Are you sabotaging your career?

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut? Do you look at how effortlessly people navigate the world of work and gain success? Do you scroll through Instagram looking at people’s successful lives, flat stomachs and stick on grins and feel envious or spiteful or just a little sad that this isn’t you.. We all have these moments and if people say they don’t they are lying behind a screen of bravado. This comparing ourselves to others can have an effect on how we perform in the work place. Are we living to our potential or are we living to a reality that we feel that we are suited to, have we just assigned ourselves to not really trying? The legendary RuPaul in his show “RuPaul’s Drag race” often talks about people’s “inner saboteur” where we have the philosophy and mind-set that we are going to fail and often that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what are the signs that you are falling for your inner saboteur and you could be in fact sabotaging your own career?

We often either don’t see opportunities or we talk ourselves out of things that could be great opportunities for us. We don’t have time, I need to focus on my proper job rather than have notions of doing something else, besides what happens if I can’t do my own job because I’ve committed to that project. I will just stay where I am. Or we can sit at our desk and think, well if they thought I would be any good for that role then someone would have spoken to me and they haven’t, so they obviously think that I am not capable or ready for that next step. We justify our inaction in our head without really knowing the truth. We convince ourselves that our truth is the truth. We are all guilty of this at one time or another, we get so focused on the tasks at hand that we fail to see the benefits of grasping other opportunites. First of all, if you sit at your desk quietly waiting to be discovered then that generally will not happen. So start asking yourself “why shouldn’t I be able to do it” and if you feel that you are becoming invisible ask yourself, “ Have I made it clear to my boss, what I want to do, what I am capable of”. They too might be so wrapped up in work and thinking that you are quiet because you are happy in your role. Ask yourself “what would happen if I just did it, if I went for that promotion.. what would be the worst thing that could happen?” You might conjur up feelings of failure and ineptitude but how can you say that is the truth. Start by saying Yes and then focus on each task at hand rather than panicking about the whole job or a feeling of dread. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and grasp them.

In the work place we can be easily fooled by a confident persona, a beaming smile and someone who knows what they are talking about. That person may be brilliant or they could be feeling a fraud exactly like you. Either way you can’t control their success or failure but you can to a large degree control your own. We are always comparing ourselves to other people, making judgements in the office and preconceptions of how good people are at their jobs. Some of these things can be based on fact but they might also just be based on your own insecurities. They could also be a result of painful school memories or people you’ve known in the past who’ve been given the limelight so you project that onto the people in the office rather than projecting yourself into the limelight. I often hear people say to me, “I can’t go for this job as such and such is better qualified”, or “this should be Sue (random name)’s job as she has been here for a long time and deserves it. Well it’s dog eat dog sometimes and I am sure Sue is great but if you don’t put yourself in the ring then no one is going to see you. I have been in situations in the past where I’ve gone for jobs that I think I could do and do well only to be told by colleagues that “that should be such and such’s job and you shouldn’t be going for that”. What is happening here is either them projecting their reasons for not going for the role or some weird misplaced loyalty towards their colleague. Respond professionally and with dignity at all times but don’t let other people’s insecurities stop you from trying.

One of the biggest ways we can sabotage ourselves in the work place is not asking for help. We take on more and more work as we want to impress and please but can’t say no and end up drowning in a sea of work and end up not pleasing anyone. We want to look confident and know what we are doing so we don’t ask for help and think we can figure out what’s asked and then just get into an absolute panic and through stubbornness make the whole thing much more complicated. Ask for help, ask for clarity and make sure you know what you are doing. Manage your time well, don’t mess around and leave yourself with loads to do. Ask your boss what you should prioritise, make them aware of your work load. There is a fine line between this and being a needy child though so make decisions but if it’s all getting too much , then do let someone know.

The feeling of not being good enough can resinate and resurface at various times in our lives, or be just a dull aching constant that stops us from creeping out of our comfort zone. I won’t do that as I won’t be good enough. I’m a bit rubbish really, or that idea it’s alright I guess but I am sure people had much better ones. I interview a lot of people and sometimes the most brilliant and talented people can tell me that they were shocked at being interviewed, can downplay their experience or as someone did recently say “everyone here is much better than me”.  All of that is not true, you are capable and you are talented, it is about coming to that realisation yourself. Some people work with gratitude, writing things that they are proud of each day. Some people like to take a more factual approach and look at achievements as things rather than directly connected to you. That sounds weird but if you looked at your CV as if it was someone else’s I am sure that you would rave about all the exciting things that they had done. People don’t want to boast and brag but talk about what you have done and what you want to do as projects rather than reflections of your ego. It’s not arrogant to talk about what you’ve done and it’s not arrogant to reflect what you want to do. Start thinking “why not me…” someone’s going to get that job someone’s going to write that play.. why can’t that be you.. Sometimes are biggest critics are ourselves and we need to be kinder to ourselves.. if you were saying the things you say to yourself about someone else you would be shocked by the cruel way you spoke so learn to be nice to you.. Take it as a day by day process.

I see common mistakes with people starting out their careers and I want to scream “No you are making life difficult for yourself!”, but sometimes people need to learn lessons for themselves. In TV you can’t be 9 to 5 and there will be shoots, and weekend work and other requirements that will be expected of you. If you are rigid and clock watching then ultimately you are limiting future options for yourself. If you are on a shoot and everyone is running around busy and you are on your phone lolling at twitter or swiping right on tinder, then you are not going to be hired again. If you roll your eyes at your boss and furiously whatsapp your colleagues about how mean they are, well they will probably find out and not re hire you. So just behave professionally, when you want to scream obscenaties then bite your tongue and just remember that old adage of treat people how you want to be treated.

So when you see yourself doing these things, take a breath, stop and tell yourself “what are you doing.. this isn’t right.. I am more than capable” and you will be surprised by how easily success comes to you.

Ten things not to do on an application form 

The idea of filling in an application form can fill you with dread.. how do you sell your skills and secure that interview with only 200 words per question? What can you do to stand out? How do you make yourself interesting? What are the company really looking for? You can send yourself into a whirl of panic and anxiety by over thinking the form. Often at this stage of dread, we talk ourselves out of this and say “Oh i would never have got it anyway” or the old faithful “there are going to be people with much more experience”. You grab a cup of tea and a bourbon biscuit and feel secure that you wouldn’t have got the job anyway. When you feel that way.. ask yourself what if i do get the job and apply for it anyway. I’ve seen thousands of applications over the years and here are some of my thoughts and tips about what not to do.

Use fancy verbose language that doesn’t make sense

Often we think we sound smarter and more professional if we use long words and business language. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but does what you are saying actually make any sense? People throw adjectives into a sentence without really giving them any context.. its great that you have business acumen and are proactive in managing complex scenarios related to precarious negotiations but what are you trying to say? You may want to appear intelligent but actually writing in plain English makes life so much easier. You need to think that someone has to read this and you need to be able to explain things clearly. We want to hear about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it rather than your theoretical strategic ideas. You may sound fancy and intelligent but also you might just be talking nonsense. Don’t fill your application with a series of big words that have no context.

Bad mouth the company

This sounds like super obvious who would slag off their previous company or the company that they are applying to in a job application? You would however be surprised. I know that you might want to just be honest and explain how much you hate your current job and everything in your life led you to working in TV, that’s fine but all i read is how much you hate your job. It can sound a little brattish and a little ungrateful. We’ve all done jobs that are not what we ultimately want to do but what have you learnt from them, what skills have you developed, what is transferable from that particular job.

You almost might think you are being ironic and clever by criticising the company that you are applying for but ask yourself, have they asked for your critique. On a recent application i saw someone wrote “I don’t watch your channel and i would love to come in and explain to you in an interview as to why i don’t”. Challenging, perhaps controversial maybe, but also why are you planning to work on a channel you don’t like. It just looks arrogant and rude. A little bit of humility goes a long way sometimes.

Not bothering to spell check 

This is one of my personal favourites when people talk about their great attention to detail and then half of their words are spelt wrong. We can all be guilty of this but double and triple check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. It just looks lazy and sloppy when you don’t. A lot of people in TV are pedantic about this so don’t give them reason to judge you. Also don’t use slang as well as that really doesn’t go down well.

Writing too little

This is very common and something that i presume people just panic about and don’t write very much so as to just got the application done and sent. Take your time with the application and if it says you have 200 words then use that. Someone recently when asked to suggest a programme idea on an application form wrote “n/a”.. i mean b***h please.. you are just shooting yourself in the foot with that.  Some people write short glib answers to questions, saying things like ” i think i have the necessary skills for the role”.. Great i am sure you do, but i am asking for examples, i want to know what you’ve done.. please sell yourself! I often find myself screaming that in the computer.. well screaming that inside my head so i don’t disturb my colleagues. We will be assessing you on your answers so if there is nothing there then we can’t really, it’s as simple as that.

Writing too much that doesn’t make sense

Sometimes we fill the space with a whole lot of words desperately trying to pad out the prose so you reach the 200 words. Try and be succinct though rather than saying something with a multitude of unnecessary words. This can also be confusing to the reader as they have to search through to find out what you are really trying to say. Sometimes you have to re-read and are no clearer as to what you really mean.

Not answering the questions

We can be so desperate to sell our ability, demonstrate our skills and try and be liked that we avoid the question being asked. We have a script in our head about what we want to say and sometimes we just say it rather than answering the question. The reader is looking for a direct answer to the question and they will be assessing you on that basis. It makes it difficult for them to assess you positively if you haven’t answered the question. Sometimes people like to list achievements or talk about the type of person they are in this situations. It’s great that you are “hard working”, “personable”, can speak to “people at all levels” (how noble of you) but that is not telling me what you’ve done or answering the question. So write your answer, re-read it and re-read it again. Until it makes perfect sense.

Over selling yourself 

It’s great to be confident and to know yourself and you can be so eager and ambitious to climb up the ladder of success. There is nothing wrong with that but right now you are not a Series Producer, you are not a TV expert and you are not “only looking for researcher roles”. Be a bit humble and talk about what you’ve done and what you want to do but be mindful that you still have lots to learn. You are applying for a traineeship, an apprenticeship, be open to learning and developing. People aren’t expecting the finished product. Also don’t over exagerate or use your TV experience to say things that you haven’t done or to see you worked as an Assistant Producer when you were really a runner. People see through that. It is also a small world and i’ve interviewed with many people who’ve said things like “she never did that on that programme” or “that wasn’t his idea that was mine”. So be proud, be truthful but be careful not to spiral into a sea of over exageration and falsehood.

Underselling yourself

I’ve often talked to and interviewed people who have been so unaware of their achievements and all the great things that they have done. They are over apologetic and wrapped in false modesty. It is only after talking that someone let’s slip out “oh i made a film”, or ” I won an award”. I’m generally like “Oh my God that’s amazing!” You need to shout about that, people need to know. I’m then confronted with, “I don’t want to sound boastful”. I get that, i really do, but if you keep all your achievements to yourself how are you going to sell yourself and get that job? This might be weird but imagine that you are talking about someone else and be really factual about what you’ve done. You’d happily sing the praises of a best mate or sibling so treat yourself in that way too. It’s really frustrating when you find out later what someone has done and they haven’t put it on the form.

No contact details or not responding to contact details

This is a real pain in the neck. You want to invite someone to an interview and there are no contact details (yes that happens). You have no choice but to not invite them and that feels such a waste. Also if you put an email on your form then please respond to that email. I’ve contacted people recently for assessment centres where i have clearly asked them to get back to me and i have had to chase two or three times to get an answer.. now that’s just rude. I’ve also emailed people and had no response. Just say if you can’t make it or you’ve got another job or you aren’t interested anymore. Particularly as then we can invite someone else to take your place. It really is selfish not to do that. I am aware as well that sometimes emails can go into people’s junk folders so regularly check them. If you’ve applied for a job then check your email and respond quickly.. it really looks like you can’t be arsed if someone has to chase you up.

Not be available to start work when stated.

Often for schemes and apprenticeships it will clearly say that you need to be able to start on a specific day. It’s really frustrating when people can’t. I sometimes here after a big long process “can i defer for a year as i want to go travelling” Well didn’t you think about that before you went through the whole process. Or people booking holidays when they are due to start, i know some things can’t be helped but if you want a job and know when it starts then do try and start then!