Find Your Dream Job, Episode 294:
Why Limiting Career Beliefs Matter and How to Beat Them, with Dr. Tega Edwin
Airdate: May 5, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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Many of us tell ourselves stories about our abilities that just aren’t true. This negative self-talk can sabotage your job search and your career.
Our guest today says it takes a strategy and patience to overcome these doubts.
Dr. Tega Edwin is here to talk about why limiting career beliefs matter and how to beat them.
She’s a career counselor and coach. Tega helps women who are unhappy at work get clarity so they can find a fulfilling career.
She joins us from St. Louis, Missouri.
Well, Tega, here’s where I want to start. Let’s start with the basics, what exactly are career limiting beliefs?
Yeah, Mac, so limiting career beliefs are thoughts or stories that we have about ourselves that can increase the negative emotions that we feel when it’s time to make career decisions. So, emotions like guilt, shame, fear, anxiety can all be exacerbated based on our career beliefs.
Why is it important to pay attention to these beliefs, especially during a job search, Tega?
While our beliefs determine how we approach creating and setting our goals for ourselves, our beliefs also determine how we make decisions about our career, how we approach learning new skills, exploring new interests. And so if you’re someone who’s going into a job search, and you believe that you will not find a job that maybe pays you a goal salary that you have for yourself or that you will not find a job that you genuinely enjoy and thrive in, then you are less likely to be open to those opportunities and more likely to engage in behaviors that might actually sabotage your own job search because you don’t believe in the outcome that you wanted to have in any way.
How do these career limiting beliefs happen, Tega?
Oh man, they just occur over time and with the stories that we hear from the world. Sometimes, it’s from our own experiences. So, if we’ve had a negative experience, we start to think and believe that that’s the way the world works and we internalize that. Sometimes, it’s from things that we’ve been told, whether it’s from childhood, whether it’s in other jobs, whether we’ve been told that we didn’t have the skills, that we weren’t smart enough, we weren’t worthy, whatever that may be. Usually, they come from external messages and personal experiences that then cause us to adopt those beliefs as how we see the world.
You work with so many job seekers in your practice; do you see a common career limiting belief come up again and again?
Yeah, I think the main one that I see in the work that I do is the lack of belief that they have the ability to actually find work that they love. A lot of times, I’ll hear the women that I work with say things like, “Can I really find a job that I’ll enjoy? I feel like work is just miserable for everybody. Do I really have the ability to find something that is fulfilling and still get paid?”
So believing that they’re mutually exclusive, “I can’t find work that I love and get paid what I call a value-aligned salary.”
That’s a common one that I often see that we have to tackle and work on when I’m working with my clients.
When you work with your clients, Tega, do they recognize, say, the example that you just shared is a career limiting belief, or do they think that that’s just a fact of life?
I would say the latter; they sometimes think it’s a fact but that’s why I start with conversations about mindset and beliefs. So, my goal before we even start to work is to bring those beliefs to the forefront so that we can identify what they are. Because a lot of times, especially, I think of the job search, we just take these actions, we’re searching, we’re interviewing, we’re applying, without actually stopping to think about what we believe about this process that we’re engaging in. And what we don’t realize is that our beliefs are driving what we’re doing in the process, so I like to and really get clear about the beliefs.
What do you believe about this process? What do you believe about yourself? Before we even go in, so that as we start the real work, or the deeper work we can identify where that belief is showing up. We can pause and say, “Okay, that thought that you had earlier about not being worthy of a fulfilling career, I can see it playing out. Let’s address what’s happening in this moment.”
I want to talk about that work, but let’s step back for just a moment, Tega, and talk more about just how those career limiting beliefs affect the clients that you work with in a job search. What practically do you see happen when people don’t address them?
Some things that I’ve seen when people don’t address their belief is, one, not going up for opportunities at work. So, if you don’t believe that you will get an opportunity anyway, you’re more likely not to put your name forward, more likely not to apply for it. When we think of money, if you don’t believe that you will get the raise, if you already doubt that they will take you seriously, you’re less likely to ask for the raise, or more likely to take no for an answer when you hear it the first time, and totally back off.
I’ve seen the limiting beliefs keep some people stuck in unfulfilling careers. So, when they don’t believe that they can find work that they can thrive in, when you don’t believe that you can actually enjoy the work that you’re doing, then you’re more likely to stay in a role that is pretty much sucking the life out of you because you don’t think that anything else better is out there. So, in your head, you’re like, “Well, I might as well just stay where I am.”
I would say those are three of the most common concrete ways that I’ve seen them impact people in their work.
Are there people who manage to avoid career limiting beliefs altogether? Are there some fortunate people out there?
I doubt it. I don’t think that we avoid them altogether. More so, there are people who are quick at catching them and addressing them.
What do they do differently? How do they recognize what’s happening and what actions do they take?
Those people tend to be more self-aware, so they are able to, in the moment, stop and ask themselves, “What do I believe about this situation?” Whether…if they find themselves maybe procrastinating on an action, or shying away from a task, or avoiding a project, or avoiding offering themselves up to lead a project, they have the ability to stop and say, “What is happening here? Why am I getting in my own way? Why am I shying away from this?” And then they’re able to engage in some reflection and think, “I don’t believe that I can really get it. I don’t believe that I will be successful. I don’t believe that I have the abilities that I will need to be successful.”
That self-awareness is really key because I think the very first step to addressing limiting beliefs is knowing that you even have them, and I think too many of us go around just living day to day, taking the actions without stopping to think about the thoughts and beliefs that are driving the actions that we’re taking.
Do you also see a gender difference in who…in career limiting beliefs? Is it more common among men or women?
I want to say…it’s not more common in one gender, but more so what they believe about themselves might be seen more with one gender. For example, women are more likely to believe that they will not get more money if they ask for it. They’re more likely to believe that they will not be chosen for leadership roles. And so, when we talk about where these come from, it’s sometimes because they’ve seen either other women be unsuccessful in their organizations or they have been unsuccessful in the same or previous organizations, and so they believe it’s no longer an option for them.
Those are where I see women differ in that. It’s more around things like leadership, opportunities, money, and just their ability to show up effectively as themselves at work and be accepted. That’s where I see…those are some beliefs that I see women struggle with a bit more.
Well, let’s talk about what you called earlier, “the work,” how to overcome these limiting beliefs. How do you recommend a listener get started, Tega?
The first step is that identifying, right? Identifying the problematic career beliefs that you’re experiencing, figuring out what is holding you back. A key way by which we form our beliefs is through direct experiences. So, when we take action, something happens, we draw conclusions from it, and so those conclusions become our beliefs. And so to identify it, you have to ask, “What is the evidence supporting this belief? Is there evidence to support this belief? Or, is there evidence to not support this belief?”
What I always say is when you go in, when you identify this belief and you’re looking for evidence, you’re trying to be unbiased in the process. So, we’re looking for evidence both for and against, and then once we have that we take a step back and review it. So, “Is my belief accurate or not?”
That’s the first step is, identify what the belief is and then brainstorm the source of the belief. Where do you think it’s coming from? Is it coming from experiences that you’ve personally had in the past? Is it coming from messages that you have received about yourself? Is it coming from stories you’ve heard or from things that you’ve seen other people who look like you experience? Brainstorm some of those sources so that you can understand what is driving the belief. And then the third step would be to develop alternative ways of viewing the limiting beliefs.
How can you reframe the problem? And reframing involves seeing the problem from another viewpoint. So, if you can see that you have the desired qualities that you’d need for something, it might help you shift that belief, so just stepping out of what is your norm and asking yourself, “What else could be happening here? How can I look at this from a different lens? How can I change the adjectives that I’m using to describe myself?” And then, finally, you want to then take action to replace the limiting belief with what I call a liberating belief.
To do this, it’s important to remember that beliefs are just stories, beliefs are not facts. If they were facts, they wouldn’t be a belief. And so if a story is no longer serving you, you can always change the story that you’re telling yourself about yourself, and that’s where we replace the limiting belief with the liberating belief.
Yeah, I want to pause right here, Tega, and when we come back, I want to unpack each of those steps and talk about some of the common challenges that you see your clients deal with as they go through that process.
Please, stay with us. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation with Dr. Tega Edwin about limiting career beliefs and how to overcome them.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with career counselor and coach Dr. Tega Edwin.
She helps women who are unhappy at work get clarity so they can find a fulfilling career.
Tega joins us today from St. Louis, Missouri.
Tega, before our break, you took us through, I think it was 4 different steps, about how to overcome career limiting beliefs, and the first one was just identifying them. Is that hard to do and can you do it by yourself?
I think it’s hard to do the first time you try but it’s something that can get easier over time and you can certainly do it by yourself once you have experience doing it. But it doesn’t hurt to work with a professional at the onset to figure out some of the common ones that you might be struggling with. And so I wouldn’t say that it’s totally hard to do but it might feel uncomfortable because it requires a lot of self-awareness and sitting with yourself, and that’s one thing in my experience why my clients struggle with it is because they don’t do it often enough.
For people who want to give it a try on their own, do you have some practical suggestions about exercises they might practice?
The first thing I’d say is some specific questions to ask yourself.
First, let me take a step back. You have to recognize that there might be a belief that is limiting you in some way, shape, or form. So, you have to be aware of your actions, you have to first be able to start out by thinking, “Okay, am I intentionally or unintentionally doing things to stop my own success?” And that could look very subtle. It could be something as simple as, maybe when you’re talking to a manager about an opportunity, you just almost refer someone else.
Let’s just name names. Mac, let’s say that you and I are colleagues and I’m sitting with my manager and he wants me to take on a new role, and I say something like, “Well, you know what? I think that Mac has the better skill set for this.” And so, I’m not really saying, “Disqualify me,” but I am pushing this opportunity onto someone else, and so that is a subtle way of self-sabotage, where I could easily have said, “Yes, you know what? I’m looking forward to this opportunity.” Instead, I’m bringing someone else in. And so you have to catch behaviors like that, procrastination, when you’re doing things to get in your own way.
And then, questions to now ask yourself is, “Why am I doing this? What is causing me to not take the actions I need to take to be successful?” When you ask yourself why, usually then you’ll start to get to what you believe in. When you ask yourself why, why forces you to justify your actions and so if you say, let’s stay with that example, if I say to myself, “Okay, why did I offer up Mac as an alternative?” And that might be, “Okay, because I don’t think that I’d be good enough for the role.” And then I would go even deeper.
“Okay, why don’t I think that I’m good enough for the role? Well, because I haven’t had any experience doing this before.” Okay, why do I think that not having the experience is a bad thing? “Well, because in the past, someone has told me that you need to have experience to be successful in anything that you do in life.”
If you see there, I kept asking why until I got at the belief, and that story that I’m telling myself really is, “I believe that I need to always have had experience of some kind to be successful.” And so that would be the way I would say to try to get at, what is the belief, is to keep asking why, until you hear the story or the pattern that you’re telling yourself.
How do you know that you’ve reached that pattern or that story as you go through that series of whys?
I think it would be when you get to a story that applies to more than one situation. So, if we stick to my example, you know, the first step I talked about, “Mac, I think he might be better.” I then went to, “I haven’t had the experience.” And that’s where I think it comes in because that lack of experience that is keeping me can apply to multiple other situations. I might avoid doing something in my personal life because I haven’t experienced it before. I might avoid going wine tasting because I haven’t experienced it before.
When you get at a belief that is not totally situation-specific, when you get to a belief where you can see how it has played out in either other parts of your career or just other areas of your life in general, you’ve hit a story that you’re likely telling yourself over and over and over in different aspects of your life.
Okay, so, let’s move on. You’ve identified the limiting belief, you understand what it is and how it’s harming you, either in work or in your job search. What’s the next step, Tega?
Now you’re brainstorming the source. Where did these stories stem from? The most common ones that I know, there are three really common ones: childhood, society, and relationships. More often than not, your limiting beliefs have come from your childhood experiences. So, messages that you were told when you were growing up or experiences that you had as a kid, that then shaped how you saw the world.
Society, so what society says about you. Especially based on any part of your identity- as a woman, as a black woman, as an Asian woman, a Native American woman, a person with a disability, a sexual minority orientation. Whatever it may be, but what has society, intentionally or unintentionally, told you about you and then your relationships? What have you experienced in your relationships? And so that would be the three areas that I would look at to see, is this where these stories are coming from?
So asking yourself, “Where did I first hear this story? Who’s voice is really playing in my head? Is this story my thought?” You know, sometimes, you’re hearing your mom’s voice really, or you’re hearing your partner’s voice, where the words that you’re hearing are words that somebody else has said to you in some way, shape, or form.
How does knowing where those stories come from and the voices that are conveying them help you at the workplace with your career or in your job search?
Yeah, so it helps you because you can then pause and say, “Okay, I realize what’s happening, and this is not what I believe about myself or this is not what I want to believe about myself.” Alright, so if I stick with the example that I started with, in which I said, “Okay, I believe that I need experiences to be successful.”
Maybe it was at my very first job, I wanted to become a leader and my supervisor said to me, “Oh, you don’t have enough experience for that. You won’t be good at it.” And I now internalized that, so I’m now at this job 10, 20 years down the line. I’m working with Mac. My boss offers me a role, I say that Mac is better. I do the activity, I realize, “Oh, I think I need experience. Where is it coming from? My first job. My very first job, I remember my boss said that I needed experience and I have now internalized that as the truth when it’s not fact, it was just his opinion.”
If I know that this voice is an opinion and not a fact, I can now take action to intentionally counter that belief. I can say, “Okay, I can hear this belief but I don’t believe that this is what is the truth. I want to replace this story, so I’m going to go ahead and take action and say yes to the opportunity or whatever it might be.”
What’s the third step, Tega?
Developing alternate ways of viewing the limiting beliefs. So, as I mentioned, first is, “I realize that this is the belief that I have.” What is the evidence either against or for my belief? And then how can I reframe the story? What does an alternate version of the story sound like? What story might someone who loves me unconditionally tell me that is opposed to the one in my head?”
So, sticking with my example, an alternate story might be, “Right, I don’t have experiences but I know that I have the ability to learn because I’ve learned in the past, and if I learn what I need to, I can take on this role that my boss is offering me.”
That’s a reframe, as opposed to, “I can’t do it because I don’t have experiences.”
Is it hard for people to do that reframe, the people that you work with?
I think so, yes, because most times, our beliefs are very deeply entrenched, we’ve been believing them for a while. And so I found that writing is a very good way to do all of this work that I’m talking about. Like, actually physically writing, not just typing, because writing has been shown to activate the brain on a different level. Because there’s something about just seeing your thoughts on paper, at least in my experience with my clients. I’ve seen that when we write things down, they’ll say things like, “Oh, that wasn’t really logical. Now I see the disconnect in what I was thinking.”
It makes it easier for them to then take action as opposed to just sitting and rolling those thoughts around in their head.
What kind of writing exercise do you recommend, particularly for people who are doing a job search or dealing with a workplace issue?
I think that when you identify the belief and you’re trying to reframe it, I would say start by writing a list of 3 to 4 people that you know for a fact that you trust and you know for a fact that they love you unconditionally, and then ask yourself, “What would they say about this belief that I have about myself?” More often than not, when we step into the shoes of somebody else that has often been an advocate or a voice of support, we can say, “Oh, well, they would say that you should try anyway.” Or, “They would say that you can do this.” So, writing out what that person would say can help you see another lens or a reframe of the belief in your head.
Does it help, in addition to writing, to talk to peers or mentors?
Most definitely, and I would say the same thing, so this writing exercise could also be a conversation. The key thing is just making sure that it’s people that you genuinely trust, people that wouldn’t try to sabotage you. People who will give you sound advice, people that you know are actually in your corner.
What’s your fourth step, Tega?
Replacing the beliefs with a liberating version. So, changing the limiting stories that are playing in your head requires that action. These are just, again, I said this earlier, they’re, just stories and if a story is no longer serving you, you can tell yourself a new story, and so some of those reframes that you did can then shift into replacement. Affirmations are really great for replacing limiting beliefs, so just saying out loud the alternate things that you would like to see happen is great, and then labeling your behaviors and not yourself.
For example, when something goes wrong, being able to say, “I made a mistake but I’m not a failure.” As opposed to saying, “I am a failure because something went wrong.” So you want to start replacing the way that you’re talking to yourself and the stories that you’re telling yourself.
It’s been a terrific conversation, now tell us, Tega, what’s next for you?
Next for me is continuing to work with women in helping them find their fulfilling career. I do this in my small group coaching program called, “Find Your Fulfilling Career” and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve women in that space.
I know people can learn more about you, that program, and your other services by visiting your website and that URL is hercareerdoctor.com.
Now, Tega, given all of the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why limiting career beliefs matter and how to beat them?
I want you to remember that your beliefs are important, your beliefs drive your actions, and your actions drive the outcomes that you see in your career. Also, remember that beliefs are just stories. If a story is no longer serving you, you have the right and you have the ability to start telling yourself a new story about yourself. So, start looking for ways to adopt what I call those liberating career beliefs.
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