In my practice, I meet many people that have had a difficult career experience, due to making a career mistake.
The real key to success is making good on a mistake you made, and being watchful of the pitfalls you can avoid. With recent college graduates beginning their career and with others wondering how to avoid career mistakes, I thought these tips – gleaned from research and years of experience – would be helpful.
Not accepting responsibility
Far and above, this is number one on the list of mistakes. When you make a mistake in your work, fess up to it – accept responsibility. In his book on leadership, Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies a key trait that is so true: When in the face of crisis when a mistake has been made, followers look around for someone to blame; leaders look in the mirror and accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is critical for success.
Not being a team player
No one likes a prima donna who is just focused on me – me – me. Being a team player and contributing will help you define your success. Show that you have the greater good of the organization at heart.
Working with a fear of failure: Not taking risks or accepting opportunity
Many work each and every day striving to do the same old thing over and over. They appear not to believe in themselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Instead of saying, “I’ve never done that,” try “I’ll learn how”. Find learning opportunities in every situation. Overtime, consistently being risk-averse can be more hazardous to your career than making mistakes and learning from them.
Undermining people or the company
Talking behind the backs of others, undermining your manager or the company, discussing a confidential matter or spreading gossip can all be fatal to your career. Not only will you find yourself isolated, but others will not trust you and when you’re not trusted, your growth stops. Keep the off-color comments to yourself; don’t engage others in inappropriate discussions. While there is such a thing as free speech, it’s not so free if it costs you your job!
Being respectful to others – treating everyone in the manner you would expect to be treated – is so important. Being condescending, pretentious or making someone feel they aren’t good enough is so damaging to all. There is no place in a job for yelling, calling someone out in front of others, treating anyone as “lower” than you – it’s not appropriate and not accepted.
Being one of the “walking dead”: Working without goals
You know them – the people who just come to work every day, do the bare minimum and then leave. They appear not to have goals or focus – they are simply collecting a paycheck. They get by for awhile, but when business conditions require cost-cutting, guess who’s the first to go? Talk your goals over with your manager or your family – get support and you will be positioned stronger.
Checking your people skills at the door
Researchers found that if employees are disliked, it’s almost irrelevant whether they’re good at what they do, because other workers will avoid them. Go out of your way to communicate, establish strong working relationship with others, smile and be engaging with others. It will work wonders for you.
Mistakes happen. Just learn from them, and try to avoid the real pitfalls in your career and job.
Dan Moran is president & founder of Next-Act, a career management & transition firm located in Colonie. You can reach him at 641.8968 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.next-act.com.