Throughout your career, there will be skills, personal characteristics, people, and environments that are holding you down and preventing you from moving in the direction you want. Visualise a boat that has set its anchor down, the boat can move as far as the anchor allows in a circle, often blown by the wind. That’s a pretty good metaphor for what can happen in your career, sometimes it feels like you will be going round in circles, and you’re tied down. Maybe it’s time for change?
In order to take control of your professional development, it could be time to cut those anchors loose and sail away towards your goals. However, as usual, these sorts of developmental statements are easier said than done.
In this article, I will help you to identify what is holding you back and create strategies to remove them from your future.
What are Professional Anchors?
A professional anchor is something or someone who is preventing you from moving forward, or slowing down your progression. Let’s stick with the water-based analogies, are you flowing towards your professional goals like a river, a stream, a trickle, a leaky tap, totally blocked by a damn, or held down by an anchor?
Most professional roles and environments have a shelf life, development ceiling or a maximum rate of progression that is possible for employees. Pretty similar to when you put the anchor down on a sailboat, you will move around in a circle and at the beginning, it can feel like there is plenty of room for movement. Over time, that limited amount of movement can become restrictive and actually hold you back from where you want to go.
Professional anchors can be broken down into the following areas:
- Professional skills
- A personal characteristic
- People around you
- In the workplace
- In your personal circle
- The environment
Let’s have a dive into each of these areas. Some will resonate with you, and some will not, but all should make sense.
Like on any job spec, there are required professional skills for that role. Here are some examples of professional skills which can hold people back:
- Technology literacy
- Communication skills
- Feeding back information
- You to player communication
- You to coach communication
- You to hierarchy communication
- Technical knowledge/skills (industry-specific knowledge)
- Hierarchical awareness
- Sport-specific knowledge
- Personality awareness
Sometimes due to age, experience or opportunity, you might not actually have the required skills to do the job. This is absolutely normal, the big question to ask yourself though is:
‘Is the lack of this skill/s holding me back?
In the next section, we are going to discuss what to do if the answer is yes.
An industry-specific qualification shows the employer that you have undergone the required education and therefore have the base level of skill and understanding to do the job.
Quite simply a qualification can be the difference between landing in the YES pile or the NO pile.
Whilst qualifications can get your foot in the door, experience is what is going to show the employer that you are the solution to their problems. Equally progression opportunities often come when all/the majority of learning has been done in your current role.
Whilst you can’t fight time you can maximise what you are doing to enhance your chances of moving forwards. In the next section, we will discuss what you CAN do about not having the required experience level to progress.
A Personal Characteristic
This is a tough one because it requires self-awareness or openness to feedback to be able to both identify it and change it.
Examples of personal characteristics or behaviours which might be holding you back:
- Communication skills
- Work ethic
- Being too opinionated
- Not giving your opinion
- Not earning your stripes (impatience)
It is difficult to identify elements of your character or behaviour which are holding you back professionally, especially when in the early phase of your career (a Career Blueprint term Breaker). This is one of the major reasons why a mentor can be so impactful on your career, they help you identify your blind spots and build plans to eradicate them.
The process that a mentor will guide you through should be identical to the one with which you can guide yourself, and that relates to self-reflection. We will talk about this more in the next section.
People Around You
This is potentially the most damaging of them all and falls into 2 pretty distinctive categories
- In the work environment
- Out of the work environment
1. In the work environment
These people are the individuals that you work for, with and or/look after. Each of these subgroups can suck the life out of you and prevent you from moving forwards. This can be due to their negative influence on you, their approach to their work or simply their professional conduct.
2. Outside of the work environment
Friends, family and your social circle have the ability to give you energy or take it from you. You either have people around you who inspire you and push you to grow or they hold you back.
It could be considered a bit extreme to cut away family if they aren’t giving you the positivity you need and want, so the next section will discuss what you can do to help mitigate/manage any negative impact your loved ones may have on your growth.
This can be anything from the geographical location you work/live in or the environment in your place of work. This would tend to be a combination of the people, their attitudes, the organisation’s culture or way of operating through to the cleanliness of the buildings/area.
Also included is what activities you do, specifically related to what you enjoy, if they are giving you energy or taking it and how monotonous your personal and professional environment is.
How are they holding you back?
Above we discussed what types of anchors exist and how you can identify them. What is important next is to realise specifically how they are holding you back. All of the anchors mentioned above can prevent you from moving forwards in your growth and development, but it isn’t always easy to identify how.
An audit of your environment and circle can be really beneficial in identifying what the anchors are and then what impact that has on you. For example, having negative colleagues can take your energy, lower your mood and make your working day less enjoyable. Over time this can build into dissatisfaction at work, lethargy and potentially burnout, all of these things can of course spread into your personal life.
The first step is identifying the anchors, then the next step is to try to understand what it is that anchor is actually doing and then consider the impact of this on you. Let’s use another example to solidify this point.
Let’s say you don’t have the correct qualification to apply for a promotion, pay rise or better job. This is clearly holding you back from progressing, accessing a better salary, potentially more responsibility and job satisfaction. The potential outcome for you is that you can get stuck in your current role, become stale and dissatisfied in the workplace which can all have an impact on your confidence and general wellbeing.
The impact of one or more anchors is quite individual, but what is fundamentally important is that you identify them, understand what direct impact they have on you and then build a plan to cut that anchor loose.
How to cut those anchors loose.
You have identified that anchor, realised the direct impact it/they are having on your growth and now it’s time to mitigate the impact/cut the anchor loose. The hardest part is done, which is identifying and understanding that something needs to change.
Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to cut the anchor away, it can be as simple as a change in job or location. But with people in your social circle or family, it can be really difficult to do. When it is not possible to cut them away it’s all about limiting the impact that anchor has on you and finding ways to manage either:
- Your exposure to that person
- The topics which sap your energy
Again, this is not easy, but you can and need to take control to preserve your own wellbeing and development. It is all about figuring out what you CAN do in this situation. It might be that you simply choose not to interact with the person who is stealing your energy or perhaps you only meet when in a larger group setting where communication is easier. Equally, guiding the conversation away from the energy-draining conversations is going to help you reduce the impact of the anchor in situations where you can’t cut them loose.
In the workplace, it is important to focus on building healthy professional relationships, sometimes this will require you to change your communication style and adapt to others. This is another good management strategy when someone is not having a positive impact on you professionally.
What can I learn from this situation? This is a great way to reframe difficult situations and interactions, if you can ask yourself this question you can take away some positives from even the most difficult of situations and mitigate the impact of the anchor.
It is really important to keep control and be smart with the decisions you make with your anchors. Rash decisions relating to job/life changes can come back to bite you further down the line. So make sure that if you do need to change jobs that you have set yourself up before you jump and that you leave the place of work amicably and professionally.
In summary, anchors hold you down and prevent you from moving forwards as a practitioner and a person. It is really easy for this to spill over into your personal life which can then start to impact your health and wellbeing. So, follow these 3 steps identify your anchors, understand their direct impact on you and then build a plan to cut them loose.
Take back control and set your own path.
Keep an eye on the website for a lot more content coming out relating to happiness, health and wealth for performance practitioners.
Thanks for reading.
The Practitioner Wellness Guy