7 common career mistakes and how to avoid them

7 common career mistakes and how to avoid them

Posted on

You’re making some career mistakes. In fact, we’re all making some career mistakes. But some of these mistakes are small (and can officially be counted as missteps), whereas others can come back to bite us.

Unfortunately, these bigger mistakes are not uncommon. Most people make them at some point in their careers, and they can negatively affect career goals. To try and help you avoid these pitfalls, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes.

Not having career goals

A quick online search will tell you that one of the most common interview questions is ‘what are your 5-year and 10-year career goals?’ Most people hate it and tend to give vague answers that resemble what they think the interviewer wants to hear. We get that. But, the facts are that having clear career goals is important. Very important.

‘A person without career goals has no direction in life. While spontaneous jobs may work out in the short term, it's important to have career goals. People who map out their goals accordingly face less stress with a more transparent future’, says Irene McConnell, a career coach and an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.

How to avoid it

You're the only one who has the insight to define your own career goals. Don’t allow yourself to get pressured by friends and family into choosing an ‘ideal’ career goal. Reflect on your skills and choose a career goal that’s ideal for you.

After setting the goals, a good way to attain them is to follow the SMART goal philosophy. If that doesn’t work, setting HARD goals might get the job done. However, always be as specific as you can when setting these goals, as that is the key to success.

If neither of these options work for you, you can try the brilliantly acronymic D.U.M.B goals approach.

Information list on SMART and HARD goals

Not sharing your goals

Some of us may not like our managers. Some of us might hate them, or barely tolerate them. Yet, managers remain important assets who can help us move ahead on the corporate ladder. They can provide invaluable guidance, offer excellent feedback, and give access to potential avenues to help us build our career paths.

This is a major part of the reason you should tell your managers where you want your career to progress to. They aren’t mind readers, and won’t know unless you share your goals with them. They might not be able to help you achieve everything you’re after, but keeping quiet pretty much guarantees you won’t get the things you want.

How to avoid it

Begin by fostering a genuine relationship with your boss and seniors. From there on, once you’re comfortable, you can share your aspirations with them. In addition to letting them know your thoughts, you should also ask them for advice on how to progress within the company. Progression helps both employers and employees to plan and measure career growth, while maintaining visibility for everyone involved.

Not investing in continuous development

Not investing in continuous development is one of the biggest career mistakes a person can make. It’s easy to stay in a position you love and enjoy, but that’s not growth.

You will only achieve real success by stepping out of your comfort zone. Opportunities are likely to pass you by if you don’t keep your eyes open and continue to look for ways to grow and develop. You need to rely on your present self to get access to future opportunities.

How to avoid it

Keep up with industry trends and updates. You can do this by visiting seminars, signing up for industry meet-ups, updating your education, networking with peers, training yourself, and getting access to up-skilling opportunities, amongst many other ways. Also, keep your eyes open for better job offers while you’re at it.

Not having support

Having a full-time job is tough work. It is exhilarating on certain days, but you’re also weighed down with responsibilities and duties. Doing all of it alone can make even the strongest people crumble. You need someone to celebrate your accomplishments and mourn your losses with. This advice is not only relevant for seeking support in your personal life, but also in your professional one.

Making friends with your colleagues and peers can not only elevate your happiness, but can also improve your work performance. Wildgoose reported that 55% of employees enjoy work more with an office friend, and 22% of employees said that they’re more productive when their work friends are by their side.

How to avoid it

There's no one right way to ask for support. You should find a way that works for you and go for it, as it’s so important to have. Develop relationships with your peers and let them know when you need help. But remember, support is a give and take, so make sure to offer help in return when they need a hand.

Another thing you can do is seek the help of a career coach or a mentor. They are trained in these areas and so can push you out of your comfort zone and help you with professional development.

Not networking

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: networking can be a huge asset to get to better job opportunities. It’s easy to put networking on the back burner once things start looking good for you. But if you stop networking, then you’ll be making one of the biggest career mistakes of your life.

A good professional network is indispensable and, contrary to popular belief, not all networking events are dreary and dull. Besides, there is always the chance of meeting a recruiter at an event and being offered your dream job.

How to avoid it

The best networking advice we can give you is don’t limit yourself. Everyone you meet, both inside and outside of your organisation, or even on your commute, in the lift, in the lobby or at a professional or leisure event, has the potential to become part of your network.

Another big tip: always foster genuine relationships. Be truly interested in people’s lives. Check up on them once in a while (and not only when you need something from them). Try to help them just the way you’d want help, be it for personal reasons or professional.

Neglecting your life outside of work

On par with our last statement about fostering genuine relationships, we also encourage you to never neglect your life (and your relationships) outside of work. If you’re one of those people who spend all hours of the day glued to your office desk (which is a common mistake among young professionals), then trust us, you won’t get much work done in the long term.

Perhaps this is a good place to say ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Alternatively, Jack can avoid burnout, stress, poor productivity, and low morale by enjoying time outside of work. Think of it as nature’s way of saying that corporate life can wait for Monday.

How to avoid it

We know that certain jobs come with more stressors than others. And for many people, taking a day off may not be a possibility. But for those of us who have that luxury, here are a few ways to improve work-life balance:

  1. Create priorities and divide your time accordingly.
  2. Boundaries are important (seriously, don’t pick up your coworker’s calls while on holiday).
  3. Leave work at work — don’t bring it home.
  4. Create a realistic balance, rather than an idealised one (don’t worry, we daydream too).

So, basically, the TL;DR is - don't prioritise your career over your life.

Burning bridges

We’ve all been in situations where we wanted to say certain things to a co-worker or two. And, while it may feel like a perfect movie star movement to have the final word, we suggest you don’t. That’s not to say don’t stand up for what you believe in, we’re just advocating that you know the implications of burning bridges before they’re burnt.

I’m hoping to portray it as exaggerated and humorous. Colour of Buzzfeed text is usually back with white as the background of the screen.)

Trust us, you never know what opportunities a burnt bridge might’ve led you to or what penance you will give for crossing that line. If that isn’t motivation enough, you don’t really want to be featured in Buzzfeed’s list of ‘Worst Coworkers’, right?

How to avoid it

Before you end up saying something that might have drastic implications, consider resolving the issue by communicating calmly. You never know, the whole thing may turn out to be a miscommunication.

In the worst-case scenario, even if things do get heated, never leave in a way that you’d regret or that would do lasting damage.

Accelerate your career growth

Your career path will have many hurdles and bumps along the way. However, the goal is to always grow. Once you’re on track to avoid these career mistakes, you can then begin to accelerate your career growth and reach better opportunities every day.

Progression can help you reach those opportunities. Our software helps employers and employees set attainable career goals, and measure career growth. It also provides data-rich insights to improve and celebrate success.

Get started with a free template

Our template library is full of best-practice content to get you started quickly

Build world class careers in days not months

Find out how we can accelerate your team's career growth, today