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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

Why We Struggle in Our Climb

In my career, I’ve faced struggles and hardships, and like many of us, I’ve poured my heart into my work and sometimes suffered as a result. I always tell people that there is no real distinction between personal and professional, and for that reason, I think a bit of struggle in your quest to get a seat at the table is normal.

If you’ve never struggled in your career, would you kindly email or DM me so I can figure out what secret sauce you’ve been consuming to make you such a rare exception?

However, what I want to talk about today are the struggles that consistently pop up, repeating themselves in a destructive and irritating pattern in our careers and the three ways I’ve found to identify and overcome those struggles.

There are things we have to do in our work, and there are things we have to be.

When I talk about the things we have to be, I’m speaking of having the right credentials and certificates, being educated, having the experience to qualify us to do the job. Being qualified is a state of being, right? In addition to that, we must also be doing the work we need to be doing to succeed. That means different things in different positions, like hitting a sales goal, completing a project on time, organizing an effective group effort, or whatever it is that you want to be knocking out of the park.

If your climb is a struggle, take a look, and make sure that you have the right combination of these factors. If either is unbalanced (maybe you need an advanced degree, maybe you need to nail a few projects in a row), it may end up holding you back long term.

In my career, I was focused too much on the doing of the work. For people of color, this is a common theme, because we have to be excellent in our work. It’s a fact of life that people of color experience discrimination, and I think many of us were taught that we have to be better than everyone else just to get in the door. Despite this reality, a balance of being good and doing well is important for reducing friction in your professional climb.

I see this in our young people who come to work fresh out of college. I’ve noticed they tend to over-focus on the doing component of their work, and they didn’t know how to nurture the relationship aspect of their career. I think this is somewhat natural because office relationships are a skill like anything else and not something they probably learned much about in school.

I remember right after I graduated, I was the same way. I came to work, kept my head down, and focused on my output. But the problem with neglecting your professional relationships is that you end up lacking people who advocate for you when you’re not in the room. If you want to get tapped for a promotion or nominated for an exciting project, it’s going to be more difficult for you if you don’t have a network of people who might think of you when those opportunities come up.“Hey, I think so-and-so would be a great fit for this project.”

It’s a powerful tool to have your belt, and nurturing those relationships is as important as being certain you’re hitting your performance goals. Balance your being and your doing in the workplace, and it will give your career a sense of balance and ease that’s impossible if you’re only doing one and not the other.

Need help with your specific professional challenges? Book a one-on-one with me and let’s come up with a strategy for your situation together.

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