You always hear that you shouldn’t lie on your résumé or inflate your salary during job negotiations. Even if you get hired, there’s always the chance that one day you’ll get caught in the lie and lose your job.
Although you’re not lying to anyone, you could still be making subtle mistakes that are actually sabotaging your career. If you feel like you’re in a rut or not advancing as quickly as you think you should be, you might be one of those workers.
So how do you know if you’re making a costly career error? Experts weigh in on some of the common mistakes you might be making and ways you can turn things around today.
Mistake No. 1: not making yourself indispensable. “One of the biggest mistakes people make in their careers in today’s layoff-prone world is not becoming truly indispensable,” says career expert Barry Maher. “Find a task — or tasks — your boss hates to do and offer to take it over. You might tell the boss you want to do it to gain the experience and to continue your career development, but that’s only part of it. If losing you will mean going back to doing something the boss hates, he or she will fight for you as if you were the company’s most valuable employee.”
Mistake No. 2: not maintaining your network. Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career expert and co-founder of career-coaching firm SixFigureStart, says that a common mistake workers make is only networking when it’s of immediate value. Doing so can appear self-serving and may dissuade contacts from advocating for you.
“Many people think of networking as something you do when you’re looking for a job or otherwise trying to get something,” Ceniza-Levine says. “Once they land the job, all of the networking stops. This is a mistake, because the best networking occurs when you don’t need something. This is when you can form genuine relationships with people and really learn about how you can help each other — the best
networking is mutually beneficial. Besides, you don’t want to become known as the person who only reaches out when you need something.”
Mistake No. 3: not increasing your marketability. Once you commit to a career path, you might think that the knowledge acquired at your job is enough to keep you marketable. In this competitive workforce, that’s not always true. Find other ways to continue your education and sharpen your skills, so the next time you’re looking for a job, you have an edge. “If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take classes that will enhance your résumé,” says Cheryl E. Palmer, career coach and résumé writer. “You might consider getting a certification in your field, since certifications have become very common in many fields. If you do not yet have an advanced degree, you might consider using the tuition-reimbursement program to obtain that degree to increase your marketability.”
Mistake No. 4: being too humble. If you’re someone who puts yourself down — “This is probably a stupid idea, but…” — or downplays your contribution to a big client win — “I didn’t really do much, it was Paul who did most of the work” — stop it now. Sure, you don’t want to come across as pompous, but if you don’t make your achievements known, you may be passed over for promotions or high-profile projects. While you’d hope that your manager would recognize your hard work, you shouldn’t always count on it. “It’s up to the employee to position and communicate accomplishments and successes, [and] to identify how they contribute to the success of the team, the department and the organization,” says Kim Wilkerson, coach, speaker and founder of Wilkerson Consulting Group.
Mistake No. 5: not keeping track of career accomplishments. Now that you know the importance of being your own advocate, make sure your achievements are being recorded. “One of the biggest mistakes employees make is not keeping track of all accomplishments from day one,” says Morgan Norman, co-founder and CEO of performance-management company WorkSimple. “Proof of career wins can land an employee a raise, a promotion and even help them to build their professional brand.”
Norman suggests tracking accomplishments via an online work portfolio. The portfolio can house other things too, such as goals, endorsements or even a visual storyboard highlighting past projects. “The combination of these [elements] helps new employees to eventually become worthy workers in the eyes of their employer, which puts them on the path to career success,” Norman says.
Mistake No. 6: not being opportunistic. “I’ve seen people who meticulously try to control everything in their career according to the typical career path for their profession,” Ceniza-Levine says. “This is especially true in regimented career paths, such as banking and consulting. These people may miss opportunities to venture into something they’re more passionate about or even more simply a high-upside but non-traditional opportunity.”
Mistake No. 7: burying your head in the sand. It might not seem like the best time to quit your job, but staying in a dead-end job may end up causing more harm. “In soft economies, many people think it’s safer to stay with their current employer than to risk taking a job with a new company –and often it is,” says David Sanford, executive vice president of client relations for staffing firm Winter, Wyman. “But don’t bury your head in the sand and hope that everything will be okay. Even in the best of times, companies routinely are merged, acquired, imploded and overtaken, sometimes leaving hundreds and thousands of people looking for new jobs. Be prudent and always be aware of your business’ conditions; keep your nose in the wind and your eyes and ears open for when it is the best time to move on.”
Have you learned from a career mistake? Tells us about it in the comments section.