Ten Common Career Limiting Mistakes

by | Jan 2, 2018 | 0 comments

NOTE: a version of this article has also been published at Huffington Post (Canadian and South African versions). Here’s the Huff Post SA story and a slightly shorter version at HuffPost Canada.

I see a lot of people at various stages in their career: some at crossroads; some in difficult times; and others simply planning ahead. Many are doing a lot of things right. But I’ve also seen a lot of career mistakes.  I decided to share a few of the common themes I’ve noticed, along with a bit of guidance.

(courtesy of Pixabay)


#1) Outdated Thinking About Career Security: Who doesn’t want to feel more secure in their job and career?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 an overhaul. 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”.

Much more on this in these two articles:  Career Security in the Gig Economy, AND  Are You Ready for the Innovation Economy?

2) 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. Stagnation puts your career at risk. And — well, aren’t you a bit bored yet? Complacency is not just bad for your career, it can also be detrimental to your overall well-being. You need not have aspirations for a huge vertical career trajectory (i.e. not everyone wants a promotion or aspires to be a leader) but it’s always a good ideas to develop yourself in some way, shape, or form. People need goals and growth to flourish. So, get a goal; learn a new skill or three; connect and get out there.  Do some or all of this and you’ll be safer (career-wise), happier and healthier too.

3) Risk Aversion: A good measure of prudence can be wise; but 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.

#4) Networking Blahs: 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 connect 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 plan on putting 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 authentically – 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 health 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.

(UPDATE: Here’s a new article — “5 Easy Ways to Break the Ice at Networking Events”)

#5) Blind to Your Own 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’.

#6) Stuck in Limiting Beliefs 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.

#7) 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, lack confidence  – and so much more.

Staying still and doing nothing will only dig you deeper into 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. For those who can invest in a coaching engagement – that can be the ONE key step that can get you moving towards other meaningful steps. Before you do that – make sure you are right and ready for this step (read #10 on “silver bullets” below.)

#8) Outdated Resume and LinkedIn (or none at all): 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 an opportunity or need comes calling. Note that LinkedIn is not just about having a profile. It’s also a terrific tool for research and networking. Make it a priority to buff up your presence this year (online and on paper) with a strong narrative and be career-ready for anything.

#9) Afraid to Ask for Support: Over the years I’ve coached some very successful people and noticed that they feel perfectly comfortable asking for support. Whether it be from their coach 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 — and not just in times of change but 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.

#10) Looking for Silver Bullet Solutions: Career navigation can sometimes take time – and lots of effort. The old adage is true: you get out what you put in. If you are at the cusp of change, watch out for silver bullet expectations. Cutting corners, or hoping others will do your work won’t cut it. It’s also important to learn to be patient — and proactive at the same time. 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.

Often people hire coaches to support them — which is a great idea (of course!) but heed this: it’s not for everyone. You need to be ready to lean in with your own effort and take responsibility for your success. Hiring a coach is a great first step. But the rest of the journey calls upon you to put in your effort. Your coach can help a lot – but she/he can’t do the work for you.

In sum: Watch out for those ‘silver bullet’ expectations. 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 purposeful action, doing things well for yourself and your career — and that will fuel even more good to come.

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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 became a contributing freelance writer to the Globe and Mail in 2007 and wrote frequently for more than a decade on careers and leadership. 





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