Imagine you’re 90 years old and looking back on your career. Will you be recalling it fondly and knowing that you did everything you could to have the career you wanted? Or will you have regrets about how you spent your time and energy and resources?

The answer depends on whether you’re giving your career the attention it deserves right now.

If you’re like many of my colleagues and clients – or frankly, like me back in the day! – you’re probably so busy producing results that you let your own needs fall by the wayside.

Perhaps you’re selflessly dedicating all of your time and effort into serving your clients. Maybe it’s all you can do to finish the crucial tasks on your to-do list before racing back home to spend time with family. And it can feel selfish to make your career a priority when your inbox is overflowing.

Whatever the reason, it’s all too easy to put your career last. But if you have ambitious career goals, that's a mistake.

What if your career would flourish if you put in just a little bit more of the right kind of effort? What if your lack of attention to your career makes it less likely that others will push for you?

You spend most of your waking hours at work and your career is too important to leave to chance.

The 5 most common excuses for not investing in your career

To help you determine if your career is at risk of neglect, here are the top five excuses I hear for not focusing on your career and why they can backfire.

Let’s see if you recognize yourself in any of these.

“I don't have time”

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. But have you noticed that the most successful people seem to have enough time to accomplish and even surpass their goals?

Why not let that be you as well?

This is about placing a priority on the longevity of your career. So stop being selfless and start putting up boundaries to protect your time and focus on your career as well as other things that matter to you.

“I don't have money”

Sometimes career development requires a financial investment, and this is a worthwhile one. Unless you’re at risk of not feeding your family and not having a roof over your head, the lack of funds is no excuse.

An investment in yourself is never wasted, and when you have some financial “skin in the game”, you’re more likely to feel and stay committed.

You can create a budget for personal career development and have fun figuring out how you’re going to invest each year! And you could also make the case to your employer to provide some or all of the funding.

“I don't know what to do next”

Why focus on your career when you don’t even know what that next step looks like? Well, when you’re not sure what your next career move should be, that’s exactly the time when you need to carve out the time, energy or resources to help figure this out.

Get help and talk to people, whether that’s mentors, coaches or others you trust. Take time to experiment and reflect.

“I'm not worth it”

If you’re thinking you’re not worth it, or that nothing will work for you, it may mean that you’re afraid to fail. In the words of Homer Simpson, “the first step to failure is trying”. So if you don’t try, you can’t fail.

But if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s hard for others to believe in you enough to push you forward. The more you invest in yourself, the more confidence you will generate.

“It's not my responsibility”

Many people get lulled into the false belief that it’s the company’s responsibility to look after your career. It’s understandable, especially when they start you out on a training program.

But if you’re waiting for your employer to come up with ideas and funding for your career development, you could be waiting for a long time!

You owe it to yourself

The more senior you are and the more senior you want to be, the more you owe it to yourself to pay attention to your career.

If you hear yourself in any or all of these five excuses and they’re holding you back, it’s time to stop short-changing yourself and your career.

Take a moment to step back and reflect on what kind of investment you want to make in your career.

  • Are there relationships and networks to build and expand?
  • Would obtaining further training or a degree help you advance?
  • Are there skills to develop and experiences to get under your belt?
  • Would a coach or mentor help you speed your progress?
  • Is there a stretch assignment or promotion to make the case for?

Doing your day-to-day job is crucial, but it’s the focused investments you make in your career that will bring long-term success.

Which excuse is most familiar to you and what is one action you will take to shift out of that frame?

Leave a comment and let me know.

PS – I used to be in both the “No Time” and “No Money” camps. Now that I’ve re-prioritized and worked on my money mindset, I’m making some cool investments in my career development. My latest endeavor is taking a course in Conversational Intelligence®, or C-IQ. Can’t wait to share what I’m learning, so stay tuned!