We've all heard the tale of a young elephant, bound by chains in its formative years to prevent escape. This early experience leaves a profound psychological mark, so much so that even as the elephant matures in size and strength, it remains immobilised if chained by its masters.
I'm not certain about the accuracy of this story, and to be honest, I've never really bothered to fact-check it. Nevertheless, it's a captivating story that holds relevance for our own lives. In this article, we use this story as a starting point to discuss some common, long-standing career myths. These are ideas we often accept as true, even though they can negatively impact our careers. Here are five of them:
My career & my job are the same: One of the biggest misconceptions professionals have is to believe that there is no difference between ‘Career’ and ‘Job’. While at a broader level, it looks the same, in reality, it is NOT. In fact, the job is the subset of a career and not the other way round. Because most live with the belief that it is the same, their whole focus is on managing their current job only. They do not take time to sit, introspect and take stock of whether their career is moving in the right direction or not. It is important to board the right bus but it is also your responsibility to keep checking whether the bus is moving in the right direction (i.e. towards the career destination). Professionals often get myopic and start feeling good/sad depending on the status of their current job. By all means, give your best to your current job because that will decide your future course, however, do not let your fate get decided basis your current job only.
I am in safe hands: The second biggest fallacy with which professional lives is that as long as they are giving their best to their job, their company will take care of their career growth. While there are a few companies who do that, unfortunately, most of the companies are not bothered much about that. The hard reality is that if you cannot take care of your career, no one else will. Organisations have a larger responsibility towards their business and managing the careers of their employees beyond the point will never be their main agenda. As an analogy - you have to use your own seat belt in the career aircraft to protect yourself from turbulence.
My old skills will work forever: We live in a world where we are made to believe that what we acquire academically 10/20/30 years ago will continue to benefit us always. It is hard but the fact is that our academic degree is not the tree that will give us the same fruits year after year without us doing anything towards that tree. This looks good in theory but the reality is that the world around us is changing so fast that we cannot just rely on the academic skills we acquired in our yesteryears. We need to understand that most of the academic knowledge we acquire also has a shelf life unless we continuously recharge/reshape it. Though it is true that academics give us the foundation and basic skill set, we need to continuously hone them every now and then to keep ourselves ahead of the learning curve.
I need a God father to succeed: There is no denying that in today’s day and age, our network plays a very important role in our career journey. However, believing that only having a strong network is the only gateway to our success is also not entirely true. The pitfall of this is that some professionals spend all their energy in managing relationships (read - falling prey to office politics!) and lose focus on their CRAFT. Nothing succeeds in the world without skills and commitment toward your career. No one will give you a break unless you are bringing value to them and their organisation. This will become increasingly difficult as you climb up the career ladder. So, while it is necessary to showcase your achievements and build a solid network, it is not going to unilaterally give you career success without bringing the required skills to the table.
I am too old to change my stripes: During my interaction as a career coach with a lot of professionals, I encountered a strong uneasiness among them to deviate from their current operating zone. This problem is especially acute among professionals who are in their mid-career. They feel that they have no option but to continue in their old function/industry as no one is going to accept them in their new avatar. While it is difficult to break into a new zone it is not impossible also (as long as you are committed to learning and contributing). If your industry and/or function in which you have a career is lagging behind in the market, you ought to make changes in your professional life. Please note that you are not a stone destined to live this fate for the rest of your life.
In this article, I've discussed five common career misconceptions observed during my coaching experiences across various professions. While these are just a few, our careers span several decades, and many more myths exist. Recognizing and challenging our personal misconceptions is vital for professional and personal growth. It's crucial to adapt and revise these beliefs as our ever-changing world evolves.
In the end, we are not the baby elephant who cannot break that chain…