Too often the career path to success and climbing the corporate ladder is hindered by not recognising opportunities to excel beyond simply our job description. Sometimes these career mistakes aren’t so obvious, but they may be the very thing that’s holding us back from progressing.
Here are five career mistakes you could be making, and how to fix them.
1. Focusing on your own results
Concentrating on your own results rather than looking at the bigger picture for the overall company can be a problem. Bosses want what’s best for the entire organisation, not just the success of one particular individual or department.
Fix: Meet with other department heads and team leaders to see how you and your team can contribute and boost the organisation as a whole. Use your particular skills to contribute or assist in helping them achieve their goals, as your team's talents might benefit their projects.
2. Not evolving your role
If you want to climb the ladder, you need to show you’re capable of more than the basics. Top management wants to promote people who can think beyond the scope of what they do and take initiative with new projects. It’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut when everything runs smoothly, but you don’t want to be in that rut for the next decade.
Fix: Look to take on extra duties. Seek out training courses that will improve your skills in a way that benefits the company.
3. Taking on too much
On the other side of the coin, there can be a temptation to accept every task that comes your way, including overspill from other people’s workloads. This is problematic in two ways. First, it can negatively impact your own work, particularly the most important tasks. Second, you may become such a valuable dogsbody that no one wants to move.
Fix: Focus on what’s important, push back on low-priority tasks and learn to delegate – these are critical leaderships skills. Ask yourself whether what you’re doing is key to driving the company forward.
4. Not seeking mentors
You may think your direct manager is your only mentor, but more often than not, their job is to ensure you carry out your function – not necessarily to advance your career. If you’re a really outstanding employee, they also may not want to lose you from their team. In these situations, you need to take responsibility and find senior people who can guide your career progress.
Fix: Seek mentors both within and outside the company who can provide valuable career advice and industry perspective. Who knows – they may identify external opportunities for you.
5. Fear of failure
Many people resist taking on challenges and change because it removes them from their comfort zone. A top manager makes decisions that affect the entire company and its employees on a daily basis. If you want to make the leap, get used to taking risks and don’t limit yourself through fear of making career mistakes.
Fix: Be proactive about change. Consider doing at least one thing every month that takes you out of your comfort zone. Start small and then expand your new ideas into other parts of your department.
Bonus error: Not asking for a promotion
Amazing as it sounds, sometimes you have to put your hand up. HR and management may not be aware you possess the required qualities or skills, or even that you’re interested to progress your career. Sometimes you need to speak up and make your boss or management aware of what you have accomplished and what you want to do in the future.
Fix: Listen for opportunities. If you hear someone is leaving from a position that interests you, make it known that you would like to be considered for their role. Seek feedback with a performance review so people in charge understand what your capabilities are.
Avoid these career mistakes
If you want the top job, you need to be more than proficient in your own role. Don’t make the career mistakes of simply expecting to move up the corporate ladder by just ‘doing your job’.
Take the initiative, embrace opportunities, expand the scope of your work and you could find those rungs become much less slippery.