Career Beliefs. What are they, where do they come from and which are getting in your way?
What assumptions or beliefs do you hold around the world of work and where you fit into it? We all grow up being influenced by the unique collection of environments we find ourselves in. Whether it’s your family, your school or the country you’re born in, all of these environments will come to influence what you believe is possible in your career.
Why do these beliefs matter? The short answer is that these beliefs can subconsciously make you limit your own options and underrate your own potential. Once you do start to understand the career beliefs you hold, you will be able to select which of the beliefs you choose to buy into. Here is a list of some of the classic career beliefs that hold many of us back!
That is a job for a man/women
It’s in primary school that many of us begin forming our beliefs and biases that link certain careers with certain genders. It might be that you think nursing or teaching are jobs for women or that a man would be a better fit as an engineer or surgeon. The catch is that when these beliefs are left unchallenged they can often stick with you for life.
Shifting these biases can actually be quite simple once you know that they exist. The key is to become conscious of when you do link a certain job with a certain gender and to challenge that belief. Is it really true and have there been strong examples of people you know or role models who have defied your bias? This is particularly important if you are thinking of pursuing that career or a similar pathway.
That job is not important
Like associating gender with certain roles, in primary school we also start to create a subconscious hierarchy around what jobs we believe are more important than others. This belief can empower students to move into essential roles like medicine, but it can also devalue many of the important jobs that make up the fabric of society.
Imagine a world without people picking up garbage, working in early childcare or looking after the elderly. This would create a huge problem, yet these are a few of the jobs that people typically consider to be low in the ranking of ‘important’ jobs. This belief might be limiting your willingness to follow an important, but perceived as less socially valued career, or it may even be making you feel like your job and impact is not important because it is not seen as ‘highly valued’ by society. Question these beliefs because society relies on a diversity of roles and it is not just the ‘high profile’ roles that matter.
Corporate jobs are the best way to make lots of money
This career belief has steadily gained traction over the last hundred years and it’s not often that people stop to really question whether corporate roles are the best way to earn money and whether this should even be a key consideration. Don’t fall into this trap as there is a diversity of roles that will help you to achieve your goal of financial independence; and before you start jumping into a corporate role spend some time considering where your unique skills and strengths could be best utilised.
I need to go to university to get a good job
We currently live in a university-biased culture. Access to a university education has steadily increased over the last fifty years and what used to be a style of education only for a small portion of society has come to be considered by many as the only path to finding ‘a good job’. For many jobs a university education is a great asset and in some cases essential, but it is not for everyone and it’s important to challenge the belief that there is only one pathway (university) to finding your dream job. Many alternative pathways are just as valid such as TAFE and apprenticeships.
I am not smart enough for that job
For this career belief, the work of psychologist Carol Dweck on the growth mindset is key. Growth mindset is the belief that your abilities are learned and gained through deliberate practice and experience, as opposed to a fixed mindset which sees your skills and abilities as fixed or genetic. Schools in particular are the space in which so many of us develop closed mindsets around our potential in certain areas.
The truth is that if you had good reason and the time to invest strongly in building a certain skill like your maths skills you would be able to do it. You might not be the next Einstein, but with good teaching and enough practice you have the ability to cultivate any skills. Your brain is designed to grow and learn and the more than you fire new pathways in the brain, the more they will grow. Try not to be limited by the belief that you are not smart enough for something. Challenge yourself, dig deep and practice hard.
I don’t have all of the qualifications for that role so I shouldn’t apply
There is a widely cited statistic from a 2014 Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog that highlights that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. This is the ‘I don’t have enough experience, so I won’t try and apply’ belief that is researched to particularly impact women. Often when hiring for a role it is not about finding a candidate with 100% of the skills as they are likely to get bored quickly, but it is about finding someone that has the mindset and transferable skills to grow into the role. So don’t sell yourself short. Apply for the role. What’s the worst they can say?
These are just some of the common career beliefs that often hold people back. Take some time to stop and question what are the career beliefs that you have inherited from your family, schooling, workplace or community and how are they impacting you. One easy activity is to spend 10 minutes on each of the above categories (family, school, etc) and think about what are the beliefs that you have inherited from that environment and how are those impacting on your career today? Remember knowledge is power. Once you know a belief isn’t working for you, you will be able to get creative and find a way to shake it off!