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Could eagerness hurt your career?

Conventional wisdom says that you should always be on the lookout for career opportunities and chances to advance. But could showing  eagerness actually hurt you in the end? Sterling Whitehead’s Sept. 20 blog post on GovLoop suggests just that. Instead of moving on to the next big thing, employees should take the time to enjoy their current careers, he writes. 

Whitehead's advice is: Enjoy the moment, appreciate the opportunities you have to accomplish things where you are and don't try to move on before you’re ready, he writes. 

“People are often promoted up to the level of their competence then can't go any higher,” he writes. “You may be able to reduce the odds of this happening to you by achieving the level of competence needed before moving on. Even if you are offered a position, it may not be the best move at that time. You may just be setting yourself up for failure.”

In this case, "don't be too eager to move on" is good advice, Whitehead says. Your eagerness and ambition could be your downfall; taking the time to learn, enjoying your job and then advancing could be your best bet.

“That's not to say ambition is always a bad thing — like most things in life, ambition is a double-edged sword,” Whitehead writes. “If you can wield it properly, you have a career weapon in your career arsenal. If not, it'll cut you.”

Blog readers were quick to chime in on Whitehead’s blog, most of them agreeing that refraining from jumping at every opportunity is sound advice.

“Whenever I see discussions in which people say they are 'looking for new challenges,' I generally tilt my head to the side, quizzically, like the RCA Victor dog,” Mark Hammer wrote. “My response is generally that, as a mature adult, I don't need challenges. I'm certainly up to them, but I know who I am, where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and what I can do, and don't need to prove anything to anyone or to myself. If another job, initiative or task needs me more than my present one does, so be it, I'll be there to serve. But I don't need that job for me.”

Another reader, Kati Knowles, said she could relate to always being eager. 

“Good advice! I'm still so early on in my career and am incredibly eager,” she wrote. “I have to constantly remind myself that timing is everything and everything happens when it is supposed to happen. Moment of zen for the day :)”

A third reader agreed with the previous posters and said always thinking about that next big opportunity could mean you’re missing out.

“I like to think of this as being present,” Jessica Strugibenetti commented. “If you're constantly in a hurry to get to the 'next big thing' before you're ready, you might miss out on some really wonderful moments both personally and professionally.”

FCW readers, what do you think? Could being too eager hurt you in the long run? Or is it better to chase every chance to move up?  

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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Reader comments

Fri, Sep 30, 2011

I thrive on challenges. If only my job had more than the occasional one.

Mon, Sep 26, 2011

I have just celebrated my 25th year of service to America in Civil Service. 'Technically', I was qualified for the next grade after working 52 weeks in current grade. However, I stayed in the same job/grade level for about 3-5 years before starting to apply for higher level positions. Sometimes, I even paid my own move and/or took a lateral (same grade to same grade) so that I could get into a job series that had growth potential since I had (and still do) many years before retirement. Unfortuately, a lot of the now generation want to bosses right now, give it to owe me, etc and don't want to put the time in to learn anything or gain experience which would make them better management. A college degree (book learning) while very good, is not all that it takes to be a worthwhile employee.

Mon, Sep 26, 2011

I want to do my best, but I'm working with a bunch of selfish people that won't share knowledge or are jealous that I have a Masters in Information Technology. I want to learn, to share, to be a team, they don't. I make some suggestions and they take it and say they came up with the idea. Some one told me I should just find another job. I've been on this one almost 4 years. My promotion has been held up because of this. I'm tired of this treatment.

Mon, Sep 26, 2011 40-year HR Professional

Constantly looking for the next big thing is not a trait supervisors look for in an employee. That shows you're just looking for the money. Better to be the best you can be, learn, learn, and move when things are right.

Mon, Sep 26, 2011 FedLady

I have to agree with the posted comment. All too often, you see the "I've paid my dues" attitude, and the expectation that the job should GROW as the employee who has been there forever needs to earn more money. If you are topped out and feel you can do more and can contribute more, go out and seek an opportunity, it will not, or should not, seek you. In addition, I have seen the very eager jump ship over and over for the "next big thing" and eventually, they work themselves up the ladder to a nice high paid job that they can't perform and end up out of a job. They never took the time to LEARN the job before climbing the ladder to "success". This advice is GREAT, but most who receive this advice and read this aricle will have the attitude of "you just don't want to see ME get ahead" so let them go and crash and burn!

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