I’m writing this at the time of year when we are seeing “top ten” lists for nearly everything. Given how much career coaching I’ve done these past years (this year especially), I thought I’d do one of my own. I see so many people at various stages in their career: some at crossroads, some simply looking/planning ahead. Many are doing a lot of things right. But I’ve also seen a lot of career mistakes. So here are a few of the common themes I’ve seen this past year — along with some guidance just below:
TEN COMMON CAREER MISTAKES
Holding on to out-dated ideas about career security.
Becoming complacent – not growing or evolving.
Being too risk-averse – and as a result, adding new risks (professional and personal wellbeing).
Shying away from networking – or doing it poorly.
Being blind to your own super powers and accomplishments.
Feeling shame where none is warranted (limiting beliefs).
Procrastinating – and waiting too long to take action.
Having an out-of-date resume and LinkedIn profile — or none at all.
Not asking for help.
Looking for silver bullets and not investing the time/effort to make meaningful changes.
A FEW WORDS OF GUIDANCE….
Career Security: Who doesn’t want to feel more secure in their job and career? But while there is much you can do to protect and maximize your own career-ability, times have changed and old notions of job security need a rehaul. Today, you need to think in terms of “gig’ (even if you have a full-time job) and constantly stay on your “career/change-ready toes”.
Complacency: Perhaps you’ve been in your job or career for a while and feel you’ve got it covered. If you are ‘coasting’ – that may be fine for just a bit but if you haven’t done much to develop new skills, acquire new learning, and/or expand your network, well two words to you: Wake up!!!
Career complacency is bad for your health – professionally and personally. You put your career at risk by staying stagnant and — well, aren’t you a bit bored yet? That too is bad for your overall well-being. So, get a goal; learn a new skill or three; connect and get out there. You need not have huge aspirations for leadership but, being human and all, it’s always a good idea to grow where-ever you are. Do some or all of this and you’ll be safer (career-wise), happier and healthier too.
Risk Aversion: A good measure of prudence can be wise; too much, not wise. No question, most of us crave some certainty in the career choices we make. But insisting on certainty at the expense of taking some healthy risks can derail your career. Over-investing in the illusion of safety can actually create more risks to your career-ability by holding you back from stretch assignments and new opportunities to grow and build upon your career experience.
Nothing is guaranteed and indeed sometimes a decision may not work out for the better. But if this occurs, it doesn’t have to derail your entire career. Read this: When Nothing is Wasted, Everything Has Purpose.
Networking: I talk to a lot of people who have an aversion to networking. They claim they are shy or they don’t know how to do it – or they just plain hate doing it. Sound like you? In today’s career landscape learning how to network and build relationships over time are ever-more critical to your overall long-term success. If it feels ‘icky’ (as many people have described), chances are you simply haven’t learned how to network authentically, purposefully, and reciprocally.
Even for confident networkers – I’ve seen a lot of mis-steps here too. E.g. only reaching out when you need help and not reciprocating or even circling back to update your network when you land your next role (and many more related examples).
I hope to put together more resources on this in the months ahead but for now, heed this: avoid networking at your own peril. Learn how to do it well – and given it’s a skill for life, make this a high priority and not just for when you need a job. Successful careerists know networking is a year-round, career-long necessity. Stay tuned for more on this from me. For now, have a look at this article: Networking tips for shy people.
Super Powers & Accomplishments: Most people are so busy getting stuff done they don’t take time to notice, acknowledge, and get acquainted with their best talents and abilities. They lose sight of the miracles they perform every day in large and small part. As a result, when it comes time to speak to their worth and value, they sometimes sell themselves short — even to themselves.
Some people are simply modest – but when it comes to careers it can be at their detriment and they need to get better at conveying their value (read article). You need to be your own brand marketing officer for YOU!
This year, make it a priority to learn and/or rediscover your unique strengths, abilities, success stories. And learn how to convey all this with confidence while not feeling like a braggart. More coming on this from me as well. For now, see point further down in this article on ‘asking for help’.
The Limiting Belief of Shame: I’ve heard a number of clients say they felt embarrassed about being laid off and/or not yet having landed a new job. This feeling of shame holds them back from reaching out (network, recruiters, etc.) and leaning into their job search.
My first bit of advice: Stop that (train of thought) – just stop that! This is a self-limiting belief that does nothing good. Lay-offs happen. Companies change. And even if you were let go because of poor fit – so what? It happens to many incredibly successful people. Move on. In today’s career paradigm it is perfectly normal to change jobs many times over. Let go of the self-limiting thoughts because they will be your biggest obstacle. If you haven’t seen this article yet, read this: Why You Might Want to Zig Zag in Your Career.
Procrastination: You know better and yet…..you’re still not moving; not taking action. There are lots of reasons why people procrastinate when they want or need to make a career change: they are overwhelmed; uncertain how to navigate the way forward; they feel daunted – and so much more.
Career coaching can help (see last few points on support, and on ‘silver bullets’) but regardless the key point is this: It’s imperative not to stay stagnant because the longer you delay taking some action (even tiny steps), the deeper you will find yourself in the hole of self doubt and inertia. The most important steps to take are the first ones – and tiny ones work just fine. In fact, hop onto this post TINY is the new BIG — very helpful when it comes to setting goals and beating procrastination.
Make your own tiny goals whether it be related to: updating your resume; reaching out to people in your network; researching opportunities of interest — and more.
Resume and Linkedin: Speaking of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, both are crucial — even if you aren’t looking for a job (yet). Being resume-ready and LinkedIn too) will help you spring into action when the opportunity or need comes calling. And for those shy networkers, the most critical tool in your arsenal is LinkedIn. Networking isn’t (anymore) about shmoozing at events. Get online and make sure you make it a priority to buff up your presence this year to be career-ready for anything.
Asking for Support: Over the years I’ve coached some really successful people and noticed that they feel perfectly comfortable asking for support. Whether it be from their coaching or from within their network. These high-performers/high potentials know that getting the right help is a fundamental ingredient in their pursuit of success — throughout the continuum of their career. If you think asking for help is a sign of weakness – think again. Empower yourself with the right attitude and the right support network to help you get to where you want to go.
Silver Bullets: Some people who are wanting or needing to make a change engage career coaches to help guide them through the process – others will do it on their own. Either way, the old adage is true: you get what you put in.
Watch out for those ‘silver bullet’ expectations. You have to put in the effort. No one will do it for you. Even a coach (although we sure do help you in the process – but you do the work).
Sometimes things (for some people) work out quickly. Especially so, if they are doing the right things. But sometimes, career changes do take time –even when you are doing all the right things. Career changes are possible. But they don’t always come on demand at the exact moment we decide it’s time.
Read all the other points above and manage your own expectations. Get yourself as career-ready as possible, and you will see changes for the better sooner than later. One thing I do know for sure: you will feel better simply being in action, doing things well for yourself and your career — and that will fuel even more good to come.
Wishing you career success in the days, months, year ahead.
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Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a certified coach specializing in career, executive and leadership development — and a communications pro (20+ years of experience). Principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto, Eileen draws from the disciplines of positivity, neuroscience, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work as a coach, consultant, trusted advisor, and facilitator. In addition to authoring the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy, Eileen is also a contributing leadership and careers columnist with the Globe and Mail.