This is the second in a two-part series. For mistakes 1-5, click here.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’ve been in the job market for years, it’s easy to lose perspective, vision, and strategy over where you’re going and where you’ve been. Even the best career advice sometimes perpetuates myths that have to be dispelled.
Here, I’d like to break down a few of the biggest career mistakes people make, with some new perspective.
Changing Industries Without a Plan
Job hopping is one thing, but industry hopping can send red flags to future employers. Too many changes can indicate lack of stability, focus, care, and self-awareness. I know this firsthand because I was a job hopper. I craved newness, excitement, and challenge, and I set such huge goals for myself, that in order to feel challenged, I changed roles in completely unrelated industries. This was (to me) setting the bar as high as it could go.
I was the chief marketing officer in a leading accounting firm, then an international law firm, then a regional architectural firm, then a commercial real estate firm, and so on. This terrified my parents: “Will she ever settle in?” they asked. For me, not only was I growing my salary but the changes stimulated my need to keep things exciting.
I wish I could say I had a plan, but I didn’t. What I see now, as an entrepreneur who works across many industries and companies, is that my background beautifully prepared me for the type of work, conversations, and people I have as clients. In many ways, I consider myself more lucky than intentional!
I advise others to be mindful of the impact and consequences of changing industries. There is value to being seen as an expert in your field, in your area. Too many changes can make it hard for others to see the impact of your work, challenge your ability to build long-term and sustainable relationships, and cause you to question your confidence and skills often.
Abandoning Your Network
Typically, we hear from people in our network only when they need something — a job, introduction, referral, resource, or something else. When times are good and things are proceeding nicely, these network contacts disappear.
Even when you don’t need anything from your network, it’s critical to stay relevant and top of mind with those colleagues, peers, and network contacts you’ve nurtured and built a relationship with. Consider these tips for staying in touch:
- Update your status on LinkedIn with articles, links, comments, and insights that show you are active and engaged in your career and industry.
- Send news clippings, handwritten notes, and event invitations to your contacts to highlight your networking reach in the community or the industry.
- Seek ways to help others in your network by providing leads, referrals, information, or insights that benefit them. This is a great way to let your network contacts know you’re thinking of them!
Neglecting Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is that piece of your marketing that is working for (or against) you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you sleep, your online personal brand is sending a message to your current and prospective contacts about who you are, what you value, and your relevancy to meet their needs. This cannot be neglected!
At a minimum, update your profiles (LinkedIn, Google+) to show you are alive and well. I suggest clients set a calendar reminder to alert them it’s time to make a post. Consider posting a link to a news or industry piece (with a comment from you about the story), a congratulatory post for a colleague, or a note to share insights you have on your business, industry, or field of expertise.
Google yourself. I call this “ego surfing,” and it is a habit you should adopt. Today, it’s imperative to know what others will find when they type your name into Google. You never want to be caught off guard! Assume everyone you meet will search for you online before they meet you. Another option is to set up a Google Alert, so the search engine pushes mentions of your name to you, instead of you having to search them out.
Understanding the roles that others see you filling starts with a process of gathering feedback. You might believe you are perceived as collaborative, insightful, and driven, but what if your staff sees you as pushy, stubborn, and isolating? Their perception could be impacting their willingness to work with you, consult you, or even support you on projects.
Begin by gathering feedback from people you trust and respect. Send an email to six, or eight, or ten people and ask them to give you insight about your brand. Ask them to share feedback about whether they would refer you to somebody else, what they look to you for, and where they see your value. Regardless of the answers, thank them for their insight. Sometimes the feedback that comes back is not exactly what you’d hoped for, but it’s still valuable insight that helps you understand your current brand.
Abandoning Your Values
The worst career mistake is to abandon your principles and values. This usually starts from a few small choices that you know “go against your best judgment,” but you do them anyway… Then you make more bad choices, and before you know it, you’ve compromised your beliefs and values to the point where you’re no longer sure what you stand for.
The only way to build a sustainable and authentic personal brand is to anchor your actions in your values and beliefs. Aligning your work, relationships, behavior, and messages with your values ensures you will live a life that is meaningful and true to who you are.
What career mistakes have you been making, and how will you fix them? Share in the comments!