To decide on the right career, it is advisable to have a mentor

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And, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you realize why you are working at that job and what you can get out of it.

The trouble comes when we stay too long in that job, or get promoted in an industry that might not be our first choice. You can be seduced into a situation that isn't in your best interests and, in a matter of months, what seemed like a good idea at the time can head south.

That means that no matter what job you start out in, or what career, you have to have some sort of game plan if you are going to wind up doing the work you want and the work that will most satisfy you. It's rare that someone lets himself be swept along by events in his life and finds meaningful work.

It's a message that Robert J. McGovern wants to share with the rest of the world. McGovern, the founder of CareerBuilder.com and author of "Bring Your 'A' Game," believes the first 10 years of your work career are very important for determining how successful you will be in your profession and how high up the corporate ladder you will climb.

Yet, there are stumbling blocks that can occur early in our careers, and McGovern says we've got to be aware of them.

"In most organizations, there are far more people getting passed over than getting ahead," he says. "They come to work every day and they pour their hearts into their work, but others are receiving the promotions, bonuses and accolades."

Most promotions usually come down to one of two leading contenders, even though there may be 30 or 40 people doing the same job.

McGovern compares the in-house promotion to shopping for a used car: This one has lousy paint, this one looks like it's been driven hard, this one is loud and noisy. Ah, this one is in mint condition and ready for a promotion.

The others get left behind.

The real tragedy in this is that your manager might not have enough patience, concern or courage to tell you why you failed to get the promotion. Most supervisors fail to address the flaws we have so we have little chance of fixing them.

If you are consistently losing out on promotions, McGovern suggests you take stock of your current situation.

If you're current job is starting to feel like a career job, you probably are at that threshold that will require a jump-start. When important meetings take place and you're left out, it's probably a sign that your career is stalled. Or, if you've lost one or more jobs and really don't understand why, it's probably a sign that you need a nudge.

"One of the challenges we have is that we don't have the ability to see ourselves as we go through life," McGovern says. "The view out our eyes is different from the one seen by others."

For that reason, he suggests each of us look for someone who can give us a candid assessment of our skills and what things are standing in the way of winning that promotion when it comes up.

Ideally, that would come from a supervisor who is most in tune with how we approach our jobs. Or, it could come from an outside consultant who understands workplace dynamics.

But we need to discover those things in some manner, or we'll find ourselves locked out of the best assignments, best jobs and best career opportunities.

If you never realize this, you will undermine your chances for career success. Just consider it a basic duty of self-awareness.

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