Karin’s Leadership Articles

7 Career Frustrations Every Go-Getter Feels

by | Feb 18, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Odds are that some executive in your life is making it all look easy. The quick rise to the top. In perfect shape, with the the perfect family all dressed cleanly in the company colors at the company picnic.  The exec’s declaration that he’s “never missed one of his kids games” leaves you stunned.

You look at your hectic life, the challenges, the tradeoffs, the disappointments, the times you let your family down staying late again.

All for a career that led to this pivotal moment of deep frustration.

We all have them. Those moments of true career angst, when we wonder… is it worth it?

It’s easy to feel you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t buy it.

Those other guys have been there too.

I promise.

I hear their stories.

I know mine.

7 Frustrations Every Go-Getter Feels

1.  I worked my butt off, and that guy (or gal) got the promotion for reasons that have nothing to do with competence.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe she really is more qualified. Either way, the sting is real.
2.  My team killed themselves on this project, and now a strategic change in direction means most of that work is wasted.
You’re so frustrated you want to punch your fist through the wall, but you’ve got to put on your game face and convince the team their work really was important, even if it’s for what we learned along the way. Deep inside having to do that just ticks you off more.
3. No one that matters is really listening to me.
You’ve got a GREAT idea and you know it will change the game. But, it’s a little risky and your boss, mentors, and sponsors are all ducking. You can’t get your voice heard.
4. I don’t know where I stand.
You keep being told you’re on the short list for advancement, but you’re still in this job. When you ask what’s wrong, you get nothing but praise. You know something’s being said behind closed doors, but you can’t figure out just what that is.
5. A peer I trusted stabbed me in the back.
You can’t believe it, and your first thought is revenge. But you’re better than that so you take the high road– which is right, but is missing the catharsis slipping some laxatives into his coffee would provide.
6. I got screwed in the restructure.
The regime changed and the musical chairs landed you in a less than ideal scene. You’re sure politics trumped logic. Your friends tell you to be grateful that you have a job. You’re not so sure.
7. ________________ (your turn).
People are watching for your response.

Responding elegantly in these scenes may be the most important career move you can make.

What those who make it look easy may not be telling you is that they’ve been there too. We all have. It’s all part of the leadership journey. They’ve grown through the pain, and you can too.

If you’re feeling at a particularly blessed moment in your career. Amen. Look around. Who needs some extra care and support?

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Juergen Goessl

    It happens to everyone! Well, what to do then? I did (1) check my inner compass to make sure that my anger doesn’t take charge over my personal values. (2) I stayed brave and competitive anyway. The next round deals a new hand of cards. And evaluating the situation gives me an edge. (3) I still took pride in my work. If others don’t see it, I still know what I and my team accomplished. (4) I left. When the time was right I moved forward to a position where I now can use what I have learned through the past experiences (including the pain!).

    • Karin Hurt

      Juegen, Thanks so much. You offer sage advice hear that could be a blog post in itself. Excellent! Thank you.

  2. Alli Polin

    When I’ve been my most frustrated, felt the most overlooked or stressed or beaten down… I’ve actually re-engergized through mentoring. I wanted to help others succeed too and it took the focus off of me and enabled me to lean into my expertise to make a difference in someone else’s career.

    And YES. We’ve all been there no matter what people say or how the memory has faded. Resilience is the key to those leaders that keep on going despite the setbacks and other crap. We got through it and they will too.

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much! I’ve used that strategy as well. Mentoring helps you remember the deep value you add, and offers the deep satisfaction of helping someone grow.

  3. LaRae Quy

    I couldn’t help but think that most of these responses are ones that tend to dwell on “pity me” rather than “OK, I’ve learned from this failure and will do things differently next time.”

    Frustration happens when we fail to learn anything from our experiences. It’s MUCH too easy to blame someone else for our lack of success.

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Excellent point. Knowing that everyone goes through disappointments is an important part of getting in the right frame of mind to grow.

  4. Bruce Harpham

    My career frustration has been in the area of defining “exceptional results.”

    I once asked a manager “what do I need to do in order to achieve a Distinguished Performance Rating”? I was fairly new to this person and he declined to provide an answer. That is frustrating. Was it the wrong time to ask that? (Possibly) Should have been more direct (i.e. what performance is required in order to achieve a bonus of $x dollars and a base pay increase of $y dollars).


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