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Why continually hedging your bets may be harming your career

by Lauren Maxwell on April 14, 2015
Overview
Who

Lauren Maxwell

What

Headstrong Women

It’s very tempting, I know, to continually be on the look-out for the “next big thing”. In an age where opportunities are presented to us at every turn, and where the internet screams out to us to explore alternatives on a constant basis, it can be difficult to maintain focus and direction. But what if the grass isn’t always greener? What if instead of growing your ambition and speeding down the path to success you were actually diluting your strength and missing out on true opportunities? Well, ultimately this may the case.

You may actually be disadvantaging yourself.

Here’s why.

Overwhelmed with opportunities

Typically, we humans all have an opportunity-sweet-spot. It’s that spot where we feel comfortable at having enough opportunities so as to not feel trapped or isolated, but not so many options that we feel overwhelmed or unable to commit to any. In the current world, we are spoiled for choice across all aspects of our lives – consumer items, online dating, grocery specials – we are literally bombarded with information and opportunities from all directions. Have you ever noticed how you can feel anxious and overwhelmed, then make snap decisions with regards to the mass of options being presented to you? This is exactly the same reaction that can happen when you continually invite a mass of competing work-opportunities at one time. Rather than feeling motivated and working towards a chosen goal, you can end up feeling panicked and accept offers that were not necessarily the ones you would have picked without so much ‘background noise’.

Rather than feeling motivated and working towards a chosen goal, you can end up feeling panicked and accepting offers that were not necessarily the ones you would have picked

Diluting your power

The aim of you seeking out the best opportunity is to give you a platform with which to show off your skills and qualities, and to develop your career along your desired trajectory, right? That sounds like a sensible plan – but before dividing your energy between a thousand and one competing options, you need to assess where that energy is best spent and how many opportunities you can comfortably divide yourself between. Afterall, by over-committing you run the risk of diluting your strength and in turn becoming less-effective in your search. My advice: assess your goal, and choose between two or three options that are most likely going to set you up for success. You need to be able to put enough effort into each of the opportunities that you go for, so as to be putting your best foot forward in each of them. If you find that you’re not able to do that, it’s time to re-assess.

Committing.…to what?

The ‘c-word’ is a tricky mistress, and one that can elicit feelings of panic in some of us. In an ironic twist, however, your efforts to keep your ‘options open’ and not commit to a specific opportunity, may in fact morph into you inadvertently committing yourself to the process of searching. Looking for the next big thing can be seductive, and it’s important to recognise that you are not merely becoming habituated to the process. Take a step back and ask yourself why you are still looking – if you’re unable to come up with an answer, you may be in dangerous territory.

Looking for the next big thing can be seductive, and it’s important to recognise that you are not merely becoming habituated to the process.

Will I ever be satisfied?

In another case of blatant irony, constantly seeking satisfaction can actually lead to feelings of disengagement and dissatisfaction. Ever noticed how sometimes the allure of seeking more satisfaction sometimes overrides the original achievement of a particular goal? This is a pretty common scenario (and not just career-wise). While I’m not suggesting you revert back to the old “be happy with what you have” mentality, I do recommend that perhaps you consider your own satisfaction scale. Start by reminding yourself what it is that you were actually hoping to get from your career, and asking yourself what it is that you truly need to feel satisfied. What you may find is that some or even many of the opportunities you are blindly applying for do not meet even these needs.

Ever noticed how sometimes the allure of seeking more satisfaction sometimes overrides the original achievement of a particular goal?

So what’s the solution if you are genuinely looking for a new opportunity or to land on your next career launch pad?

While I’m not saying “choose one path and stick with it”, I do advocate that care be taken when selecting opportunities and planning ahead. My general advice:

  • Take the time to consider what you actually want, and ask yourself what it is that you are seeking from a new opportunity. Once you have clarified this, it will be easier to discern between actual opportunities that you plan to invest yourself in and those which are simply distractors.
  • Create an action plan for your career – list down your immediate goals, achievements to date, steps involved in getting to where you want to be, and most importantly your long term goal. This will help you to keep on track, and provide a framework for seeking helpful opportunities.
  • Cull and commit to opportunities that are more likely to benefit you and your long term goals. This will ensure that you are able to adequately invest enough energy to be successful in your application and are not spreading yourself too thin.
  • Give it a fair go. Once you’ve successfully made a transition and entered a role that you saw benefit in, give it a real shot. This doesn’t mean simply staying in the job for a set period of time, but rather fully immersing yourself in the position to gain the maximum benefit. After all, you are trying to progress your career and break the cycle of ‘looking for something better’.
  • Relax – just like dating, nobody wants to come across as desperate when they are networking or interviewing for career opportunities. By being more discriminating of the opportunities you seek based on your goals and needs, you will likely find that you are automatically more relaxed and confident in your approach. Remember, it’s about working smarter, not harder.

Featured Photo Credit: Pixabay

Lauren Maxwell is a Rehabilitation Counsellor and Career Development Consultant, with close to 15 years of experience across the two fields. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a specialist women’s career development service, and thrives on innovation and creativity to empower women to reach their potential.

Lauren Maxwell
Lauren is the founder of Headstrong Women, a Newcastle-based specialist women’s career development service, where she takes a solution-focused and creative approach to empower women to take control of their career and personal development. Her goal is to help women everywhere reach their full potential! She is a full member of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors and professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia, and is currently adding to her ‘lazy girl’s career guide’ series of skill-building ebooks.
 
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