Career Mistakes

Career Mistakes

We all make mistakes. What is essential is to learn from them and to move forward. Below are 8 Career Mistakes, together with the lessons learned and the options on how to recover.

8 Career Mistakes

  1. Keeping Yourself Offline
  2. Social Media Suicide
  3. Burning Bridges
  4. Neglecting to learn new Skills
  5. Workplace Relationships
  6. Career Limiting Email
  7. Missing Important Deadlines
  8. Don’t forget about Work-Life Balance

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

– Albert Einstein

1. Keeping Yourself Offline

Search Firms use Social Media to identify Talent

Executive Search firms and Recruiters use Social Media sources to search for candidates during the development of a target shortlist. If you do not have a consistent social media presence, you may not be discovered in a search. Investing in creating and maintaining a professional presence on some social media platforms such as LinkedIn is becoming mandatory.

Recruiters use Social Media to validate

Recruiters also use Social Media sources to cross-check and verify candidates on shortlists. Social Media provides additional relevant information that is not always on a candidate’s resume or CV. Even for internal promotions, Human Resource departments do look at online sources. They need to determine the candidate’s skills in managing communication channels that are becoming increasingly important.

Favorable social media profiles do improve your job prospects. Recruiters will be looking at social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and others. If you have a unique name, then you should Google your name. You should be aware of what a simple Google search of your full name (in quotes) says about you.

What does Google say about You?

You usually do have some control of what appears on page 1 of a Google search. You can ensure you control the content on the major social media sites. By being active and not leaving a vacuum, you can ensure that the first results that show up on search engines present a positive view.

Promote yourself in a positive, professional way. Having a minimal profile may also not be enough. In a Sales, Marketing, or Executive roles, you may be required to have a dynamic presence. That means using all appropriate channels to promote yourself in a positive, professional way.

Promote yourself as Positive and Professional

Have you received an award or recently attended a conference? Share a picture about it on LinkedIn or Twitter. Facebook it. When you come across a fascinating or interesting article, like the ones on this website, share it on LinkedIn. When HR departments or recruiters or interviewers look you up, they’ll find an engaging, informed, and productive individual.

You can automatically link your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn so that one post can be shared across all three or more networks. This strategy increases your actively managed digital footprint.

The bottom line is that you should not leave a vacuum in the online world or it will be filled by what you do not control.

– Update your profile.

“Nature abhors a Vacuum”

– Aristotle

2. Social Media Suicide

What is your Brand Perception?

Social media platforms can take anything you post and make it go viral, especially when it’s controversial. Being politically correct can seem boring, but you need to manage the risks of becoming notorious and acquiring a negative brand perception.

Reflect Positively on your Brand

The best rule is to apply common sense. Avoid commenting or posting controversial topics without thinking through the potential risks. What may seem an innocent comment, may have the potential to be interpreted in different ways by many people. Aim to show awareness and leverage influential topics by commenting in a way which reflects positively on your brand.

You should develop the habit of having several trusted news or information sources, such as this site, that are worthy of sharing regularly. This strategy is useful so that if you do inevitably step into any controversial spaces, it is only one post amongst many more well-received posts.

Do NOT share Sensitive or Confidential Information

One subject area that will get you in trouble is sharing confidential information. Do not announce a sales win if the customer has asked for confidentiality. Do not share company or customer or partner sensitive financial or competitive intelligence.

– Actively share information from credible websites like this one, to demonstrate engagement.

“Online I see people committing ‘social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response. This lends more credibility by driving traffic.”

– Tim Ferriss

3. Burning Bridges

“Burning Bridges” was originally a military concept of intentionally cutting off one’s own retreat by burning a bridge one has crossed. The implication was to commit oneself to a course of action. However, today, the more common meaning is to “alienate former friends.” In the modern idiom, to “burn one’s bridges” means to destroy or damage one’s connections, reputation, or opportunities.

Burning Bridges when you leave an Organization

Even if you are dismissed from a job in the worst possible way, take care to not burn your bridges with unseemly comments on the way out. Doing so in the heat of the moment will limit your future options. You never know who you will meet again or if you will need a future reference or you may not want to limit your future options. Burning Bridges can easily happen when you leave a job in an unprofessional manner or when you impact another person’s reputation or trust by your actions.

Burning Bridges with Recruiters

The recruitment process can become exhausting and frustrating but take care do not burn your bridges with the people involved in the recruitment process. Whether that is the receptionist or the person who didn’t respond to your emails or phone calls, your attitude may burn bridges. Anyone in the recruitment process can potentially veto your candidacy now or in the future. Even when the current people in the recruitment firm leave, recruiter comments can remain on your digital profile permanently.

Many low-end agencies do not reward recruiters for spending time to build deep, but time-consuming relationships with candidates. Some recruiters are “transactional” and are primarily focused on serving their client and their firm. Those recruiters are focused on solving their client’s problems and do not have the time to address the candidate’s issues. Low-end recruitment agencies are heavily metrics-focused with metrics around the number of phone calls, the number of submitted resumes, the number of interviews, and not quality-focused. Candidates need to understand the model to avoid burning those bridges!

How to Avoid Burning Bridges

  • Do not act unpleasantly
  • Do not permanently end relations with another person or an organization.
  • To not act harshly or disgracefully in a way that ensures that you will not be welcomed back.
  • Take time to reflect on what caused the rift so that you don’t repeat the behavior.
  • Often it’s a matter of gaining more control over your emotions.
  • Learn how to manage your feelings so that you don’t say or do something in the heat of the moment that you’ll regret.
  • Keep confidential information, confidential.
  • Do not String along or deceive a recruiter about your intentions or interest in accepting another job offer.
  • Avoid Social Media Suicide – see above.

If you have burned Bridges that you regret, the best solution is to mend meaningful relationships by making an apology and taking actions to remedy the situation.

– Rebuild your credibility and trust with positive actions.

“Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.”

― Anonymous

4. Neglecting to learn New Skills

New Skills are crucial for Now and the Future

Learning new skills is vital to maintaining your current job in a competitive work environment. Even more so if you wish to continue to advance in your field. If you want to attract new promotion opportunities or potential employers, you need to stay current with the latest skill sets.

It’s easy to let your skills development lapse. This is especially the case if your employer doesn’t offer any training or certification opportunities. You will need to create your own opportunities for growth. The easiest way to limit your career growth and be seen as a non-essential employee is to fail to learn anything new. Learning is a continual process.

The Skill of Learning New Skills makes you Marketable

Hiring managers will want to know if you are committed to developing your skills. There are many options. Take an online class, attend seminars, research valuable certifications in your industry. The most accessible options include Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

“The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.”

– Peter Drucker


A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials, such as video lectures, set readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive courses. Some MOOC courses have forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants.

There are several MOOCs on the internet. Some of the ones you should explore include:

Many of the MOOC courses are free or partially free, and most only charge a fee for certification or institutional credits. The first step is to identify the areas in which you have knowledge or skills gaps. The next step is to research the online self-paced training options. Take the necessary steps to ensure that there are no gaps in your skills. Continuous learning will make you stand out as someone who is essential to the success of the organization.

Seek Employer Support

Check with your employer before enrolling, to determine if your employer will cover all or some of the costs. Even if your employer is not supportive check with your tax agent to determine if the cost of your on-going skills development is tax-deductible.

– Search the MOOC sites listed above, with the title of the most important skill or knowledge you currently need. You will be amazed at the available online learning opportunities.

“Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. Improvement is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. But to survive, we must learn.”

– W Edwards Deming

5. Workplace Relationships

You are part of a Team

In the modern work environment, it’s essential to be part of the team. Attending work functions, volunteer days, and other forms of group bonding or team building events are expected in the current office environment. However, bonding becomes problematic when you become very close to some team members and not others.

Aligning yourself with one person or one camp can be problematic if you separate yourself from current or future people of power or influence. There are always people changes in any organization, and some people fall out of favor, while others are unexpectantly promoted. The higher up in the organization you go, the more critical it is to be observant and prudent.

Build Broad Relationships, not just a few Deep Relationships

To keep from becoming too deeply entrenched with one set of colleagues over others, you should ensure you have board networks across the organization. Some suggestions to ensure you have a broad network, include:

  • Going to lunch with different groups of people.
  • Sitting next to people, in a meeting or work event, who are not in your regular contacts.
  • Stopping by the kitchen or water cooler for a brief chat at different times of the day.
  • Always having a ready smile and seek opportunities to connect with different people in a natural way.

Office Romances

Office romances are in a whole different category and can be especially challenging. According to a recent survey, 40% of respondents said that they had dated a coworker. Friendships can easily blossom into romantic relationships. The complexity and risks escalate when relationships wither. A bad breakup can be soul-destroying and suffering through one at work could be career-limiting.

Another critical concern is the ‘power issue’ of a relationship between employees at different levels. If there is an ugly fallout in the relationship, then the power imbalance could lead to career-destroying implications.

Some tips for managing an Office Romance include:

  • No matter how discreet you are, be prepared for gossip or rumors.
  • Maintain a balance between personal and professional responsibilities.
  • If you are in the same team or working on the same project, one of you should seek to move to another group. Doing so will ensure that your colleagues do not feel there are hidden agendas in work allocation or recognition.
  • Respect your organization’s policies.
  • Respect your coworkers.
  • Respect each other, especially if the relationship ends.
  • Neither party should abuse their power.

– Broaden your relationships and networks by inviting someone you do not know well out to lunch or coffee.

“Office life typically proceeds behind a mask of shallow cheerfulness, leaving workers grievously unprepared to handle the fury and sadness continually aroused by their colleagues.”

― Alain de Botton

6. Career Limiting Email

E-Mail is a permanent sharable Record

Email communication is a huge component of today’s business world. A Career Limiting Email is worse than saying the wrong thing because typing and sending the wrong thing creates a permanent sharable record that can quickly go viral. In certain instances, email mistakes can limit your career and can include getting you fired.

E-Mails can get you Fired

To avoid Career Limiting Emails following these guidelines:

  • Don’t send emails when you’re upset or angry
  • Don’t click ‘Reply All’ without reviewing and considering the consequences.
  • Don’t send personal attack emails.
  • Don’t send an insubordination email.
  • Don’t send harassment emails.
  • Don’t send emails late at night when you’re tired and exhausted.
  • Don’t send emails after you have had a drink or you are high on coffee.

– Discuss your concerns with your mentor, coach, manager, or HR before going on the permanent record with your frustrations or anger.

“The email of the species is deadlier than the mail.”

– Stephen Fry

7. Missing Important Deadlines

There can be many reasons for missing deadlines. Some of the reasons are within your control, and some of the causes are outside your control.

Poor Time Management and Project Management skills are one of the most common reasons for missing a deadline. Time management and project management skills are vital because they help you structure your work in a way that allows you to accomplish your agreed deliverables.

Time Management

Time management is the process of planning and controlling the time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage the time required to deliver your projects by the due date.

Time Management skills include the following:

  • Creating an Environment to increase effectiveness and productivity
  • Setting Priorities
  • Reduce the time spent on non-priorities
  • Using the appropriate Tools

Project Management

Project Management is the practice of planning, executing, and controlling the work to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. The challenge is to complete the project goals within the given constraints.

Project Management skills include the following:

  • Planning and Forecasting.
  • Process Management of all the activities, including project progress checkpoints to monitor progress and risks.
  • People Skills to manage the dynamics of how to collaborate and communicate.
  • Negotiating Skills to acquire the authority to make decisions and to check-in with stakeholders regularly to request help if required.

Stakeholder Management

Factors outside your control may include an unreasonable workload or inadequate resourcing. In this case, you need the communication skills and management support to reset expectations with your stakeholders and the skills to effectively escalate or lobby for more resources and time.

If you know you’re going to miss a deadline you should:

  • Provide as much notice as possible.
  • Explain the circumstances.
  • Provide Options and Solutions.
  • Be Professional.
  • Show appreciation for any assistance offered.

In the future, ensure you take the following steps to avoid missing deadlines:

  • Evaluate what’s required.
  • Get the right resources.
  • Anticipate problems and challenges.
  • Plan the detail.
  • Limit the damage of a missed deadline by using professional stakeholder management.

If you do miss an important deadline, it is always best to discuss the circumstances with your manager or stakeholders. Seek their help with some of the above suggestions. Your credibility is important.

– Explore Time Management or Project Management training with one of the MOOC sites listed above.

Deadlines aren’t bad. They help you organize your time. They help you set priorities. They make you get going when you might not feel like it.

– Harvey Mackay

8. Don’t Forget About Work-Life Balance

Health and Family

Your career is important and necessary but not as important as your health and your family. No matter what your job is, you need to develop the skills and habits to manage your work-life balance. You must remind yourself that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to stay healthy and enjoy a long term journey.

Life is a Marathon. Have a plan to Finish.

It is essential that you get the job done and to do it well, but not to sacrifice your overall health and wellbeing. The following steps can help you to a more healthy balance between work and life:

  • Prioritize work task and structure your time at work.
  • Make sure you use your annual holidays to recharge.
  • Leverage technology to work smarter.
  • Set aside time for health and fitness, it is must-do, not a should-do.
  • Maximize your family time for quality and quantity.
  • Have fun on the journey and do what gives you joy.
  • Set goals for your Work-Life Balance and monitor your commitments to yourself.
  • Get a Coach if you need one.

You can have both a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Take control of your work; do not let it control you. Be proactive with your time management. Earn a balanced life.

– Reserve time in your diary every week to review your priorities.

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

— Stephen R. Covey

How to Recover from a Career Mistake

  • Forgive Yourself
    • Do not waste time and energy, worrying about past mistakes. Do not damage your self-esteem and confidence. Treat yourself as you would treat others who have made mistakes.
  • Acknowledge the Mistake
    • Accept and acknowledge that you made a mistake. Own it. Limit the damage and rebuild any damaged relationships. Focus your energy in a positive direction.
  • Learn from it
    • Analyze and accept the lessons from the mistake. Resolve to make a change. Put into place a plan to ensure the error does not happen again.
  • Move Forward
    • Your career can recover from any mistake. Give yourself the time you need, but don’t let fear paralyze you from regaining your own self-confidence. Everyone has made mistakes in their life and career; don’t let mistakes dictate your entire career trajectory.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

– W. Edwards Deming

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“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

― John Dwey

Photo Credits: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay