We all make mistakes on a daily basis, whether it’s making an innocent typo or failing to hear your alarm clock go off in the morning and showing up an hour late to work. But some mistakes can threaten the health of your career and lead to even bigger problems. It is, therefore, important that we identify the most common career blunders and learn how to avoid them to ensure we take the right steps towards career development.
That’s not to say that mistakes aren’t teaching moments, but as career coach Kim Carbia says: ‘When a mistake becomes a habit, it becomes a problem’.
Read on to find out what are the biggest and worst mistakes you can make in your career – and how to avoid them.
1. Not Following Your Dream
You most likely went to university to get the education and skills you need to achieve your career goals. But when applying for your first job, those goals often seem out of reach, especially when considering how most employers require someone with ‘over two years’ experience in a related field’. So you end up settling for the first available sales or admin position that comes your way and, before you know, you’re stuck in a rut and a career path you never intended of pursuing.
It’s important to stick to your guns and find a job that you really want – not just something that will pay the bills. And if you can’t catch your big break, why not consider interning for a while? It just might give you the foot in the door that you need.
2. Getting Too Comfortable
This is a hole that most people fall down. They take a job that isn’t really what they want to do, while keeping a ‘lookout’ for their dream job – fast-forward three years later and they’re still in the same position at the same company. Why? Well, it’s often because it’s convenient and they genuinely like their working environment – so, why bother moving on?
Although a positive environment and a good team plays a vital role in job satisfaction, it’s important to continue striving for more and working towards a promotion. If your job is stagnant and you can’t see yourself moving up the ranks, it’s probably time to move on and look for better opportunities.
3. Selling Yourself Short
Sometimes you’re so desperate to jump ship or get a new job that you’ll take anything at any price. However, it’ll soon leave you deflated once you realise that you can’t afford to maintain the same lifestyle you were used to on a lower salary, especially if you’re doing a lot more work than what was initially agreed. Remember: it’s vital to value your time and your skillset adequately so you’re not selling yourself short.
4. Becoming a Jack of all Trades
After working in a number of jobs, you’ll naturally have developed a wide range of skills. However, if the jobs have been varied across a range of different industries, you most likely won’t have perfected one specific skill but rather will have a general understanding of a number of them. That said, it’s imperative not to become a generalist but to specialise in your desired field, instead.
5. Lacking Confidence
By lacking confidence, you’re essentially damaging your career – because even though you’re more equipped and experienced, Jane has the outgoing personality and the guts to speak up in meetings and maker her voice heard. And bagging herself a promotion in the process. In other words, stop hiding under your pile of paperwork and start showing your boss why you deserve the next bonus!
6. Never Giving Yourself a Break
Working hard is important to make a career for yourself but it’s necessary to take some time off to relax, as well. If you’re constantly checking your emails during your personal time, you’re going to get to a point where you will burn out. Choosing a career that has a good work-life balance is, therefore, ideal – that way you can reap the rewards of your hard work.
7. Failing to Network
It’s easy to get comfortable if you’ve been with your company for a long time, but the moment you stop networking (with colleagues and external professionals, and everyone else in between), you’re doomed to fail. It’s absolutely imperative that you continue to network throughout your career as this effectively ensures you connect (and stay connected) with likeminded individuals who may be able to help you down the line.
8. Assuming Good Work Will be Recognised
If you’re a hard worker, it’s easy to just assume all your efforts are getting noticed by management, without bragging about your successes. However, in many instances, your manager won’t even notice what you’ve done or that you’ve gone the extra mile in your work. All while your less-than-competent colleague has risen through the ranks because they were able to point out their contributions to the company’s overall success.
9. Burning Bridges
When you’re in the early stages of your career, you’re not likely to think about the consequences of burning bridges or telling an employer what you truly think about them. However, you’ll soon realise that you need to be diplomatic in the workplace. If you’re handing in your notice because you hate your boss, for example, don’t let them know about it. Not only will this reflect badly on you, but you can also say ‘goodbye’ to a good reference. Always part ways on good terms, and don’t give anyone an excuse to badmouth or criticise you in any way.
10. Blurring the Lines Between Personal and Professional
Over time, you’ll naturally build close relationships with your colleagues but it’s important to always keep it professional while you’re at work. Remember: just because you’re besties with a colleague doesn’t mean you can bend the rules – it will only backfire on you sooner or later!
11. Having a Bad Attitude
If you’re one of those people who always think the grass is greener on the other side, it’s time to change. Weigh up the pros and cons of your current job and company to see if you really are unhappy or if it’s your mindset that needs a little adjusting. Sometimes it’s easy to think that the unknown is much better but when you do make the move, you might just realise it was one big mistake – by which time it will be too late to go back (unless, of course, you didn’t burn those bridges we mentioned earlier).
12. Focusing on Money
One of the worst career blunders of all time is chasing money instead of happiness. Sure, the extra cash will buy you something materialistic that will make you happy for 0.5 seconds, but at what price? Once the initial phase of the extra income wears off, you’ll realise that you’re super unhappy and will begin the job hunt all over again.
13. Slacking on Research
When you’re given a big task, it’ll most likely require a lot of research. But if you decide to take the easy route out and forego a number of important steps, the quality of your work will, needless to say, take a serious hit. And this in turn will show your employers (both existing and potential future ones) that you simply don’t care.
14. Not Building a Personal Brand
In today’s technologically advanced world, your online footprint plays a pivotal role in your career. If you haven’t yet established a personal brand for yourself across your social media accounts, it’s time to refresh your pages and get rid of those embarrassing college photos.
15. Not Dressing the Part
Certain workplaces require specific dress-codes, and if you’re not dressing the part, you’re most likely setting yourself up to fail. It’s important to dress for the role you want to have and not for your current position.
16. Wasting Time
Some people go through their entire careers doing the bare minimum and receiving a paycheque for it at the end of the month. They waste time by constantly scrolling through their phone, talking to friends about anything that’s not related to work and generally failing to enhance their knowledge by doing things that are probably outside of their normal job description. Use your time valuably; for example, by reading articles that will help your career.
As you can see, there are many situations and actions that can be detrimental to your career, sometimes without you even realising. It’s important to evaluate what kind of career you want and use this advice to help you succeed.
Have you made any big career mistakes that you regret? If so, join in on the conversation below to let us know what they were and how you overcame them…