by Vickie Milazzo, author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman“
You’re a hard worker. You stay late at the office and never complain. You’re your boss’ go to person on big projects, and you never let him down. You’re always taking on extra responsibility even when your plate is spilling over. And yet, your career trajectory is as flat as a board.
Meanwhile, you can’t help but notice the coworkers who put in fewer hours than you but who’ve managed to get themselves promoted over you. Or that friend of yours whose long-shot cupcake bakery idea turned into a huge success. Or the countless wealthy businesspeople featured in the business magazines and blogs you read religiously who seem to have reached even greater success over the past few years despite the down economy. Of course, you’re tired of merely scraping out an existence, but you’ve concluded real success is all about luck, and you just don’t have any.
Wrong! If you want to achieve my brand of wicked success, it’s all on you. Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it.
I guarantee that the successful people you see every day don’t have anything you don’t have. There is no single factor that prevents success or one that guarantees it. If you aren’t driven by your passion or continuously working toward important goals, then of course, you’re going to feel stuck in one place. But when you focus on your goals, plan your steps forward and have a little more faith in yourself, you can achieve wicked success.
The first step is to hold up a mirror and really examine what you’re putting in at work.
Long hours don’t always mean you’re more productive than everyone else. If you are working longer hours and still getting nowhere, it is important to objectively assess the value of your output.
For example, how much time do you spend complaining? Do you have to discuss every issue ad infinitum no matter how small? Are you a high maintenance or low maintenance employee? Are you stealing time from the company to manage your personal life and counting it as work? Figure out how to become truly productive and to continuously make progress toward project goals. The success you seek will follow.
If you’re still stumped as to why success has eluded you, read on for a few success obstacles and how to get around them:
You underprice yourself.
You’d love to ask for more money but frankly, you’re afraid to. The economy still isn’t great so I’d better lie low, you reason. This just seems like common sense. But settling for less than you’re worth is a big mistake — even in the wake of the Great Recession.
In fact, if you’re in the running for a new job or promotion, it might even cost you the opportunity. When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves because I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.
Many people mistakenly think they’re doing their employers a favor by not pushing for more or that they’ll be more appealing if they don’t ask for what they’re worth. The bad economy might be the current excuse, but I believe most underpricing occurs because many employees and job candidates just aren’t comfortable asking for what they think they’re worth.
You’re viewed as a commodity.
Commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job — whether you’re an employee, a leader, or an entrepreneur. After all, if the people you’re working with know that others share your skill set, they won’t have any reason to pay you more or give you advanced opportunities. They’ll be in control, not you. Do everything you can to ensure that you aren’t seen as interchangeable or dispensable.
Don’t shrink into your chair and become the invisible employee. Do what you need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the company. If you’re able to make yourself invaluable and leverage the things that make you unique, you’ll also make yourself impossible to replace. And when that happens, you’ll be in control of your own price.
You downplay your accomplishments.
It can be hard to toot your own horn. But if you don’t announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is going to do it for you. With humility, make sure that you’re keeping your name, your accomplishments, and your skill set in front of everyone.
Make sure you’re getting the recognition and credit you’ve earned. If you still have doubts, consider that announcing your accomplishments validates the investments others have made in you. Your boss, for example, wants to know that she bet on a winner when she hired you!
You don’t network with big players.
Generally, we tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us: people who think similarly, who find similar things fun, and who are in similar walks of life. That’s fine when it comes to your friendships, but you need to aim higher when it comes to networking. More than 60 percent of people find jobs through networking, for example, and you can bet that most of them didn’t achieve this goal because they knew someone at the bottom of the pecking order.
No, I’m not advocating snobbery. It’s normal to gravitate toward people who are the same as you — but in business, one of the main reasons people don’t get ahead is that they don’t get out of their groups. Make every effort to meet people who are a rung or two higher than you on the professional ladder. If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent to yours.
You doubt your abilities.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach any goal you set for yourself if you don’t believe with your whole heart that achieving it is possible. Among other things, you won’t be confident enough to take calculated risks if you don’t believe that the limitations in front of you are surmountable. Anytime you find yourself entertaining doubts or trying to limit what you think is possible, remind yourself of your past successes. Let them infuse you with pride and bolster your resolve.
Believing you can do it — whatever ‘it’ is — is 90 percent of the win. When I walked into my first meeting with a potential client, my legs were literally shaking. I forced myself to remember that this attorney needed specialized knowledge that only I — a critical care nurse — could give him. That reminder didn’t banish all of my nervousness, but it did enable me to make the points I wanted. And I walked out of that meeting with my first client. I learned that when you expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself, you can transform who you are and what your life looks like.
You need a mentor.
There are two ways to develop the skills, habits, mindsets, etc. that you’ll need to achieve wicked success. The first is to go it alone and learn by trial and error in the school of hard knocks. The second (much smarter) path is to learn from others who have encountered and surmounted problems that are similar to your own. That being the case, surround yourself with as many mentors as possible and practice the skills they pass on to you.
I’ve been in business for three decades, and I still learn every day from my students, staff, writers, speakers, business experts, and more. And in the early days of growing my business, I devoured every book on business strategy I could find, even though none were aimed precisely at the niche I was creating. Aggressive learning is a competitive advantage in achieving any desired goals.
You are too bogged down in the little things.
In today’s world, we’re constantly sabotaged by nonproductive energy wasters. There are emails to read. Facebook statuses to update. Receipts to locate for that already-late expense report. Dishes to be washed. Files to be organized. And on, and on, and on. These are the easy, albeit often unproductive, tasks that make us feel good. They may not get you any closer to accomplishing your greater goals, but at least you’ve checked a couple of things off your to-do list.
Unfortunately, this addiction comes at a high price, because that cheap check-mark high is guaranteed to frustrate, overwhelm, and stress you out in the long term. By majoring in minor things, we never get to our big commitments. Breaking these addictions opens the door to achievement. Remember, what you engage and focus on is where you will yield results.
You aren’t going after your BIG goals.
When is the last time you set a goal and really went after it? Milazzo encourages people to identify their “Big Things” — those goals that connect to their passionate vision. Then choose one to schedule their day around. For example, your Big Thing might be to get promoted. So today you might agree to take on a high-profile work project in order to put you in the running for that promotion. Set a target date for each of your Big Things. And begin working steadily toward achieving each of them. Start strong and you’ll experience genuine elation from achieving real goals and solving real problems.
You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly become successful. And the successful people you envy weren’t able to do that either. They worked for it. They set big goals. They didn’t settle for small-time achievements. Wicked success can be yours too if you make the same big commitments.
Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is author of “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman” (WickedSuccess.com). From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a US$16-million business, Wall Street Journal best-selling author Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America. Vickie is the owner of Vickie Milazzo Institute, an education company she founded in 1982.