5 Common Career Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)


We all want to create a successful career, right? We spend the majority of our lives working and sometimes we can slip into seemingly innocent habits that can be career killers. Many of us start off with the best of intentions, and then little by little these 5 common career mistakes slip into our routines.

Career Mistake 1: Working Through Lunch

Occasionally we all need to work through lunch. There may be a looming deadline or other business critical problem to address. But, for many of us this becomes habit. It’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we’re being productive when really, this is a common career mistake.

By sitting at our desks and working through lunch, we’re missing the opportunity to step back and gain some mental space from the craziness of our day. When you’re just running from meeting to meeting, cramming email and deliverables in between with no mental breaks you will not do your best work. Don’t just take my word for it; there are a number of studies and reports such as the recently published work from Harvard Profession Leslie Perlow on why being a workaholic is counterproductive.

Instead, block your calendar (even if it’s only for 30 minutes). Eat, take a walk around your building and give yourself a little mental space in your crazy day. You’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle that long to-do list that is waiting.

Career Mistake #2: Neglected Online Profiles

This mistake is so common that most of us don’t even think about it. When we see someone updating their LinkedIn profile, it’s usually because they’ve gotten a promotion or are about ready to start looking for a new job. This is a huge mistake.

Imagine a former colleague who has a great opportunity that you would be perfect for, only this colleague doesn’t think about you because your LinkedIn profile is out of date.

Instead, take control of how you want others to view you. Create a personal value proposition, highlight your work experience and testimonials/endorsements that provide credible proof of your value. There are very few things we control about ourselves online, but our online profiles are one where we can go a long way in stating who we are, what we do and why we’re valuable.

Career Mistake #3: Only Networking When You Need Something

Networking. This word can have such negative associations for precisely this reason. Most people only ‘network’ when they’re desperate and want something from you. Now. Don’t be that person.

Instead, make it a habit to connect with colleagues, business partners, vendors, business associations, etc… on a regular basis. See how you can share your unique knowledge, make connections within your broader network and add value back to your network. Then, when you do need something people will happily connect with you because you’ve already served them.

Career Mistake #4: Burning Bridges

You know that email you wrote to that awful person you’re just dying to send? Stop! It is so tempting to burn a bridge when leaving a bad boss, bad company, bad project or bad work situation, but resist. You never know when your path may cross with this person again and you don’t want to set yourself up for continual career pain by one reckless act.

Instead, act with integrity and professionalism. Resist the urge to let your frustration and bad feelings burn a bridge that you may need to cross in the future.

Career Mistake #5: Lack Of Career Plan

Let’s be honest. Most people don’t spend time creating a career plan. There are always so many other things to do. This is a huge career mistake. By not taking the time to create a plan, you are at the mercy of someone else deciding your fate. And no one has as much riding on your career fate than you.

Instead, set aside 1 hour a month. Review your goals and decide what you will do in the next 30 – 90 days to get yourself closer to those goals. Otherwise, days, weeks, months and years will go by without making any progress towards the career and life you want. Take control, set aside the time and create a plan that will help you create the career experiences you need to be successful.