When you consider your career, the things that you think hurt your career typically only create short term pain. That is, you might have made a mistake in your job or upset someone while getting things done. These issues will eventually go away, especially once you have addressed what went wrong in the first place.
However, these are “job” based mistakes. The decisions we make when it comes to a career are different. They have longer term impact, and often don’t hurt us now but are really noticed when we are trying to make key decisions like finding a promotion, moving companies or pivoting our career direction. They compound any pressures we have in our current job, and make it harder to transition or progress to the goals we have.
Here is a list of decisions that really hurt your career;
1. No direction
While we all know career development is not linear, there is a great deal of value in knowing where you are going and why. Not having a compass on your career can lead to frustration when you find yourself doing something you really don’t enjoy, or when trying to articulate and convince someone of your ambition.
2. Not learning about yourself
A lack of self-awareness and appreciation of your values is risky when it comes to your career. It often leads to making decisions about jobs based on someone else’s rules, like the job that is paying the most, or the job that has the best title. Knowing who you are leads to better decision making and much better engagement with your colleagues and network. It also helps you avoid making career decisions based on what other people “think” you want.
3. Confusing hard work with performance
Often a huge mental hurdle. Learning that time is no longer the measurement of performance can be difficult for many. Unfortunately “effort” is typically not a KPI, and while admired and certainly valued, it not a guarantee to promotion and reaching your goals.
4. No mentors
Deciding to go your career alone without support, and more importantly, perspective can be dangerous. It’s like running through a maze without a map. Learning and bouncing your ideas off others with experience can help you navigate your career much more effectively.
5. No stretch or value creation
It is concerning when people have career goals but wait for their boss to hand them something new to do. Making the decision to be curious about ways to fix, improve, help, and increase your exposure and skills will move you much close to your career goals than the alternative of waiting for someone to hand it to you.
6. Limited professional network
It is the power of other people that creates opportunity in your career. Most people say they are too busy to invest into their network, and often leave it until they work out that they are in a position where they need something (like a new job). This becomes risky as your career extends.
7. Not pitching your ideas well
Unfortunately this becomes a hurdle and can create a great deal of frustration, especially when other people are not getting on board or helping you out. Learning to influence others and formulate a way of conveying is important. It is important to invest time into this skill if your career is important.
8. Not learning about your business
It is common to see professionals forget to get out of their chair and see how their business is really operating. It is in this that you understand the challenges and real needs of the business. Iscolating yourself to your function can result in a loss of credibility and makes it hard to influence. Equally, understanding the strategic goals of your business will help you find ways to create value.
9. Not connecting frequently with others in your business
In the same way as learning about your business, it is people that drive the business and make key decisions. Including decisions about your future. It is important to connect and learn about others, including their motivations, challenges and what they are trying to achieve.
10. Not staying connected and aware of the employment market.
Some professionals get caught out by believing their company and employability remains consistent. Unfortunately not only the market changes, but so does our value proposition. While you shouldn’t stress about market changes, it is good to have a finger on the pulse and ensure you can attract opportunities if you need to.
11. Not acting on what you say you want.
This is as much about your own career decisions as it is with business decisions. “Talking it up” confuses others around you, which doesn’t get the best out of them and their ability to help you. It’s like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” story and can have an impact on your career and credibility. Once of the biggest sources of career regret.
12. Not learning to manage politics.
As many experienced professionals will know, your career has you spending a great deal of time learning to negotiate, understand influencers and cause supporters, and occasionally this can get messy. This reality can have a negative impact on you, your mental health and your career if let it.
13. Not having an advocate.
Having the support of an advocate (or advocates) in your career is very helpful. They tend to be connected and open doors. Deciding not to maintain connection with these people in your career is doing yourself a disservice. Of course, they need to see you as someone reliable to support you in the first place.
Thankfully most of the above are decisions in your control and don't require a high degree of time. In fact, the upside of managing each area far outweighs the downside of the time invested.
Do you find it hard to make decisions around career planning and career management?
If you want to investigate how well you are managing your career, click here to take the Career Health Check.