Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Biggest Career Mistakes You Can Make

There are certainly a lot of advice out there on the career mistakes we can make and some of them are pretty sound. A good piece of advice came from Deepak Chopra, here. So I’m going to list down his three points plus two more from my own.

1. Setting low expectations 

While some people are gifted with “roaring self-confidence,” most are insecure and uncertain, he explains. “They want to feel safe, and they think that by lowering their expectations, a sense of security will come to them. It isn’t true.” He says setting your expectations too low may keep you trapped in a job that has a low possibility of turning into anything worthwhile. “For every copy boy who becomes editor of the newspaper, every tour guide in Hollywood who sells a blockbuster script, there are hundreds more who remain stuck in those jobs,” Chopra says. “It’s not really the job that keeps anyone stuck; it’s the psychological limitation of setting your expectations too low.”

2. The certainty trap 

“Life is uncertain, and the vast majority of people feel so uneasy about this that they seize on certainty when they shouldn’t,” he says. Especially when it comes to our careers, so many people are inclined to take the easiest and most comfortable path — they pursue a job that others expect them to pursue, base their decisions on others’ opinions, and avoid risk-taking at all costs. “Yet real success is built upon making peace with uncertainty, turning the unknown into a field of creative possibilities,” Chopra explains. “Personal uncertainty is hard, undoubtedly. It takes a conscious effort to place yourself in a position where things are open-ended. But if you don’t, the other alternative is being in a position that’s closed off.”

3. Not seeing how much you will grow 

When a professional applies for a job, they typically try to prove to the employer that they can handle the role and its responsibilities. But this isn’t necessarily the best approach. “This ritual is empty, a piece of drama that’s supposed to show confidence,” Chopra says. “In reality, great careers are built on growth.” Instead of showing that you already know how to handle the job, you should strive to prove that you have the skills and experience necessary to succeed, but point out that it’ll require some learning and growth on your end. Then make it clear that you’re ready for this type of challenge. “Seeing your own potential to grow isn’t easy, especially when you are young. But it’s a mistake not to see that you will grow, meaning that your future self, although out of reach, has an enormous amount to offer,” Chopra says.

4. Jumping from industry to industry, too often 

Do you know how much time is needed to learn and get yourself familiar with an industry? Well, it varies from industry to industry but one thing is certain, it takes time. Very often, I hear remarks from Sales Professionals along this line, “The industry doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that I have good selling skills and hence, give me anything to sell, I can do it.” As much as I like that confidence, to be able to perform well in an industry means you must know it well enough – knowledge gives you confidence! But more importantly, your contacts and network! If you change industry, most often than not, you can’t leverage on your past contacts anymore. I will say, what a pity! It means starting all over again. The contacts in this context are more valuable than the skills you possess. So plan your career move carefully.


5. Thinking too much about the money 

Money is and should be one of the factors to consider when making a career move. However, if that’s the only thing to consider, then that’s a huge career mistake. I recall a remark by my friend with a business/accounts degree some time back. Upon his graduation, if he had joined an audit/tax consultancy, his starting salary would be a mere RM700 whereas joining a bank, the starting pay was RM1400. He had chosen the latter, solely because of higher pay. No offence to those that are working in the bank but many years later, my friend regretted he had joined the bank as he felt stuck - his 10-15 years of experience in the hire-purchase department somehow is not demanded in any other organization apart from the same industry, while his other course mate that started out as a Tax or Audit Trainee is now Chief Financial Officer in a big corporation and has the flexibility of moving from one company to another if wished to. The point is NOT about not working in banks but to give priority to the type of work you would enjoy doing or good at, rather than the money alone.