5 Biggest Career Mistakes You Can Make

Career Mistakes

From not taking risks, to sticking to a job you hate, here is a low-down on the five biggest career mistakes you can make, and how to avoid them.

No matter how experienced you are in your field, as you move along your career path, you are likely to make several mistakes. There is no sure way to avoid blunders at work, and sometimes, you may not even know that you are making a slip.

While mistakes on the job may be mostly surmountable, making them is one of the ways that people learn and grow. This, in turn, is crucial for their long-term prospects.

At the same time, learning from mistakes that have already been made – by yourself or someone else – is a smart way to steer clear of at least a few blind spots. Here are the five biggest career mistakes you can make, and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Not growing your network

Networking is crucial to advancing in your career. Whether you are a fresher or have been working for a decade, it is important to make professional connections.

The biggest benefit of networking is access to opportunities that may not be available on public domains. According to some estimates, around 70% of jobs are not listed publicly on job search sites, and about 50%-80% of jobs are filled through networking.

When you stay connected with others in your industry, chances are that they will think of you when a relevant opportunity arises. Additionally, networking can help you stay abreast with industry trends and explore job possibilities in the market.

Sharing his experience on LinkedIn, President, Technology at Visa, Rajat Taneja talked about how he once failed to make an elevator pitch to an important executive when he was working at Microsoft. The result was that he missed out an opportunity to discuss a “strategic project” with the executive.

“This experience taught me that in business, you have to make the most of the moments you have and to not let a level of intimidation get in the way of making a good, and lasting, impression,” Taneja wrote.

Be sociable and make as many connections as you can. Attending industry or company events and conferences, asking your contacts for introductions, or signing up for local meet-ups, are some ways in which you can build your professional networks.

2. Not knowing your worth or asking for a raise

Many employees tend to underestimate their professional value. This may result in them settling for less than they deserve, and not asking for a raise.

According to a 2018 PayScale survey, only 37% of employees have ever asked for a raise. “If you don’t ask, you’re likely not to get one because your employer will assume you’re satisfied with your salary,” said Robin Pinkley, a management professor at Southern Methodist University.

Understanding how valuable your skills and talents are compared to your peers will give you a competitive edge. Thus, however uncomfortable it may be, don’t be afraid to ask your employee for a raise.

At the same time, make sure to keep a track record of all your achievements, and research the average salary of your field to have a better chance at getting the raise. You can use sites like Salary.com or PayScale to know the industry-wise salary range you should be aiming for.

3. Not upskilling yourself

When you have been working with a company for a long time with a consistently good performance, there is a tendency to slip into a comfort zone. You may think you have all the necessary skills, and lack the incentive to upskill.

However, amid the technological advancements and increasing automation, many jobs are becoming redundant. According to estimates by the 2020 Future of Jobs Report, 85 million jobs are expected to be displaced by 2025. To keep up with the changes, around 50% of all employees will need reskilling and upskilling by 2022.

If you don’t brush up on your skills, chances are that they may eventually become outdated. In order to stay relevant and move forward in your career, it is imperative that you keep abreast of the latest technologies and developments in your field, and push the learning curve upwards.

Identify areas where your knowledge or skills are lacking, and take measures to overcome the gap by attending classes or seminars, researching available certificates in your field, or seeking the help of a mentor.

4. Not taking risks

Staying in a comfort zone poses an additional problem – it can dissuade you from taking risks that could have greater payoffs. Even freshers, faced by an uncertain job market, can veer towards a risk-averse approach when it comes to their careers. But just as it is with investments, lower risks mean lower returns.

For instance, when Elon Musk started SpaceX, he thought that the chance of success would be less than 10%. However, he accepted the probability that he may lose everything and was willing to take the risk. Today, SpaceX is valued at sound US$74 billion.

Moreover, according to a 2019 KPMG study, women looking to move into leadership roles may benefit by taking more risks throughout their careers.

Especially if you are a young professional, you have less to lose, more time to make up for your mistakes, and learn from your mistakes.

Thus, whether it is taking up a challenging new project at your current workplace, seeking a new job, shifting to a new field, or starting your own business, be willing to take a leap of faith. However, make sure to weigh all the pros and cons before you make a decision.

5. Sticking with a job you hate

A large number of workers are unhappy at work. While one study found that more than 50% of U.S workers are unhappy with their jobs, another found that 70% of Spanish workers also feel this way.

Sticking with a job you hate may not only affect your productivity, but your overall health as well. According to a 2016 study, those who experience lower levels of fulfilment in their careers are more likely to face issues such as depression or difficulty sleeping. Additionally, it can lead to headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and frequent illness.

It can also affect your mental health, leading to burnout, stress and anxiety. While there are several steps you can take to avoid burnout, such as setting boundaries and taking breaks, sometimes these measures may not be enough.

In such a scenario, instead of pushing yourself to stay at the job you hate, try to seek out a job that would be more comfortable and suitable for you. Update your resume, reach out to your contacts for opportunities, and start applying to available posts.

Ultimately, it’s natural to make mistakes. Mistakes are bound to occur when you try new things, explore fresh ideas, or take new leaps in your career.

As Henry Ford put it, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” The key to making the best out of your mistakes is to learn from the them, and choose better the next time around.

Header image by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

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Reethu Ravi
Reethu is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.

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