Why Doing Good Work Does Not Actually Guarantee Career Success

Have you ever said to yourself “I do the best work here, why don’t I get noticed??”

Doing good work is foundational to a thriving career.

The problem?  Good work alone will not guarantee career success.

One of the most common mistakes I hear from my clients is thinking that just because they do good work they should be climbing the corporate ladder.

It is a common mistake, especially for professional women.  

I think it comes from a combination of several things. 

  1. We tend to be people-pleasers, trying hard to make those around us at work happy.  
  2. We are in the habit of saying yes and “doing it all,” without thinking about how each assignment contributes to our goals.  
  3. We think that we have to be perfect and on top of everything to be doing well.
  4. We stay focused on doing good work and get stuck in the weeds, and miss the bigger picture.

I have definitely been guilty of #1-3 in the past.  🤦‍♀️

If you can relate, you are not alone.

And there is good news! You can easily pivot away from this mistake by taking three simple actions.

(1) Create a Career Vision 

Have you ever left on a road trip without knowing where you will end up?  Maybe the most spontaneous of us have (that’s not me!) – but most of the time we choose the destination, then make the plan to get there.

Similarly, for your career, it is important to write down what you want to achieve.  Even if this vision is not incredibly detailed, you need to give yourself permission to imagine the possibilities and dream of the career you want.  This visioning provides a needed focus in a world full of noise.  Statistics also show that people who write down their goals are 40% more likely to achieve them.

If you are like me, your brain may try to talk you out of your dreams even before you have time to write them down.  Don’t give in – allow yourself to dream about what you want to achieve, both in the short term and long term. 

The good news is that no one is grading you on this plan, and you can change it at any time.

But without it, you will be like a ship drifting in the open ocean, going wherever the wind and waves take you.  And no amount of good work will give you the direction needed.

(2) Communicate your career goals with your Manager

Your manager is at the front line of your career development.  She is the closest person to your work and is responsible for setting expectations and assessing your performance to those goals.

The key is to build your manager into your #1 advocate for your career growth.  In order to do that, your manager needs to understand your career vision and goals in addition to the quality of your work.

Meet regularly with your manager to discuss your development and path to your next career goal.  Listen to the feedback you receive, incorporate it, and demonstrate the resulting growth in each session.

(3) Know how talent processes work at your Company

I am a native Californian and grew up going to Disneyland.  The Disney magic is impressive – you rarely see the “operations” side of things behind the curtain.    

In college, I had friends who worked at Disneyland and it was fascinating to hear about what goes on behind the scenes to keep the magic happening – the underground tunnels, how rides work, or who’s inside those characters!

Just like Disneyland, there are “behind the scenes” processes and activities in corporations that drive talent management.  These processes are often the backbone behind the 🌟magic🌟 of promotions and organizational changes.  

Do you know how things work at your company?

Rest assured – most Corporations don’t leave talent management and succession planning to chance.  And while each organization will have its own distinct processes, there are some common activities you should be aware of.  

Outside of recruiting and hiring, performance management is probably the most familiar aspect of corporate talent management processes.  This is the process for setting goals for a pre-established performance period (e.g. annual) and formally evaluating and recording the performance to the objectives.

However, in addition to discussing your performance, your manager is probably participating in several other types of conversations about your potential for growth within the company.  They are discussing if and when you will be ready for a leadership move.

If your manager is not directly involved, she is providing feedback and input to her leadership about you.  Depending on the size of your organization, this assessment of your career potential may be shared and highlighted up through multiple levels of leadership, including the executive level.  

Understanding the cadence and process for these conversations within your organization is critical for your career growth.

In addition to potential, many corporations track the skills and interests of employees across the organization.  These are used for workforce planning, identifying overall talent gaps from strategic plans, as well as matching employee goals with company needs.  

When you understand the way your company operates, it can open up limitless opportunities to develop personalized career paths within a large organization.

So, how are you doing?

Yes, you do great work.  But what else are you doing to stand out?

Take a step back and do an honest assessment of where you are at:

  • Do you have a plan for your career?  
  • Do you discuss your career growth with your manager?
  • Do you know what opportunities are available within your company, how to find them, and how to stand out?

➡️ What actionable steps will you take this week to close the gap? ⬅️

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