Log in

The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

How Smart People Lose Their Career Mojo.....and How EQ Can Get it Back! Part One

27 May 2012 12:46 PM | Anonymous

By Cynthia Kivland

Part One: Losing Your Career Mojo. If you’ve been progressing in your career, or a college student studying hard to maintain that “GPA,” chances are you’ve experienced at least one career “hiccup” or setback. These career hiccups can suck the air out of one’s spirit, making it hard to carry on with dignity and drive.

Often, our mental energy is hijacked, our self-esteem bruised, and we limit our social connections out of shame or embarrassment. Some of the “hiccups” that can happen to hardworking, well-meaning, capable, and very smart people include:

  • Not going for that big opportunity
  • Getting passed over for a promotion
  • Losing money
  • Getting fired
  • Not getting into graduate school

Career-altering events can happen to anyone — and they do. But when they happen to very smart people, they may seem incomprehensible, largely because smart people have worked so hard, have rarely experienced failure, may have few experiences of “bouncing back” and have dedicated their life to the task or company more than their well-being or relationships.

But even when we can partially blame external events, there comes a time when we must take a hard look at what we could have done differently. Despite faltering companies, imperfect leaders, coworkers who don’t like us and other external variables, we must eventually engage in private, honest reflection to get our mojo back.

This honest reflection gives the human spirit space and time to breathe. Reflection also allows one to tap into the intelligence of emotions to acknowledge, accept, and appreciate the event, and the wisdom that was gained. What part did I play in the events leading up to the career crossroads?

What is Career Mojo? Historically and culturally, the word “mojo” has been associated with witchcraft and voodoo—specifically, the ability to cast spells. Over the years, it has become urban slang for personal power, magnetism and charisma.

In career speak today, mojo refers to the moment we do something purposeful and powerful — an act lauded by others. In sports, business and politics, the term has evolved to describe a sense of positive direction. For some, mojo represents personal advancement: moving forward, making progress, achieving goals, clearing hurdles, passing the competition — and doing so with increasing ease.

What you’re doing matters, and you enjoy it. Star athletes call this being “in the zone.” Others describe it as “flow.”  Mojo plays a vital role in our pursuit of happiness and meaning, as it involves achieving two simple goals: loving what you do and showing it.

Losing Your Career Mojo. In Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It (, leadership expert and coach, Marshall Goldsmith introduces the term “nojo” — the opposite of mojo. Nojo sufferers approach their work negatively. They’re bored, frustrated, dispirited and confused about the dark tunnel that envelops their career — and they aren’t shy about sharing their dissatisfaction with others.

Nojo happens when we experience a career failure and don’t get over it. Individuals who are incapable of looking inward to identify their role in a negative event get stuck — and stay stuck. As their spirit sours, they’re never able to recapture their mojo. In some cases, people seem to have mojo one day and nojo the next. This volatility is often caused by a series of ongoing, hard-to-spot mistakes that in time lead to a crisis. If we can recognize our errors early, we can prevent events from spiraling out of control.

Common Career Mistakes. Goldsmith lists seven professional mistakes that contribute to career failures in otherwise competent, successful and smart people:

1. Over-committing

2. Waiting for the Facts to Change

3. Looking for Logic in All the Wrong Places

4. Bashing the Boss

5. Refusing to Change Because of “Sunk Costs”

6. Confusing the Mode You’re in

7. Maintaining Pointless Arguments

a. Let me keep talking.

b. I had it rougher than you.

c. Why did you do that?

d. It’s not fair.

In the next blog I will discuss these career busters in more detail! To learn the seven skills every smart person needs and every employer wants, go to

Stay in the
know on the latest trends

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Career Trends Happy Hour, and you’ll receive the latest information on coaching, consulting, writing, leadership, and business development for career service providers worldwide.

Keep me up to date!

Hi, I’m Marie Zimenoff,

CEO of CTL...

I’m a passionate advocate for career industry professionals and a decades-long practicing career coach myself.

I’m so glad you’re here.

Contact Us

Career Thought Leaders Consortium

3115 E Lion Lane, Suite 160, Salt Lake City, UT 84121

Questions about CTL?


or call 855-333-5793.

Connect With Us


Copyright ©  Career Thought Leaders  · All Rights Reserved.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software