I am a little past 70 years old now, and I am working on my third career. I have made some career mistakes along the way and seen much more. I love sharing what I have learned and helping others with career assessment mistakes.
Ask what people are doing wrong at work, and a host of older people will instantly offer endless, crotchety, “get off my lawn”-style complaints. Most of these are nonsense, according to a host of reputable studies. Young people aren’t distractible job hoppers whose every career setback can be pinned on entitlement and lack of work ethic.
Keep learning: How to Create Honest Employee Trust and Empowerment
I have learned that my role is to do work that makes a difference in people’s lives. For the first 12 years, I worked in engineering management, believing in the people’s right to know. For the past six years, I’ve been in consulting, helping small businesses be more successful. My ultimate goal is to watch others succeed.
I realized I had solid problem-solving skills during my freshmen year after I went to the soup kitchen in Goldsboro to serve food to the less fortunate. I felt that I needed to do something more, so I had an idea that when everybody moved out of the dorms at the end of a semester, instead of throwing nonperishable food away, students could put it in a box, and I would take it to the local food bank so it could feed the poor. I ended up gathering about six carloads of canned and dry food help feed the poor that would have been thrown away.
My leadership skills were called into question by my first evaluation as an engineer. I was rated much lower than I had ever been rated. I realized that, after having been promoted into a new position, I needed to learn a lot more. Determined to never again get a low rating, I learned as much as I possibly could, and this quest for knowledge became the driving force behind my attaining the high rating I achieved for this year.
Now here are some of the l cautions and advice that career advisors offered young people to help them tune up their careers.
Avoid these career mistakes if you can.
During my careers, I have evaluated and selected new employees many, many times. What was my most important employee skill, you may ask? Taking the initiative, hands down.
In any career, it is absolutely critical you continue to demonstrate your value to your employer, clients, and colleagues on a daily basis. Adding value is THE buzzword for “safe-guarding” your career and propelling yourself to the top of your profession.
Showing initiative is a must-do in demonstrating your value at work. Initiative correlates strongly with personal achievement and professional development. It is the act of taking personal responsibility for your growth, and it is a clear sign of your capacity to develop as a leader.
Career assessment … poor teammate
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that maintaining a great team almost always boils down to a strong management-employee relationship. The list of natural wedges that typically drive apart management and employees is massive, but that should not derail you. If you have the desire to create and maintain a great team culture in your company, focus on being a strong team player.
Do you consider yourself a leader that promotes loyalty in your team? How important is this leadership characteristic in your mind? I believe that it is more important than ever as employee loyalty is at an all-time low. I have held leadership positions in the military and business for over 40 years. In my mind, there are few if any, more important leadership habits to achieve.
Aiming too low
Whether it’s salary, title, or type of company, people are too intimidated by interviewers, scared of asking for what they want at every stage of the interview process, and suffer from imposter syndrome.
This is a direct result of decades of indoctrination by authoritative educational, parental, and societal institutions that tend to demolish your self-confidence to control you. This persistent lack of confidence is the #1 issue candidates suffer from when it comes to selling yourself effectively.
No continuous learning
In the information and internet ages, learning problems have gotten much worse. As we said many times, the amount of new technical information is doubling every two years … doubling. We are living in exponential times.
So not trying to keep up with and maintaining the ability for continuous learning in such a fast-changing and complex environment is a death knell.
Becoming a jack of all trades
The most dangerous problem candidates run into that seriously limits their market value and range of future career options is becoming a generalist. Corporations no longer value employees willing to do any deed for pay. They want professionals, experts, and true masters of the industry and job vertical. They NEED these experts to remain viable and stay ahead of their competition.
No longer is being eager and willing to work for a firm for the next 25 years a valuable candidate trait. Firms want true market leaders. That means specialization and experience within a niche skill are not only a good-to-have but a MUST-HAVE to remain a relevant and desirable professional.
Thinking your career should be linear
When you look at the career paths of successful people — people who worked alongside the world’s best entrepreneurs, VPs of Fortune 500 companies, etc. — you’ll notice a common pattern.
Almost none of them “moved up the ladder” in a linear fashion. In fact, 99% of top performers have made at least one discontinuous “jump” in their career.
They might have gotten a normal analyst-level job right out of school, have normal responsibilities for a few years and then … BAM! They get a director-level role when they’re 26.
There’s a big difference between skills and experience.
A 25-year-old who has been reading, learning, and implementing new information for five years will have more skills than an “experienced” 35-year-old who spent ten years coasting.
The more you focus on learning, the more exponential growth you’ll have. That’s how you “skip the line” in front of everybody else.
Chasing after status
Average people chase after titles more than results.
They care more about looking high-status than actually being high status. They want to show up at their class reunion and be the most successful person there.
The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with this.
But counterintuitively, some of the best career opportunities you could get are not high-status ones.
Career assessment tools … not asking other people for help
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have when it comes to their careers is that strangers won’t care enough to help them.
In fact, the quickest way to avoid mistakes that could cost you months of wasted time and effort is by reaching out to someone in your field who’s a few years ahead of you and asking them questions.
But many of us are afraid of looking desperate or sleazy. Or we think “why would they ever want to talk to me?”
In reality, people love to help. You just have to reach out in the right way.
Working hard, but not working smart
Bosses like people who work hard; bosses love people who get things done. The more efficient you are with your effectiveness, the more you’ll impress those around you (and the more time you’ll have to enjoy your life).
Avoid these three mistakes, and your career will be better, and you’ll have a happier life!
Making your personal growth the responsibility of your company
Sure, it is great when they are willing to train you, but don’t rely on them. Rely on yourself. The jobs market continues to change quickly. You are best positioned if you change with it and skate where the puck is going. If you leave that to others to dictate or set time, you will fall behind. If that is the case, you will be a victim.
Your career is not your life
This is probably the most difficult of the mistakes to correct in my opinion, particularly early to mid-career. At least it was for me. To be successful in this lesson, you should develop breath to your list of activities and always put family and friends first. To do both well, think about activities that maximize your friends and family.
Not knowing who you are
Your life will be in constant change mode, and that is a good thing if you lead change in the direction of your success goals. To do that most successfully, you should have a good understanding of who you are and what direction you are going. Certainly, you must know your strengths and weaknesses pretty well.
Watch out for stress: Workplace Stress … 20 Successful Ways to Reduce It
I am a big believer in adaptation and change. You should always seek to be flexible and keep several alternative paths in front of you. Avoiding change is a big no=no. Always be on the lookout for ways to reinvent ways for self-improvement.
Not sharing kindness
All of these career mistakes get better when you have a strong foundation in knowing how to stay happy. One big part of being successful in happiness is learning how to share kindness. It costs you nothing, and you’d be surprised how much it can do for your happiness.
What to remember: 10 Positive Thinking Ideas from Peers and Mentors
Listening but not hearing
It doesn’t seem like a mistake that should be in the top ten to most of the younger generation, or that difficult to be an effective listener. But most of us are wrong on both counts. Everyone needs to make listening to their #1 core competency.
The bottom line
Career problems aren’t simply an amalgamation of your job’s stressors. Your personal, financial, and professional problems, weaknesses, and vices will all meld together to gang up on you if you let your guard down or stray from the righteous path of moral behavior.
Stay ahead of the game by learning, networking, and speaking with career experts, colleagues, mentors, and influencers that have the RIGHT advice to guide you.
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Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your continuous learning?
Do you have a lesson about making your learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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