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How to Avoid Getting Stuck in the Past

How to Avoid Getting Stuck in the Past

Stuck in the Past

    Do you have a trophy room?  This is a place where you keep your various trophies, certificates, award plaques, autographed trinkets and other things that remind you of past accomplishments. This could be a fireplace mantle, space on a bookshelf, a downstairs room or a building depending on what you have been up to. If you have one of these, be careful to avoid getting stuck in the past. They tend to have common features – mainly dust.

    Watch out because you might be stuck in the past.

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    Or are you “the expert” in a quickly-changing area like software development and finding yourself no longer being constantly challenged? You too might be stuck in the past and might soon find your career biting the dust.

    There is nothing wrong with having a trophy room or being an expert, so long as you don’t let dust become a problem. There is a natural tendency to become comfortable in past accomplishments that we need to be careful to avoid. We need to constantly update our trophy rooms and continue to be actively challenged in our areas of expertise. Here are some ways to avoid getting stuck in the past:

    1. Make clear goals. If you don’t have any current goals, there isn’t any place to go.

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    2. Avoid repetition unless it is working. One popular definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things while expecting different results. There is a catch. If you are doing something and it is working really well, keep doing it. Constantly trying to reinvent the wheel might be another definition of insanity.

    3. Celebrate successes and move on. Put your new trophy with the rest while maybe tossing out one or two other ones that don’t have any current meaning. Sometimes the best trophies are the really big ones that you only get to keep for a year or so until the next person wins it. Keep winning it if you can without having to worry about it becoming too dusty because you can’t hold onto it forever.

    4. Don’t get too comfortable. Sitting on the sofa mulling over past glories can be a nice thing to do from time to time but don’t let yourself become fat and lazy.

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    5. Create the right environment. Hang out with different people, read different magazines and visit some new places. After all, isn’t is the people you meet, the things you read and the places you go that help you become who you are?

    6. Be competitive to a healthy extent. A competitive winning attitude and the right kind of competition can lead to amazing things. This doesn’t mean you need to be viewing everything as a competition. There is more to life than always trying to outdo everyone else all the time.

    7. Try new things in relevant areas. The idea is to not make a wholesale change but to try something a little different.

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    8. Keep yourself open to new ideas from the usual places and also from places where you would not normally be sourcing them. Old sources are not always the best places to find new ideas.

    9. Drop your involvements with people who are holding you back, especially those who are stuck in the past! It might seem a bit nasty disassociating from people you have known for a long time. This doesn’t need to be an abrupt thing. Simply spend more time with those who are better aligned with who you are and where you want to go. This allows you to ease your way out without coming across as being rude. Your new associations might also help inspire some of the others to step up to new challenges.

    If you have additional suggestions or comments on how to avoid getting stuck in the past, please feel free to comment and add to the discussion.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2020

    9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

    9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

    Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

    Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

    Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

    Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

    Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

    1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

    When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

    • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
    • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
    • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

    You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

    2. Know Your Role and the Organization

    Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

    Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

    • What questions do you have about the role?
    • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
    • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

    Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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    This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

    Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

    3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

    Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

    Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

    What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

    What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

    What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

    4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

    You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

    I’ve heard many new employees say:

    • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
    • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
    • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
    • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

    People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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    Remember to:

    • Notice your assumptions
    • Focus on your own work
    • Ask questions, and
    • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

    You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

    5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

    Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

    Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

    • Helps you clarify expectations
    • Shows that you’ve done your research
    • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

    Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

    6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

    Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

    Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

    Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

    Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

    What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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    What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

    7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

    Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

    Here are a few key questions to consider:

    • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
    • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
    • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
    • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

    These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

    8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

    It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

    What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

    Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

    • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
    • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
    • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
    • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

    Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

    Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

    9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

    “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

    You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

    Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

    Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

    Summing It Up

    There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

    Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

    Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

    1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
    2. Know Your Role and the Organization
    3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
    4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
    5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
    6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
    7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
    8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
    9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

    Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

    More Tips About Succeeding in Career

    Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

    Reference

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