Career Mistakes to Avoid

Career Mistakes to Avoid

26 May 16 3mins Jon Midmer

Interviewing talent-management

At JMA, one of our favourite interview questions is “What’s made you successful in your career?” The responses we get are as varied as they’re informative, and reveal as much about someone’s self-awareness and deeply held beliefs as they do about what has really made them successful. And someone’s career success is rarely just down to them. It depends on a host of people and external factors, as well as a certain amount of luck.   
By contrast, in our experience people’s careers most frequently derail because of poor judgement – be this interpersonal, commercial or career judgement. Below we look at potential derailers to avoid.              

Inaction and Naivety  

There are typically enough safety mechanisms in most businesses for leaders not to make disastrous commercial decisions. However, over-estimating synergies from an acquisition, relying on a rising market to increase a company’s valuation, or being overly optimistic about the competitive landscape are best avoided. 

As the tale of Kodak shows, it is often through not acting in the face of changing consumer and market trends and failing to innovate that the biggest errors in commercial judgement can be made. 

Career judgement and naivety around how people ‘get on’ are classic inhibitors to career success. Some of the brightest minds mistakenly believe that smarts are enough to climb the career ladder. When they land their first executive position, they realise that this far from the truth.

Ignoring the Warning Signs 

Failing to do enough due diligence on or ignoring warning signs regarding the financial health of a company, the leadership team or its culture is one of the most frequent reasons for a career mistake. 

Thinking too short term about your career and failing to appreciate that most people need to work for at least 30 years can also lead to bad decisions. Chasing quick money or a title in a second-tier company over a great opportunity and guaranteed training and development in a top-tier one are errors of judgement that stimy long-term success. 

Many tenured executives fall into complacency with a long-term employer, only to realise that they are, in fact, expendable. Understanding that you’ll probably have to get another job with another company at some point sharpens your focus around how you spend your day, how you present yourself to people in the outside world (including maintaining an up-to-date CV packed full of achievements) and what you really want out of life. 

Equally, working for a company in whose values you simply don’t believe is dangerous and degrading, and whether you like it or not, you’ll soon be tarred with those values. Ultimately, people are successful where they are happiest, and vice versal. Ignore this at your peril. 

Outwardly displaying constant dissatisfaction with what you’re doing and being more interested in the next job than your current one is irritating for everyone around you. If you’re seen as good enough and ready for the next level, rest assured that you’ll get the promotion you want. 

It is, though, in the area of interpersonal and ethical judgement where careers are most frequently won, and lost. Compromising one’s integrity can range from inappropriate remarks and behaviour, to calling in sick, only to be spotted on Instagram, or, as one client’s employee once was, on TV at a football match! 

Focusing on Others’ and Your Own Wellbeing

Valuable life experience is hard earned and often bitter. Allowing a job to come between you and your loved ones is one of the most frequent causes of personal trauma and career impairment. 

Down the years, we have seen many executives get lost in their success, only to have to put the brakes on suddenly in an effort to repair broken relationships. 

Ensuring your partner and family are bought in to what you are doing and how you are doing it (particularly as regards travel requirements) is as important as aligning any stakeholders at work. 

Actively focusing on your physical and mental wellbeing is key. 

Finally, taking work too seriously and having no social life is a road to nowhere. Life’s too short and no one wants to work with a bore!