Are you a career volunteer or a career conscript?

So many people meander through their life and career without realising that they could do so much more. A lack of fulfilled career potential makes us jealous of others and eats away at our confidence and wellbeing. How awful if you were to sit in your future rocking chair talking of what might have been. Or you so envy your friends’ success that you undermine them at every opportunity.

Let’s start with work itself. It is the focus of many unfulfilled dreams and teaming with employees passive to their fate and their career. Complete the following Work Life Checklist and see if you are a volunteer or a conscript in your career.

Work Life Checklist

  1. Do I really enjoy the work I do? If not, why not?
  2. Would I carry out this work regardless of the salary I was paid?
  3. Am I proud of what I do?
  4. Will I be happy doing this kind of work for the rest of my life?
  5. Am I enthusiastic about my work on a Monday morning or do I have to force myself to get up?
  6. Did I make a decision to do this job or did I just fall into it because it was available?
  7. Could I be better at what I do? What would I have to do to be better?
  8. Do I volunteer for challenging projects or do I avoid them?
  9. Would I be happier in a different job? If so what?
  10. Do I respect my boss and the organisation for whom I work? If not why not?
  11. Do I keep up to date in my field by reading or attending seminars?
  12. Do I present my ideas well at meetings?
  13. Could I be better at influencing?
  14. If I were better at interviews would I increase my chances of promotion?
Work Life Checklist to see if you are a volunteer or a conscript in your #career. Click to Tweet

If you don’t enjoy your job, are not enthusiastic or proud of what you do, if you don’t volunteer for projects and you coast rather than keep up to date, and if you refuse to increase your work skills then you are stuck in a job that is taking you nowhere.

So why do you get stuck? And what are the blockages that might be happening to you?

Areas that immediately come to mind as potential motivation and confidence sappers are;

  • Relationships; family, school and peer groups
  • Work itself
  • Your own thinking


Any relationship in which you feel stuck or helpless will undermine your confidence and sap your energy. Marital relationships can be killers with partners undermining your every move. Often partners fear that if you are successful you will leave them behind. That insecurity needs to brought out into the open and discussed.

There is also no doubt that the family you are born into does make a difference. Professor Gordon Claridge conducted a number of twin studies over a long period of time to determine the influence of upbringing versus genetics. These studies revealed that if one or both of your parents lacked confidence or were passive to their fate then you have a 60% to 80% chance of being the same. However there is still 20% to 40% leeway for change.

If school and peer group make children feel defeated and failures the effect of this can also last a lifetime unless confronted. Many pupils have not learnt to read and write because of aversive experiences from undermining teachers but have returned to studies and boosted their careers out of all recognition.

However literature is teeming with stories of late developers. Look at Mary Wesley who became an author when she was 70. It is so important to realise that you can change if you have the desire and the knowledge of how to go about it.

Many of the people that I coach have the false notion that you pop out of the womb perfectly formed and they will be heard to mutter ‘well you can’t change the way you are’. Well yes you can! Of course there are genetic bits of you that are immutable but much of the rest is up for grabs. All human beings are capable of so much more than they think.

Take charge of your relationships

Choose to take action in at least one of the following ways:

  • Limit contact with undermining people so that you are less in their company and so therefore will be less sapped.
  • Spend more time with energisers- people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Ask the sapper to be more positive and /or supportive
  • As soon as you feel your energy being sapped become over the top positive and energetic. Sappers hate that.
  • Refute any criticism openly.
  • Ask them if they are OK because you detect that they might be more negative than usual.
  • Just refuse to let them get to you even in your quieter moments.


The BBC carried out a work survey prior to the launch of their Get Confident website a few years ago and discovered that 81% of people who responded had never asked for promotion and 51% had never spoken to their boss to ask for a pay rise. This reluctance was misplaced as over three quarters of those who did speak up received more money or that sought after promotion

The press release was entitled ‘Quiet Britons miss out on promotion’ and you can just imagine a country seething with unfulfilled ambition because the majority lack the ‘get up and go’ to ask for what they want.

Work, instead of stretching and enhancing us often has quite the opposite effect. Managers can, if they are bad managers, expect us to obey orders mindlessly and serve the God of money at all costs which in turn shrinks us as individuals. That may sound a little overstated but the increase in stress related absence and litigation over recent years bears significant testimony to overly long hours worked and pockets of a bullying managerial style in the workplace.

Take charge of your work life

  • Write a two minute list of your strengths. What are the particular skills you bring to your job or organisation? If you are cringing at the mere thought of doing this, then ask friends and colleagues what they think are your strengths. I bet that you underestimated your own input.
  • Now write down your weaknesses. Do your strengths outweigh your weaknesses? They should and if not add to the strengths list. When I interviewed 80 chief executives for my book Fast Track to the Top, they instantly knew their strengths and always had fewer weaknesses.
  • Look out for a part of your job where you could make a real difference and put forward your ideas. Volunteer at least a little of your time.
  • Deliver to deadlines.
  • Be prepared to present your results
  • If you wish to be promoted you must first become skilled at interviews. Ask current or previous employees for the inside story. And do not ever take the view that any old job will be good enough. Or that a job in the hand is worth two of your dreams.

The Sunday Times list of the best companies to work for is a good starting point for your research. You may think you want any old job but once you are there your expectations rise and if it does not foster and stimulate you then you will turn into a coffee room moaner. You may also fall into the ‘take it now trap’. ‘I will just take it now and leave when I get a better offer’. Ten years later you are still talking about a better offer.

Your thinking

Thinking is where it all starts and there are many ways of thinking that can help propel you towards a more confident future or the pitfalls of pessimism. So you sap yourself by thinking negatively about your attributes and your future.

Motivated and confident people think of themselves as winners and as lucky. At the end of my CEO interviews for my book Fast track to the Top I asked –‘so in summary to what do you attribute your success?’ The majority, after talking extensively about the skills that jettisoned them to success, then answered that it had all been due to luck. I remember feeling slightly irritated by this response as surely these business leaders had realised that their own endeavours had promoted their rise to fame and fortune. Surely they could not believe it was all due to serendipity. However on reflection it occurred to me that was their view – they saw themselves as lucky winners.

Take charge of your thinking  

  • As soon as you feel depressed or assailed by negative thoughts get active. Walk, talk, read or write. Outlaw staring at walls for any longer than one hour. Set your alarm. You are in control of your thoughts. Thoughts are not facts.
  • If upset or angry ask yourself how strongly do you feel on a scale of one to ten? This distances you from the emotion and helps you to get some rational control
  • Put time in your diary that is marked as ‘you’ time. Say no to anything that encroaches. Then relax as being anxious makes us negative.
  • Faced with a problem or a crisis ask yourself how you have coped before and tell yourself you will cope again.
  • Find something to smile about every day and tomorrow will be even better.

So let nothing hold you back and ask for help if necessary. Generally people love to mentor others’ progress.

Of course when you are in that senior position remember to help others overcome their blocks to success and foster their future careers.

At Ros Taylor Company, we believe that any manager or senior executive has the potential to become an even more effective leader.

Through a series of monthly sessions or a shorter programme of master classes, Just Leadership TM empowers the talent that already exists within your organisation to develop greater resilience to deal with business challenges and become more innovative in their approach to problem solving and inspiring teams.