3 Myths about Career Success

Are you  under the misconception that the company is looking out for you? Have you left your fate in the company’s hands? Do you feel like the company or someone else owes you in some way?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in line with hundreds of thousands of employees everywhere. It’s time to step back, analyze your situation, and grab the reins to take control of your own career. 

No matter where you are today, you can decide where you want to be when it’s your time to retire—once you realize that the company doesn’t love you, and if you avoid buying into the following popular myths:

Myth 1: Yes-People Get Promoted

A yes-person is the one who endorses or supports every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior without criticism because they fear that, if they don’t, they won’t advance.

If any of these sound familiar, you may have bought into this myth already. 

I’ve observed people’s careers going off the rails by trying to be that people-pleaser all the time. Admittedly, some company cultures actually seem to favor this sort of group-think on everything. In those instances, an employee may just be following the default company protocol for advancement. 

But even in those circumstances, artificially going along to get along is going to hurt you in the long run. 

For one thing, many times when someone says “yes” but doesn’t really agree, silent resentment grows just below the surface. This tension builds over time and kills morale. Then, when that frustrated person has had enough and finally decides to say “no” or to speak against popular opinion, he or she is perceived in a negative light. After all, something must be wrong, because there’s never been any disagreement before. 

It’s far better to honor your integrity at all times. Be courageous. Speak up. 

It is entirely possible to politely disagree with a colleague or manager, and, in my experience, your willingness to stand for what you believe is right earns you more esteem and respect than mild, disingenuous agreement. Of course, that doesn’t mean your position will always be accepted, so you have to be okay with that, too. 

Myth 2: You Have to Be Good at Everything

Another myth that relates to the yes-person problem is the idea that you have to know it all and be good at everything. 

People try to talk a good game to make managers think they can do it all and handle everything that comes their way—but when it’s time to produce, they don’t always deliver results. They overpromise and underdeliver. 

When I was an Associate Human Resources Manager in South Carolina, for example, we hired a new employee over similar applicants because he was bilingual. We had many Spanish-speaking employees at this site, so having someone on our HR team who could help us with translation on certain special projects would be critical. 

During his interview process, he said he could write HR strategies, workforce plans, compliance audits—you name it, he could do it. So I initially assigned him several easy projects to do, including an employee relations plan strategy to find ways to improve relations with our Hispanic community and improve their lives. 

But it quickly became apparent that he couldn’t do it—any of it. 

When his 6-month evaluation came up, the decision was clear: he wasn’t performing or delivering results, and, as a result, he was fired. 

I didn’t have a problem with that because he had been dishonest about what he could do. He misrepresented himself as having more knowledge than he actually had. 

Don’t inflate your skill sets. Be honest about your strengths and your struggles. If anything, underpromise and overdeliver, not the other way around. 

Myth 3: You Are Entitled to Quick Promotions

Another myth is that young workers can expect quick promotions. This false assumption has been popularized partly by young, ambitious college graduates, but also by the way companies present employment opportunities to this demographic. 

If you’ve recently graduated from college and are just getting started in your career, you are not entitled to special consideration or promotional opportunities because you graduated with a high GPA.

With Kraft, we had a process recruiting the best and brightest talent from key universities as they prepared to graduate. We would offer to bring them into a special program, giving them rotational assignments leading to high-level managerial positions. 

We let them know it was an opportunity to advance rapidly, and—this is key—we’d tell them the things they would have to do to make it happen. 

The problem came a few months after they were hired—they forgot their side of the bargain. They would start to act entitled, behaving as if they believed they deserved to fly right up that ladder to join upper management in two years or less because they were the cream of the crop. 

That type of advancement would be an extremely rare exception to how the corporate world normally works, even in the case of specially-recruited young talent. 

If you are new in your career and were put on a fast-track to management by virtue of your scholastic resume, recognize that you are probably moving at a faster pace and experiencing more than you would have with a regular, entry-level position. Then continue to do your part. Bring your A-game every day, in whatever situation you find yourself.

If you want to learn how to push past these myths to finally enjoy a fulfilling career, check out my book The Company Doesn’t Love You.