Is ‘Hard Work’ Holding You Back?

You know it takes more than hard work and results to get ahead at work, right? So why do you keep working harder and expecting to get promoted? Here’s two ways you can break the cycle.

Do you believe if you work hard enough, eventually you will be rewarded? If so, it’s probably served you well in your career – driving you to go above and beyond at work and be a high-performing employee.

But you’ve also likely learned the hard way that this belief about work is flawed. That it takes more than hard work to get rewarded and promoted.

Yet once you learned being a high performer wasn’t enough to get promoted, what did you start doing differently based on this knowledge

Crickets? Well, if you struggle to answer this question, you’re not alone.

Many business professionals fail to do something different to advance their careers even after realizing hard work and results aren’t enough to get promoted.

Hard Work: The Trap of Tunnel Vision

A while back I had a conversation with one of my former rock-star marketing managers. He was upset because he had just been passed over for a promotion.

He explained all the reasons why this was the year he deserved (and expected) to get promoted. His justification included a long list of super impressive accomplishments.

He told me this even though he knew getting promoted took more than being a high performer—this wasn’t his first rodeo.

It turns out his mentality about hard work and results had created a tunnel vision about what it would take to get ahead. He was operating on autopilot despite knowing better.

He fell into the trap of doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome.

Work Mentality is Hard to Change


But deeply held convictions can do that to you. They hardware your decision-making and behavior, making it very difficult to stop doing what’s not working and start doing something different.

It’s one thing to know that hard work isn’t enough to get promoted. It’s an entirely different thing to come to terms with this knowledge.


Because it can be super hard to let go of how you think things SHOULD work to accept the reality of how things REALLY work.

But only after accepting it can you move on and do something about it.

Change Your Way of Working

If your current way of working doesn’t help you advance your career, you MUST do something different. Here’s two concepts to consider:

1. Have an Open Mind

Be open to alternative approaches to advance your career. In other words, once you recognize your hard work is not paying off with a promotion, consider what else you can do to get ahead.

Expand your mindset and reframe what it takes to reach your career goals. Move from one-dimensional thinking (hard work should be rewarded) to multi-dimensional thinking (hard work + new skills will be rewarded).

This means being open to developing other essential skills and abilities, like learning how to:

Each of these additional abilities (and more) can help fuel new ways to advance your career.

2. Iterate & Learn

Manage your career performance the same way you manage your work performance:

  • If a marketing campaign doesn’t produce leads, you change your tactics.
  • If a sales methodology doesn’t close new deals, you adapt your process.
  • If a business strategy doesn’t deliver results, you pivot to a new plan.
  • If a compensation package doesn’t incentivize sellers, you change the model.

Well, this same approach holds true for your career. Experiment with new approaches to optimize your results.

Treat your growth and development as an iterative process where you learn, adapt, optimize, and pivot.

Afterall, what it takes to get promoted as an entry-level professional is very different than what it takes to get promoted to a senior-level role. It only makes sense that your approach needs to adapt accordingly.

More Than One Way Forward

Remember, there’s always more than one way to achieve our goals.

The key is finding the specific actions or behavior changes that produce the desired results—to adjust and pivot based on what you learn.

This is often easier said than done. But it’s essential to advance your career.

Ask yourself, how’s your current way of working, working for you? And if it’s not working out the way you want, only you can change it!



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