Let’s face it, we all like being comfortable. I love my comfortable jeans, my most cushy pair of shoes, and the amazing new mattress on my bed. I love the comfort that I have being a self-employed person, of being able to work from home when I want, set my own hours, and choose how much speaking I want to do. However, comfort comes at a price. When we get TOO comfortable, we get complacent and complacency is a career killer.
Here are five signs that complacency may be killing your career.
1. You no longer give your best effort.
Once we’ve achieved a certain level of proficiency or expertise, it’s really easy to stop growing, stop trying as hard, and settle into a comfort zone. We go from giving things our best effort to being comfortable, doing work that’s good enough. I’ve noticed for myself, when I get too comfortable, or call it complacency or cockiness, in doing a particular task, that’s usually when I make my biggest mistakes. In today’s competitive job market, the only thing “good enough” is going to get you is a spot in the unemployment line. There’s a lot of competition for a limited number of jobs and there are a lot of hungry people out there who would be happy to beat your “good enough” effort. Doing your best every day on every task, no matter how small, is critical. Taking initiative, being proactive, and taking on new challenges will keep you fresh and relevant at work.
2. You take your coworkers, clients, and network for granted.
You assume they’ll be there for you and don’t take the time to maintain these relationships, even though you’re doing the work for them. Have you taken the time lately to thank them for your relationship, or for something they’ve done for you? Do you compliment them on a job well done or congratulate them on their accomplishments? If you don’t, these relationships may be fading without you even knowing it. When these relationships dim, you’ll likely find yourself “out of the loop” and the last to know (or never know) important information that could affect your career.
3. You’re not building and maintaining your networks and relationships.
Many times our most active networking periods are when we’re looking for a new job. Once we’re comfortably employed, complacency causes us to stop cultivating our relationships. We make lots of excuses and say we don’t have time to network and visit with those outside our organization. However, it’s critical that we take the time, in fact schedule it, to stay connected with former colleagues, peers in professional organizations, and even former clients and business contacts. When you cultivate these relationships, through communication and by helping others, these connections will open doors to opportunities you never would have known existed.
4. You don’t stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in your field and industry.
If you’re not reading journals, attending conferences and workshops, doing research in your field, and possibly speaking in your area of expertise, your complacency is probably causing you to fall behind your peers who are. Even more importantly, new employees and subordinates are probably keeping up to date and when their knowledge and skills surpass you, you’ll likely become obsolete and could find yourself unemployed and unemployable. In this information age, it’s critical that professionals stay up to date on what’s going on in their field and industry and it’s SO easy to do so. You don’t even have to leave your desk to read journals, do research, participate in LinkedIn groups, or even speak at a virtual event.
5. You’re not involved in professional organizations related to your field or industry.
For many years, 15 in fact, I worked in a vacuum. When I first started my business I became very involved in the American Society for Training and Development, ASTD (now the Association for Talent Development, ATD). When my speaking business took off, so did I. I left ASTD around 1996 and didn’t get involved in another field-related professional organization until 2014. In 2014, Rob Pennington, then the president of the Houston Chapter of the National Speakers Association, came to speak at a breakfast I was attending. We quickly struck up a conversation and the next month, I joined NSA. I’ve said it 100 times and I’ll say it here again, I wish I’d done that 15 years ago. I’ve learned so much, made so many amazing connections, gained several friends-for-life, and grown my business exponentially. Just a month ago, I also re-joined ATD and plan to get involved in that organization as well. It’s so easy to become isolated in our working lives and so critical that we don’t allow that to happen. However, we have to make the time to get involved in professional organizations. There are so many professional organizations out there, it’s easy to find one that’s a good fit for your skills and interests.
Complacency is not an overnight career killer. It causes your career to make a slow death. So slow that if you’re not paying attention, it just might sneak up on you. Be sure you’re heeding these warning signs and that you’re taking steps to keep yourself relevant and engaged in your own career success. If you’re not doing it, no one else is going to do it for you.
Amy Castro is a workplace and leadership communication expert, speaker, and blogger. She is also the author of Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.
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