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4 Reasons Why Your Hard Work is Not Getting You Anywhere



frustrated at workImagine you have a race to run. The track stretches out before you. You do a little jogging to warm up. You are ready. You go down on one knee…on your marks…get set…go!

You run, you run really hard. Half an hour later, you realise that the finish line still seems far off. So you run a little harder. An hour later, you realise that the finish line must be playing tricks on you. It does not seem to be getting closer. You look down and notice to your annoyance that you are only one step away from the starting line. But you’re giving the race your entire energy.

So why are you not getting anywhere?

This metaphor describes many of us in our career. You’ve worked hard at it for three years, five years…and it seems that you are only working so hard but not getting anywhere. Why?

Here are a few reasons to answer your question:

1.You Are Not Getting Anywhere and You Know It
If you are in the same situation I was a few years ago then you probably have not realized that your hard work and the results do not equate. If, however, you have come to that point then you are doing a great job already. Admitting it is the hardest part, but once you get to that point, it can only get better.

Few years ago I was working in a company that went through some sort of financial crises and as a result we (all employees) were not paid for months. The unfortunate thing about my situation is that I kept hoping that things would get better because we heard nothing from the management. I burned months of saved salary going to the office every day and getting nothing in return. Until one day, I seized control of my mind and stopped the pity-party.

This may not be your situation. It could be that you are moving from one job to another and you have not yet found fulfillment. It may be something else.

What To Do –  Stop, Think & Re-strategize
There is no need working that hard for nothing. I would suggest you stop for a little while, think and re-strategisz your race and focus on Point Two.

2. You Have Not Developed Your Skills
One of the reasons why you are stuck in your race may be that you are running on a track with thousands of people who are just as good as you are. You are all good but none of you stands out. If you haven’t taken time in the last year to add a new skill to your personal brand, then you are in big trouble. The world is evolving fast and it may soon leave you behind.

What to Do – Equip yourself with New Skills Constantly
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? This is one trick question HR Managers like to ask candidates at interviews, but in truth, it is one question you should have answered in the safety of your bedroom when looking at yourself in the mirror.

If you know where you are going, you will be able to determine the skills that will lead you to your goal. Do you need to polish your Social Media skills? Writing Skills? Software development skills? Are there new trends in your industry not many people know about?

3.You are Running Another Person’s Race
You are bored. This is not your passion. You get to work and set an alarm for 5p.m so you can be among the first people to rush out. Or you want to start up on your own but you don’t have the funds to start you up yet. Well, it is the same story everywhere. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. There is always a way out of every situation – it may not be an easy one, but it’s a way all the same.

What To Do – Get Back On your Track!
You may have to stop that race and backtrack a little. What was the initial plan? Why are you here now? How can you get out of it? Do you have what it takes to get out of it?

Focus on number 2 if it helps. If you want to be an entrepreneur and all you need is the motivation, well here is the nudge you need. If it’s the capital to start your business, then you better start saving for the d-day, because it will come and when it does, you want to be armed to the teeth and ready for it.

4.You are Being Too Nice!
Are you one of those people that say ‘Yes Sir’ ten times in the morning before your 1st cup of coffee? Are you someone who says ‘Yes’ every single time someone asks you to help out on a task even when your desk is filled with assignments? Are you one who hides at the back in a meeting and wouldn’t raise a hand when a colleague is saying something you think is wrong.
You get the idea. If you are that person, you have a long way to go indeed.

What To Do – Be More Aggressive
When I say nice, I really mean ‘timid’. Being nice is a good thing, but one thing I have learnt in the corporate world (although I learnt it late), being nice is like shooting yourself in the face. Nobody wants to do that. Being nice is like being the office wall paper- you are there but no one notices you.

I suggest you step up your confidence level before your ‘aggressive’ colleague is promoted before you. Learn to be firm. Learn to be aggressive (I hear you snickering at that). Yes, I said it: learn to be aggressive. Like my best friend would say: “you can be replaced anytime”, and if there is the need to promote someone and no one can vouch for your confidence level, guess who they’ll think of first? Definitely not Ms. Goody-too-shoes. You may be good at your job, but can people remember you?

Now when I mean ‘aggressive’ I don’t mean sticking your nose in other people’s business or bugging your boss to death about a new idea you have. I mean saying no when you mean no, reading up on trends in your industry and discussing it confidently with your boss and claiming the glory for a job well done when it is your due.

Finally, invest in yourself wisely. Looks are great. By all means get the latest Prada if it will make you happy or get you a better job. But if it will not get you where you want to be in the next five years, I suggest you save the money and improve on your brain power and confidence.

Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu is a writer and marketing consultant. She is also the editor of, an online brand expression to motivate women to be the best they can be. You can follow her on Twitter: @ifesinachio_o or send her a mail on [email protected]


  1. Mildlee

    March 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Me= Mrs too nice. I need to step up my game. Been in the same position for two years and no promotion.

  2. Ad

    March 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    nice article

  3. Stella Kashmoney

    March 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the cool tips.

  4. Ad

    March 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I know, im too nice! aargh!

  5. chingycheddah

    March 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    lovely article

  6. Benson

    March 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Good one.

  7. Steadily

    March 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I do no quite agree with No 4. Aggression gets you no where!! Instead, being assertive and persistent will take you places. I have to be assertive a lot of times in my line of work and believe me, I know at times, it leans on being aggresive and I notie that people back off but not for the right reasons . My advice is be straight with people, admit what you can/cannot do in a polite manner. Try as much as possible to treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Go the extra mile in anything you do. This has worked for me and I manage my own business successful in England and have been approached by people to share our business secrets. I’m Nigerian and below 40.

    • Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu

      March 5, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Hello Steadily,
      You approach my term of aggression in this article as some form of ‘attack’ rather than a firm approach to your work. You are right about being persistent and assertive, but aggression in this article means being bold enough to stand out from the crowd rather than get lost in the crowd. Unfortunately, good is never really good enough. Hope I made a point. Thanks for your contribution.

  8. Steadily

    March 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Sorry for the typo…..should read notice and successfully. Thank you.

  9. x factor

    March 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    wow ! true talk !

  10. Trendysturvs

    March 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Well said

  11. @ajiriavae

    March 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you for this piece. Hard words that needed to be heard.

  12. R

    March 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Invest in yourself wisely.

  13. ella

    March 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Beautiful article…… I learned a lot :). Thank you!

  14. Na wa

    March 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    A lot of people are so guilty of number 4 and that is a very hard point to deal with

  15. Neni Stone

    March 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I for one am guilty of number 4. Nice article.

  16. Deedee

    March 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Educative piece of work, thank you…….

  17. Duvy

    March 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I agree completely with steadily. Being assertive works like a charm. Nice article but seems incomplete… like a part 2 will be sent in soon.

  18. al mikey

    March 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Brief, yet powerful points. Thanks.

  19. Ify

    March 6, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Thank you.learnt a lot from this article.

  20. Debbie Ade

    March 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

    If there’s something I’ve learned in the Corporate world so far, it’s that you can’t be laid back and all nice. Yes, you do need to be aggressive (Bold, assertive and energetic). You also need to acquire the necessary skills. Learn the new software in your line of work, be all about capacity building!!! Being aggressive encompasses all of this for me in order to stay on top of my game!!
    Thanks for this write-up 🙂

  21. Shaloma

    April 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Very insightful…. Thank you much!!

  22. chidi Alex

    July 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    “Invest in yourself wisely…” I’m starting now to do just that. I’d not wanna be left behind. I must discipline myself starting now.

  23. Laurence Tuck

    October 16, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Great artilce. The link to Fabulous in your credit is broken, its seems you have le

  24. Tony Marinara

    June 14, 2017 at 8:58 am

    This article sucks, and is less than click bait for desperate people seeking diluted self-help advice with no substance.

    If this list helps you, you’re an idiot first and foremost, and that’s why your hard work isn’t paying off.

    Articles like this should be removed from the internet.

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