing entirely to be confident that you’ll be good at something without the education or skills to back it up. This kind of mindset lets you get comfortable in the idea that you don’t need to learn or do new things, because you’re the best the way you are.

What to do about it: Embrace your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and accept the need to be realistic about what you can do.

9. You’re not setting realistic goals.

If you’re not planning your career in a realistic way, of course you’re going to feel like a failure—you set it up that way yourself. Going from entry level to CEO in two years was never going to happen.

What to do about it: Time to set up some SMART goals. That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Setting these career goals both in the short-term (say, for the next year) and the long-term (five years or beyond) will help you make progress that you can quantify. There are lots of apps and tools you can use to help you, but don’t underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned checklist, and the smug, well-earned sense of satisfaction you get as you check something off the list.

If you feel like you’re failing, it’s never too late to stop, figure out why, and start taking concrete steps out of the muck. Understanding why you’re failing is the most important first step you can take.

The post 9 Reasons You Might Be Failing at Your Career—And How to Fix It appeared first on TheJobNetwork.

6 Common Negative Thoughts And How To Combat Them

We’ve been there: in a terrible state of mind, while people keep telling you to think “happy thoughts.” It’s enough to drive you nuts. But hear us out: positivity and, yes, “happy thoughts” can actually have a major impact on your success in your career and your life—while negative thoughts, or in particular, “cognitive distortions,” can have a massively bad impact on both.

Here are some strategies for how to identify negative thoughts and cognitive distortions, and how to overcome them. We hope you can free yourself of all that unnecessary shame, self-pity, fear, and resentment and get back to the good vibes.

1. I don’t have enough time.

No one really feels like they have enough hours in their day to accomplish everything they need or want to accomplish. But being busy doesn’t always have to be a source of stress. You’re making the most of life—and probably being much more productive. If you have too much on your plate, try simplifying your schedule a bit. Remember, you’re in charge of your own calendar. Then count your business as a blessing.

2. I’m not enough.

Impostor syndrome, and generally feeling you’re not as qualified as your peers, is very common. But just remember that you’re probably holding yourself to a much higher standard than you would anyone else. Give yourself a break. Step away from social media for a while. Stop comparing yourself constantly to others (and to others’ online avatars). And start focusing on what you’re doing instead.

3. This is going to be a catastrophe.

Okay, worrywart. “Castastrophizing” is a thing. The “what-ifs” are constantly plaguing you with horrible disasters and tragedies as the result of some of your simplest actions. Try to take a step back from your worries and remind yourself of some calming statistics. Don’t avoid life because you’re afraid it might be unsafe.

4. It can only be either/or.

Either I ace this presentation, or I’m going to be fired. Because I screwed up at that meeting, I’m never going to earn my boss’s trust. These are examples of polarized, or black and white thinking, and they’re not doing you any good. Remember that there is always middle ground, a grey area, and a chance to redeem yourself if you make a small (or large) mistake.

5. That’s it—I’m doomed.

Just because one thing happened that wasn’t great doesn’t mean that similar bad things will continue happening to you. And don’t make assumptions based on what you think might be going on. Say your boss talked over you in the meeting. Don’t leap to the conclusion that she hates you or that your job is in jeopardy. Try to imagine the thousand other reasons she may have had not to give you your turn with the talking stick.

6. I’m a total failure.

Life goes on. Even if you did something stupid or embarrassing, the sting is not going to last. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing and are in very much over your head, there is always an opportunity to dig your way out by gaining competence and confidence. Focus on how to turn each “failure” into an opportunity for greater success.

The post 6 Common Negative Thoughts And How To Combat Them appeared first on TheJobNetwork.