Too Many Bumps On Your Career Path – It Might Be The Driver, Not The Road

Alone in a Crowd

I have an acquaintance that I run into now and then.  Over the past couple of years, all interactions have been a series of phases retelling of the evolution of a continual job search.

Phase one: Each new position starts all bright and shiny.  This is the one, much better than the last. Here he can really do what he does best, it is a great fit. Here they appreciate him.

Phase two: There seems to be a problem with communications.  His boss just doesn’t get him.  His coworkers are not appreciating his talents and contributions. It is not his fault, he is just direct and they do not appreciate it.

Phase three: His boss or coworkers are either conspiring against him or total jerks.

Phase four: It had been decided it was not a good fit and he is searching again.

There are managers who stink and ungrateful, attention-sucking coworkers – but not at Every. Single. Job.

With each trip on this merry-go-round a phrase pops into my head: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Cassius is eloquently telling Brutus that it is not the environment or fate that is preventing them from stopping Caesar from becoming a monarch, it is themselves.

If there is a pattern emerging in your career path, perhaps it is time to stop looking externally and look a little closer to home.  Like home.

Often times these patterns develop unconsciously.  Perhaps we took a position just in dire need of a job and the position is something that we feel is not ‘worthy’ of our skills or abilities.  This builds resentment.  This spills over to how we treat our coworkers, leadership and clients.  This leads to the end and taking another ‘have to’ job.  The cycle continues and worsens.

Or maybe we had great success working in a certain environment which embraced the more abrasiveness in our personality.  Fast forward to another position and no one gets the warm and fuzzies and we justify our behavior with, “this is just the way I am.”  In other words you are telling people suck it up, they should accept you for who you are.

These are just two scenarios and for these – not so much cupcake. I am all about accepting people for who they are – unless they are abusive, abrasive or just plain mean to others.  Then they are buttheads and no one is obligated to like them.

As far as the first scenario, no job is beneath any person. Period. I had a job once where a dog drooled on my head – and that was a good day.

I am a direct person, I do not have a poker face.  I was once told by a manager that everyone could look at me and know that I was having a great day….and if I wasn’t. The conversation got worse from there.

I had to learn to tone it down.  To take other people in consideration.  They may have mistaken my message and I had to stop blaming them for it.  I had to do the hard look at in the mirror and realize perhaps they misunderstood due to the delivery, not the content.

I went through the gambit of total people pleaser to brash directives.  Looking back gives me whiplash.  I felt that no matter what I did I was wrong.  The hardest thing I had to do was shut up and listen, then ask.  I talked to coworkers, the ones that we normally had strained conversations.  I was honest and asked for honest, constructive feedback.  It was not easy listening to what they had to say, but I needed to hear it.

I learned to be true to myself and honor others around me.  In any position you have tremendous amount of value to offer an organization and people around you  – yet here is the key – you are not an island.

It is important how people perceive your message, it is critical how you communicate and treat others.  Just because you have an obnoxious personality does not mean others have to get used to it.  It means you need to learn to adjust so others can get to know you – not your brashness – and be able to benefit from your value and you from theirs.

Know your strengths and style then learn modifications to help use those as positives.

Here is an example of a small modification that made a huge difference.  I ask a lot of questions.  Being a direct and somewhat blunt person, this could be taken as challenging authority or disagreeing.  It was – a lot.

I learned to preface questions with buffers like, “Just so I make sure that I understand this completely…” or “I think I am clear on this, but I want to make sure…”

There are times that I start with, “I am not challenging, I agree, I just want to make sure I am on the same page…”

Taking your audience into account during your communication makes a world of difference.  Not everyone is going to get you or what you mean because they are not you.

If you can identify that the fault is not in the stars, take that next step and ask for feedback.  It may be brutal, yet remember this – people will not offer this insight if they did not see something in you worthy of wanting to help.  Constructive criticism is help.

You may gain insight to be able to make a slight adjustment that will make a world of difference.


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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