5 Mistakes That Can Damage Your Career
Someone told me the other day: “I am particularly interested in how to navigate a career slump (and surprised to hear you've been through the same!)”
Yes, it wasn't all “smooth sailing” on my way to managing director and then COO of Europe for the company.
At times, it felt like I was just stuck in a rut, going sideways, or on a plateau while others zoomed ahead.
Other times, I was in a full out slump and feeling pretty dejected. Like when I:
- Was reorganized out of a job,
- Didn’t get promoted to Executive Director but others in my class did,
- Got passed over for promotion to Managing Director when several others junior to me made it,
- Transferred to a new office and managed to alienate several important colleagues without realizing it until it was almost too late,
- Inadvertently shot myself in the foot with my biggest sponsor,
- Wasn’t even considered for the job I wanted and watched as it was given to someone else, and
- Ended up reporting to someone who was previously a colleague.
And that’s just to name a few. I can tell you that it felt devastating.
Most of the time, I managed to keep a brave face (at least I’d like to think so). But it was killing me inside, and I’m sure some of that feeling of desperation and dejection must have shown through. Who am I kidding? It was probably seeping out of every pore.
No one is immune
The fact is, career downturns can happen to anyone. The ‘trick’ is knowing how to get out of one… or knowing the signs to look out for so you don’t slip into one and get stuck.
Sometimes things just work against you. That’s why it’s important to minimize the mistakes you make that are totally avoidable.
And when you do make one of those mistakes, it’s critical to catch it as soon as possible so you can do something about it before it’s too late.
That’s why I’m sharing with you the following five mistakes that are easy to make, especially if you’re an achiever, hardworking and really busy.
Mistake #1: Lack of clarity
Clarity is fundamental to career progression. For me, I wasn’t clear about three things until much later in my career.
- Knowing what success means to you, instead of relying on other people’s definitions of success.
- Understanding how your mindset may be holding you back. For me, it was a kaleidoscope of limiting beliefs, zero sum thinking, fear, imposter syndrome, waiting to be asked, and “if I just work harder…”
- Figuring out what’s important to work on next – the thing that will most move the needle for your career if you focused on it right now. My mistake was trying to work on everything at once, which meant I wasted a lot of energy, often without getting the most important things done well.
Lack of clarity was at the root of my career wobbles.
It’s easy to fall into because we’re simply too close to the situation to see it clearly. That’s where it’s helpful to have some trusted people in your corner to help you see.
Mistake #2: Not demonstrating your true value
It’s so easy to assume others will know what you’ve accomplished and how much value you add. Not true.
It’s up to you to know what your value is. It’s a blend of understanding your competitive advantage and identifying your personal brand.
Then it’s about conveying your value to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way. You can’t just cling onto the mantra of “I don’t self-promote”.
While it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that “if I keep my head down and do a great job, I’ll get recognized and rewarded”, it’s a mistake to let that happen. That may work at the very start of your career, but it limits your career after that.
Mistake #3: Not building the right relationships with the right people
This one is more important the more senior you become, and the more successful you aspire to be.
Sometimes the mistake is in not knowing who those “right people” are, and other times it’s about knowing how to build your relationship with them.
Having made this mistake myself, I’ve now found that there are two main categories of people who are particularly relevant:
- Stakeholders, who have a say in your business and career, and
- Supporters, people who are in your corner and help you succeed
It’s easy to get engrossed in the day-to-day tasks and keep pushing this down the “to do” list. But don’t make this mistake.
Mistake #4: Doing what you’ve always done
“What got you here won’t get you there.”
– Marshall Goldsmith
It’s easy to make this mistake because most of us don’t want to tamper with success.
But when you keep doing what has worked for you in the past, it can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you want to get ahead.
It’s crucial to show you are ready for the next level. This means innovating, being strategic, proposing ideas, sharing insights and asking great questions.
The world doesn’t stand still so if you don’t evolve and morph with it, and show you can do more, you’re likely to end up in a dead end career-wise.
Mistake #5: Not having a game plan
You have a business plan for your group, a blue print for your project or initiative. You need one for your career too. Otherwise, you’re leaving it to chance. And hope is not a strategy.
Another benefit of having a plan that’s written down is you’re more likely to stick with it. Consistency is important, and you’ll want to create habits that keep you on track as well as ways to hold yourself accountable.
It’s all too easy to allow yourself to become too busy to be strategic. Do not fall into this trap!
How to fix (or avoid) these mistakes and make the next leap forward in your career
Many people have asked for my help because they are in a slump, a rut, or watching others get ahead while they fall behind. Or, they simply want to accelerate their career success more quickly and don’t know how. I’ve been there myself and know how awful it feels.
So I’m putting together a special free training series called “Accelerate Your Career” to help you get back on track.
Over the coming weeks, I will share advice and insights to address each of these 5 career-damaging mistakes, and to make the next leap forward in your career.
Specifically, you’ll discover:
- How I got out of my career slumps, and the lessons I learned
- How to transform yourself and how others see you
- How to build the relationships that can propel your career forward
- How to become indispensible for what you can become
- Strategic actions to get you where you want to go
- and more
This is for you if your career has gone off track and you want to climb back up and make the next leap forward.
If you’re afraid this is likely to happen to you and want to do something proactive to avoid it, this is for you too.
I’m looking forward to helping you regain your passion and excitement for your career!