Most of us hope for a long, stable career full of job advancement, pay advances, and interesting and ever-changing challenges that encourage us to use our skills. However, it’s easy to make a decision that you think is a good one, only to realize later that it wasn’t the best idea. Many aspects of the workplace change frequently and quickly, sometimes leaving workers behind.
Due to the many different variables that come with a career, sometimes people make mistakes in their career. Sometimes those mistakes are fueled by the idea that something is a better idea than it really is (like taking a job based on the pay or the title), and sometimes mistakes are made simply because it’s in our nature (such as not being a team player, or neglecting to update your skills). Here are five common career mistakes to look out for.
1. Only thinking about money
Money is a motivating factor for many of us — and for good reason. It costs money to pay bills. However, you shouldn’t make every career decision based on money. As important as money is, if you take a job that get more money, you may endanger your health (if you become too stressed), your family life (if you have less time with your family), and even your career (if the job doesn’t align with where you want your career to go).
Sometimes it is the right choice to change jobs in order to make more money, but be sure that the job you are changing to is really a good fit for you. According to the The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey, 47.7 percent of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs in 2013. Being satisfied with your job is as important, and sometimes more important, than making money — especially if you make more than you really need.
2. Failing to update your skills
Although sometimes actually obtaining a job can feel like a huge accomplishment (and it can be), your work doesn’t stop there. Not only do you need to do a good job in your position in order to advance, you should also keep updating your skills. Even if you plan to stay in your position for a few years or more, keeping your current skills will make you a more valuable part of your team. Improving your own knowledge, through experience as well as trainings or classes, will also help you when you apply for new jobs. Finally, the job market is always changing, and you never know when your particular job might become unnecessary or obsolete, so going beyond your basic duties — and being prepared in case you have to move on to a different job or even a different field — is ideal.
3. Not taking enough risks
Having job security is a great thing, but part of having a career is advancing and trying new things. Even if you feel appreciated and comfortable in your current job, it’s a good idea to periodically at least look to see what else is out there (in your company and outside of it). If you never apply for other jobs, either because you are comfortable where you are or you are scared of rejection or trying something new, you may miss out. Avoiding risk-taking can damage more than just your ability to get a new position; even if you truly do want to stay at the same job for twenty years, you still need to take risks.
According to Salary.com, there are many positives to taking risks, and affective risk-taking includes joining a professional association, proposing new ideas and projects, and trying to model what you want (so, learn what a manager needs to learn if you want to be a manager).
4. Ignoring the needs of others
As important as it is to be skilled at your job, people skills are also really vital to a lasting career. If you regularly spend your entire day on the computer and ignore other people, your boss is bound to notice (unless you have the rare job that requires very little interaction with others). It’s important to not only get along with your coworkers, but be willing to help them. Showing that you are team player will help you advance to new positions, including leadership positions.
Most people want to work with others who are at least respectful and congenial, if not overtly outgoing. You don’t have to gossip or share your life story (and you shouldn’t) in order to get along with your coworkers. Take time regularly to see if you can help others with projects that they are working on, make sure that when you are part of a team, you pull your share, and remain open to other people’s ideas.
5. Failing to network
Now more than ever, with all of the opportunities for employers to hire employees based on word of mouth and social media, the importance of networking can’t be stressed enough. You should make it a priority to network within your own company, so that when potential jobs arise, you might have someone to talk to about them. Networking within your own company also helps you because you build relationships with people who can potentially help you later.
However, it’s also important to network outside of your company. Attend conferences that are related to your field, join an association or a committee, volunteer, and get to know potential contacts genuinely instead of just trying to add one more person to your LinkedIn account. Also be aware of your social network presence, and avoid posting anything that you wouldn’t want a potential employer or boss to see.
There are many other career mistakes that people commonly make. Make sure that you get noticed; don’t brag about your work, but do your best, be consistent, and share your contributions at performance reviews. Also be sure to be flexible so that your boss can rely on you. Refusing or being too scared to ask questions can be another common mistake; if you don’t ask questions, you won’t learn as much, and you could potentially do something wrong if you don’t ask for clarification. Also, be careful about choosing a job simply based on the title; if the job isn’t a good fit, the title won’t matter. There are many other mistakes that people make, and often, you can bounce back from them. Of course, it’s best to avoid mistakes when you can.