Ten quick ways to ruin your career
Published: 30 Oct 2014
If you feel like you've reached a crossroads in your career and are not quite sure which way to turn, it makes sense to seek a little guidance. Asking for career advice might be one of the best things you can do - this can help you get back on track and moving in the right direction. But of course, it all depends on who you ask. There are plenty of people in business who will be willing to lend an ear and suggest your next course of action - but that's not to say they all know what they're talking about.
If you spend too much time listening to the wrong people, you can quickly find yourself in a much greater pickle than you were before. It's important to differentiate between good career advice built on sound logic and other misguided attempts to point you in the right direction. With this in mind, you want to be alert to the common pieces of bad career advice. Follow these tips if you choose, but don't say we didn't warn you!
1. Take a job you don't want
Unless you are destitute and need an income - any income, straight away - it isn't a good idea to settle for the first job that comes along. It might get you away from your present employer, but how long will it be until you're desperate to leave your new job as well? In all likelihood, not very long.
Switching jobs too often will raise concerns among hiring managers - they don't want to choose somebody who will be looking for the exit door in three months' time. Being identified as a 'job hopper' could dissuade employers from taking you on. If you are able to wait for a job you really want to do, this is a much better course of action.
2. Let ability determine your career
You're much more likely to have a fulfilling and successful career if you choose a line of work that interests you. Just because you excelled in a particular subject at school, it doesn't mean you have to be pigeon-holed for the rest of your life.
You, and only you alone can choose your career, so make sure it's for the right reason - because you have a genuine interest or passion. This will help ensure you look forward to work every morning, rather than dread it.
3. Go for the highest salary
Similarly, chasing roles that offer the highest base wages might backfire. Just because an organisation offers attractive salaries, it doesn't mean they are a good employer to work for. Nor does it mean the role will be interesting or intrinsically rewarding.
If you go for the big bucks, you can expect to be under pressure from day one and work long hours to get through a demanding workload. This might appeal to some professionals, but it's not for everyone. It's your decision.
To establish what you should be earning, based on the current industry average, consult the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guides. Knowing your worth as a professional is important - you don't want to get stuck in a job on less money than your colleagues.
4. Stay in a job for security and ease
If you stay in a job simply because it offers long-term security and you can do your work in your sleep, the best years of your career might sail by. This lack of ambition could come back to haunt you later on in your career, when you're getting passed over for promotion and struggling to improve your earnings and workplace status. Unless you invest in your career and attempt to keep moving forwards, you can easily get stuck in a rut.
5. Worry about your limitations
On the one hand, it can be to your credit to know your strengths and weaknesses - a degree of self-awareness can be an important quality. But at the same time, there is always a danger that you sell yourself short, and fail to reach your potential.
If you assume you won't be considered for more senior roles and as such, don't apply for them, then what chance have you got of moving up the ladder? Sometimes professionals need to put themselves out there, beyond their comfort zone, and fight for the next opportunity. Let others decide whether you have the necessary skills, qualifications and experience to progress.
6. Sit tight and wait for a raise
As the saying goes, 'if you don't ask, you don't get'. So if your strategy for increasing your income is to wait for your employer to come to you, you might be waiting a long time. Professionals need to take the bull by the horns sometimes and demand an improved contract or greater responsibility in the workplace. If your employer says no, then at least you know where you stand. Any future career decisions can be made with this knowledge in mind.
7. Wait for your turn to progress
In a similar vein, don't assume there is an established 'pecking order' within your business and an orderly queue for promotion. Organisations want to keep their best people onboard and motivated and this means allowing talented professionals to rise through the ranks.
If you're seen as someone who may have leadership potential, you may be able to secure a promotion before your natural turn. Ways to achieve this include volunteering for extra responsibilities, finding a way to increase efficiencies and boosting revenue for your organisation.
8. Suck up to senior people
Honesty and integrity go a long way in business, so you want to be wary of doing too much brown-nosing. Firstly, your colleagues will be on to you from the start and secondly, so will your bosses - they'll have seen it all before.
It's easy enough to tell when people are not being genuine and you'll struggle to develop your career if you're viewed as a 'snake in the grass'. Being authentic is the best way to build strong relationships in the workplace and impress senior people within your organisation.
9. Work to live, don't live to work
OK, we all enjoy our days off and leisure/family time in the evenings after work. But if all you care about is your social life, then it's likely you're going to have an unfulfilling career. Working full-time, you could spend 40 hours a week in the office, so the last thing you want to do is end up in a dead-end job you hate. The way to avoid this nightmare scenario - and get more out of life as a whole - is to aim for a career that appeals to you and do something you enjoy.
10. Know when to give up
It could take a number of attempts to bag a new job or promotion, with plenty of disappointment along the way. You need to brush off the setbacks and keep going, however long it takes. If you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and have put in the necessary groundwork - in terms of building your CV - somebody will take a chance on you eventually. You just have to stick at it until the opportunity comes your way.
This post originally appeared as “10 pieces of disastrous career advice” on Robert Half’s News and Insights.