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The habits that are holding you back from career success

Written on Jul 29, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager  

Women are held back in the workplace when they are reluctant to claim their achievements, one leadership expert says. 


“If you feel awkward talking about what you’ve achieved, treat it as information,” said Sally Helgesen during her opening session at last Thursday’s Women, Wealth & Wellness Virtual Conference. “It’s information that is valuable to others and beneficial for them to know.” 

Helgesen is familiar with habits that can hinder career trajectory, as she and Marshall Goldsmith wrote the popular book “How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job.” It was the first book read this year by the OSCPA Women’s Initiative Book Club. 

During her session, Helgesen went over some of the habits that hold women back from growing in their careers, and said “the language of contribution, not achievement,” can be helpful for those who feel uncomfortable letting others know their accomplishments. 

One useful phrase Helgesen suggested is “Our team achieved X, I contributed Y,” to let your manager know how you made a difference. Helgesen said oftentimes professionals hope their superiors will notice all their great work, but she said the reality is they might be so busy and not realize what you’ve done unless you make a point to tell them. 

Another habit to avoid is putting your job before your career, Helgeson said. 

“This happens when you invest all your energies in the job you have, expecting that if you do a superb job that will lead you forward,” she said. “And often it doesn’t work that way.” 

Helgesen said there can be a “loyalty trap,” that women fall into, where they feel so loyal to their current role or current team that they miss opportunities to advance or grow their skills. She shared stories of women who had managers tell them they were so indispensable in their position that the manager never wanted them to leave that role. 

Being invested in your job isn’t a bad thing, Helgesen said, but it’s crucial to consider a strategy for where you want your job to take you. That might mean turning down responsibilities that were previously yours because they no longer fit with your position or delegating tasks to teammates who will grow from the opportunity while giving you time to focus on other pursuits. 

“You don’t need to know precisely how your career will develop,” Helgesen said. “But you need to have a sense of your yourself and tell others.” 

The Women, Wealth and Wellness Virtual Conference is complete for this year, but you can continue your learning with the Women, Wealth and Wellness On-Demand Bundle.