Book advises on jumping career ruts

'Change Anything' offers strategies for breaking free of all kinds of bad habits at work and at home

By , IDG News Service |  Career, career advice

And then it's important to use what the authors call "six sources of influence" in your favor rather than letting them work against you. Those are: personal motivation, personal ability, social motivation and ability, structural motivation and structural ability. While the first two are self explanatory, the third involves using social networks for encouragement, while structural motivation involves bearing in mind the costs of not advancing in your career -- less income, lower morale -- and the latter means making changes in your environment to make it easier to keep at better work habits.

The book's chapter on career advancement tells the story of Melanie R., an accountant in danger of being laid off because of flagging performance. When she felt herself sliding, Melanie focused on her long-term future and her goal of buying a house and of being respected by others at her company.

In "Change Anything" parlance, Melanie was "both the scientist as well as the subject" of her own experiment in breaking bad habits. Taking that approach is helpful when it comes to setbacks, because breaking bad habits always involves those. "When you turn down a blind alley, don't get depressed, don't get down. Say, 'that's interesting, I had a setback today' and then try to understand it as a scientist would," Maxfield said. "We are very ineffective when we are depressed."

It's also important in breaking bad habits that stymie career advancement to stop blaming the boss. A study at the Change Anything Lab found that 87% of those surveyed said it's their boss' fault they hadn't gotten promotions they wanted and were sure they deserved. Often, workers say they want to change but they don't think they can because of that obstacle, "so they end up not even trying," Maxfield said, adding that research at the lab has also found that while 70% of those studied were aware their bosses were not happy with their performance, they could not identify what they were dong wrong at work or what they could to do change their situations.

And then there is that old strawman of an excuse: I don't have time. That one is often trotted out when it comes to training and staying up with necessary skills, Maxfield said. High-tech employees in software or hardware development, for instance, have to maintain a high level of technical expertise to advance, he noted. People make time for the things that are important to them, he said, shooting down the time excuse.

So, what should an employee do if they use the methods described in the book and they still can't get ahead because of a supervisor who puts up roadblocks to advancement?

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