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How to get out of your own way and advance in your career

By Stephanie Mitton

Sometimes there are barriers to growth in our careers that are out of our control; you could be dealing with a jealous colleague that constantly throws you under the bus, a boss that doesn’t see your potential, or education requirements that you don’t have.

But there is another barrier that is often overlooked as we search for someone to blame for our stagnation, and that person is you. That can be hard to hear, but the reality is that it is often true.

In Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In (COO of Facebook), she writes about the challenges women face to get ahead, including the barriers women create themselves. One of the obstacles she highlights is the internal struggle that can hold women back. She gives an example of a meeting with the then US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the women in the room chose not to sit at the table, and according to Sandburg, "they seemed like spectators rather than participants... It was a watershed moment for me. A moment when I witnessed how an internal barrier can alter women's behavior."

In podcast episode 21, I interview Rhiannon Rosalind, entrepreneur and the President, CEO, and Owner of the Economic Club of Canada. Rhiannon talks about the role you play in advancing your own career. She says that you have to hustle and put in the hard work if you want to achieve results. She also talks about having the right attitude, even when something goes wrong. Instead of getting frustrated, we should be asking ourselves, “what can I learn?”.

Rhiannon was only 26 when she became CEO, President, and Owner of the Economic Club, when I asked her about the success she achieved at such a young age, she responded, “the cornerstone of that story is attitude, hard work and be open to learning.”

Caroline Riseboro, the President and CEO of Plan Canada echoes this advice. In episode 18 of the podcast she shares, “so often young women disqualify themselves of the chance even before they put themselves out there, because they may not believe they should have a seat at the table.” She goes on to share, “it is not just good enough to be at the table and share your voice, you also have to actually take action and deliver and follow through.”

I agree with Rhiannon and Caroline, I know that I have worked very hard and that my hustle has contributed to my success, at the same time I catch myself creating barriers. This past week I was preparing for interviews for my work at Children First Canada, when I became very stressed. I kept thinking about how I didn't have enough media experience, and the fear was making it difficult for me to concentrate to properly prepare. My own mental game was inhibiting my success. And then it dawned on me, I have done a lot of media throughout my life, I also have had media training... how could I forget? And to top it off I even forgot that during my dip into politics I had done a slew of interviews. I was shocked when I realized what had happened, I got out of my own head, and began to put in the work to prepare for my interviews and was able to address the doubt and lower my stress level.

At the end of the day your career may have champions, mentors and even barriers,

but you play a fundamental role in your success. Your attitude and willingness to put in the hard work can change the trajectory of your career. Women are needed in the world, our contributions make a difference at our kitchen tables AND at the corporate table; AND as we break down external barriers we also need to ensure that we are getting out of our own way.

“If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.”

― Sheryl Sandberg

I would love to know how you have overcome barriers that you created, please share in the comments!

For more on my interviews visit these links, Rhiannon and Caroline.

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