Common Purpose / 15 December 2023

3 Outdated Career Beliefs We Need To Leave Behind In The New Year

Don't let these hold you back from reaching your full potential.


It’s impossible to ignore the ripple on January 1st. As the sun rises on a new year, a sense of newness infiltrates the atmosphere. New perspectives, new goals, and new horizons ooze through conversations with friends, family and passers by. There’s a newfound spring in our steps. We begin to look forwards, not backwards. And, for some at least, anything feels possible.

At Common Purpose, we’re all about resetting our mindsets (whether that’s on January 1, or any other day!), if it is going to have a positive impact on ourselves and on those around us. In the world of work, mindset plays an immensely important role – it can make all the difference between thriving, or feeling stuck. So, if you’re curious about what new perspectives you could bring to your mindset as you head into the new year, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, we unpack three humble truths encompassing outdated career-related beliefs that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

1. I should be able to define my purpose from the get-go

As EvolveCareers Managing Director Andy Coxall poignantly points out in this reflection, the societal expectation that everyone should have figured out their purpose by the time (or even before) they’ve entered their mid-20s is, frankly speaking, preposterous.

It’s simply not realistic to know what kind of work truly brings you joy when you haven’t even experienced doing said work. Instead, think about where your interests lie, and explore a range of options that might include that interest, among other things.

When Andy struggled to define his purpose, he didn’t allow that to stop him from dipping his toes into fields that interested him, where he felt comfortable and driven. As he moved through different roles in the education sector, and more specifically in roles helping young people as they stepped into the world of work, he realised (without even trying) that his purpose had been there all along. He just didn’t have the words to articulate it. And guess what? That’s okay – like Andy, you can also navigate a career path that feels most right to you without needing to justify it to one specific purpose.

So, think about what you like doing, what makes you feel good and what gives you a sense of fulfilment. It doesn’t have to feel like your life’s calling – just trust the process and follow it, because before you know it, you might just realise your purpose found you.

2. It’s too late to start a new career

Words and phrases like ‘burnout’ and ‘quiet quitting’ have dominated workplace verbiage in recent years, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as our world has grappled with more complex and challenging issues than ever before. As a result, it’s made a lot of people take a step back and really evaluate what they want in their life – and specifically, if their career is complimenting that, or holding them back.

For those that feel the latter, a change of scene is paramount, but the common notion that it might be too late to start afresh in a completely different industry can feel stifling, and let’s admit it, impossible.

But we’re here to tell you that actually, it is possible. Julia Child published her first cookbook at 49-years-old, and Vera Wang started designing wedding gowns at age 40. And there are a multitude of opportunities out there that you can start working towards, or embrace no matter what age you are.

Consider the skills you’ve already developed in your current role, and allow this to empower you (or maybe even transfer) into the next stage of your career. If you can get as far as you have in one industry, there’s nothing to say you can’t do the same in another if you are in a position to set your mind to it, be open to learning and to give it time.

3. Being a good networker is everything

Have you ever felt that impending sense of dread at the thought of schmoozing a bunch of senior leaders at an event in a bid to make them notice you? Ever felt disheartened at the idea of trying to impress someone you barely know when it feels all but certain they won’t remember your name? There is no doubt networking can play an important role in progressing a career, but you don’t necessarily have to take the route least comfortable – and nor do you have to feel like the onus is all on you to provide value.

Instead, reframe your mindset and base it around the following mantra: Be a connector, not a networker.

How? Think less about immediately trying to win over the people with their fingers in all of the pies, and start by connecting with someone with maybe just one finger in one pie. For example, try speaking to someone who has recently joined your industry of interest. While they might not have the prize-winning contact or the authority to get you in (or promote you) themselves, what they do have is have valuable insights about how they got their job, and they can also provide a new perspective about what to expect if you are to work and progress in the field.

In return, think about all the things you can give to them. You have a wealth of new knowledge, as well as a driven, motivated mindset to get ahead. Your knowledge is powerful when you are coming in from the outside – think about the things you have that they might be missing, and harness it when you connect with others in the industry.

And while yes, this may feel like a smaller, slower way to start, taking this time to connect with the community and sentiment within the industry in which you hope to excel in is so important. It will give you more confidence, more like-minded acquaintances, and most importantly, it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of the impact you can make.

This appreciation and commitment to your work can prove to just as (if not more) successful as charming a CEO with witty banter and intellectual conversation in person – there’ll be plenty of time for that when you actually feel comfortable and confident in your role down the track!


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