Professional Development

Three reasons you aren’t reaching your full potential at work

Written by Eric Titner

Most of us have ideas about how we’d like our career paths to unfold, including where we’d ultimately like to end up before we hit retirement and the steps we need to take along the way. If you’re being realistic with your vision, you’re also aware that reaching your goals and achieving your preconceived target milestones along the way will take some hard work, dedication, and probably even a little good luck.

Like most things in life, it takes real effort to reach the desired results you want in your career—it’s not simply a matter of “showing up” and waiting for your turn to be successful. If you’re like most of us and are eager to achieve your career goals, then reaching your full potential is an important step to success. Now ask yourself the following question: Are you reaching your full potential at work? If not, it may be holding you back from moving forward in your career journey and keeping you from achieving your target professional milestones—and preventing you from feeling happy and satisfied.

If you’re concerned that you may not be reaching your full work potential, consider if any of the following 3 reasons might be standing in your way—and then take active steps to move past them.

It’s just a bad fit

When it comes to your current job, are you a square peg in a company full of round holes? If so, then it might be affecting your ability to reach your full potential. The truth is, fit is an extremely important variable when it comes to gauging your happiness and satisfaction at work, as well as your opportunities for long-term success. Not all corporate cultures are created equal, and finding a company whose mission, brand positioning, and approach to nurturing and developing its employees can mean the difference between a job that brings out the very best in you and one that simply offers a steady paycheck.

If you feel there is a fundamental misaligned fit between you and your company place of employment, it may be worth your time to diagnose the problem and see if there’s any hope for successful resolution.

Something toxic is in play

Is there a specific element at your current job that’s always standing in the way between you and your full potential? This can play out in the form of a toxic person (often a superior or a key decision maker, but maybe even a teammate or colleague) who’s standing in the way of you progressing, taking on new roles and responsibilities, being recognized for your hard work and contributions, and developing your skills and abilities further.

It can also be a toxic environment, one in which healthy risk, forward-thinking, and efforts to evolve are frowned upon. In these situations, a low ceiling for growth sits above everyone. Regardless of the toxic source, the outcome is typically the same: you’re kept from evolving as an employee and are unable to fully challenge yourself and discover what you’re truly capable of accomplishing.

The issue is external

The truth is, sometimes the reasons for you not reaching your full potential at work have nothing to do with your company or colleagues. Life happens, even while you’re at work, and sometimes you’re dealing with external factors that prevent you from giving your complete and undivided 100% focus and effort to your career. Things like health issues, family stress, a second job, and other life obligations can all compete for your energy and time and make it challenging for you to fully commit to professional growth and development.

Don’t feel like this is your fault—even the most talented employees are susceptible to the effects of life on their work. It’s what you do to manage the stresses that come outside of the job that will make all the difference. Employees who can find an appropriate balance—whether by finding a job that fits better into their life or making a plan with a manager to work through a particularly hard time—are best positioned to reaching their full professional potential.

Are you reaching your full potential at work? If so, then congratulations! If not, or you’re unsure, then use the information provided here to help you diagnose your situation and figure out a better path forward.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.