What’s Really Holding Your Career Back

banner-1005546_640I remember I was interviewing at a Fortune 500 Company over 5 years ago and they asked, “What is your biggest weakness?” As a career coach, I’ve given a lot of thought to this question because I work with mid-level professionals who want to advance their career.

The purpose of this article isn’t to share how to answer this interview question, but to provide insight to what’s really holding your career back.

We often think that our weaknesses hold us back and define them as as the need for skill improvement or overcoming a personality flaw.

The reality is that we often can take classes to improve our skills and find ways to compensate for our personality flaws. What we often don’t think about that really holds us back is our behavioral patterns. A behavioral pattern is a recurring way of acting or reacting toward a given situation.

For example, I had client who was a mid-level manager for a large company and wanted to move up. He took a lot of classes to improve his skills and learned how to compensate for his personality flaw of being a perfectionist.

However, he failed to explore his behavioral patterns which were really holding his career back. We learned that he would often back down and not speak up during any situation he perceived as confrontational. This helped his career because he was perceived by others as agreeable.

However, when my client received feedback from his supervisor, we learned that his lack of speaking up hindered his career because he rarely advocated for his advancement and was viewed by upper-level management as unable to make difficult decisions for his team.

By exploring his behavioral patterns, we were able to modify them to his advantage and strategize ways for him to receive support.

If you are looking to advance your career, here are 3 mindsets you have to adopt in order to change your behavioral patterns and advance your career:

Mindset #1: I cannot do it alone:

If you want to explore your behavioral patterns, the first step is to receive support from others. How we perceive ourselves is very different than how others perceive us which is why it’s important to hire a talented coach or therapist. A talented coach or therapist can help us identify how others see us and change our behaviors by using mirroring exercises.

Think of hiring a coach or therapist as an investment in your career development. The best leaders in the world understand they cannot do it alone and need others to compensate for their shortcomings. That’s why they hire executive coaches, search for mentors and have a board of directors guiding them.

It’s time to do that for yourself.

Mindset #2: I’m ready to dig deep:

Understand that exploring both our positive and negative behavioral patterns can be painful, yet it can be enlightening. Know that this is not a superficial process and the outcome can be some major life changes that help you for the better.

If you can view getting to know yourself like getting to know someone new, it can be fun and interesting.

Mindset #3: I’m ready for change:

If you are ready to take your career to the next level, prepare to make changes both internally and externally.

It’s not going to be easy. If anything, it may be one of the most difficult endeavors; however, the reward  both personally and professionally is worth it.

I always encourage clients to think back about the positive changes they have made in the past and how it has helped their future. It’s important to reconnect with these memories, especially when you get discouraged.

Lastly, this process of changing our behaviors is an evolution- just like our career. When we start making the internal changes, the external circumstances have to change in order to match it.