Are You Sabotaging Your Career?

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career sabotageEveryone wants a good job, but few people take the time to manage and nurture their career -- and some even end up sabotaging their careers due to poor choices or inactivity. Now's a good time to do a self audit on what you do and do not do to manage your career effectively and decide where some improvements could be made.

I turned to the experts at the Career Collective, a community of career advisers, to offer their insights on common career mistakes. Here are the most common behaviors they see that can lead to a compromised career-management or job-search strategy. Are you guilty of any of these?


You don't realize the value of researching what is important to you in a job

Sometimes people focus solely on getting the job and forget to think about the nature of the work, the work environment, or the person they will be working for. Yet these are the factors that often prove to be the most important and the most frustrating once a person is on the job. Susan P. Joyce of Job-Hunt.org suggests, "pull together a list of employers you would like to work for and do research to find employers people seem to enjoy working for, that are financially stable, and that seem to have a good future." Meg Montford of Abilities Enhanced adds, "make two lists: One is what you do well and the other is what you like to do. Where do these lists intersect? Chances are the clues to your ideal career appear in this intersection."


You think the status quo is good enough

Just doing your job may not be good enough anymore because there is a long line of people eager to take on your role. Employees need to continue to find ways to add values to the organizations they support and become irreplaceable. Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers suggests asking yourself, "can you take one problem and think about how you may push for a solution? Is there one thing that really excites and interests you at work that you can take upon yourself to champion?"


You think networking is just brown-nosing

I get these comments about networking all the time and even hear from people who say they would never "stoop" to trying to build relationships with people as part of their job search. They are missing the boat on the concept of giving to get and being authentic. People want to do business with people they know. Take a general interest in people -- always -- and they will be there to help you when you need an introduction.


You think a chronic illness absolves you from doing your best work

Many people live with chronic illness and pain, and their condition can certainly be an obstacle to doing a good job. According to Rosalind Joffe of Working With Chronic Illness, "chronic illness puts up all sorts of roadblocks -- pain, fatigue or disabling symptoms -- while you're trying to live your life. For some, it's natural to stay upbeat and positive about the world, no matter what shows up. But then there are those who think that life is out to get them. They figure it's best not to try too hard rather than deal with more disappointment." Consider working with someone who specializes in pain management or find a professional counselor who can help you work through your physical limitations so you can spend more time feeling positive rather than negative about your career and life.


You think the job search is all about you

Rather than telling an employer what you want, identify important company issues and prove your ability to solve business problems. Dawn Bugni of The Write Solution says, "I tell my clients a job search is not all about you. I go on to explain, the beginning of the search is yours -- you get to decide (or circumstances do) it's time to launch a job search. The end of the search is yours-- you get to decide which offer you accept. BUT, for all points in between, every word out of your mouth, every email, every voice mail, every conversation with every person even remotely affiliated with the target organization had better deliver, repeatedly, a 'this is what I bring to your organization; this is what I can do for you; this is how I can make your life easier' message or you're destined for the delete button."

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of CareerTrend says, "understand if the company is battling to gain market share, bring new products to market, propel profits, contain costs, or thwart specific economic challenges. Be the person they need you to be to drive new revenue, build new markets and stamp out painful business issues tied to economic woes."

Chandlee Bryan of Best Fit Forward adds, "when applying for jobs, don't simply present your skills: Demonstrate your understanding of employer needs -- and show how you fit. Customize all of your application materials. It may take time, but it helps you stand out."


You think job search only requires a few hours of effort a day

Job searching really is a full-time job; and if you only spend half your time looking for a job, it will take you twice as long to find a new one. According to Erin Kennedy of Professional Resume Services, "you should be treating your job hunt as a 9-5 job. And by waking up early every day, networking, visiting businesses, dropping off and printing resumes, and scanning the job listings, you're setting up a good schedule and work ethic so that you never get out of the habit of working hard."


You think hiring authorities actually read resumes

The truth is, hiring managers (or in many cases applicant tracking systems) only scan resumes without really reading them. Therefore it is critical that the resume be brief and full of easy-to-digest information about your competencies and accomplishments. Martin Buckland of Elite Resumes notes, "the average time spent perusing a resume is less than 30 seconds. With this in mind, do you think you should submit a four- or five-page resume?" J.T. O'Donnell of Careerealism notes that "resumes don't get you hired -- people do. Your resume needs to be formatted logically, using a clean-line font, and must present the facts (i.e., quantifiable accomplishments) in an easy-to-read fashion."


You think a resume should be a list of everything you have ever done

Employers don't want your life story; they want to review your relevant work experience. Laurie Berenson of Sterling Career Concepts suggests, " begin to think of your resume as a marketing document that sells you as a candidate. Your summary section up top should not be loaded with boiler plate phrases that could be copied and pasted onto another resume. It should be specific to you and your value in today's marketplace."


You think a little white lie on your resume won't hurt anyone

Sometimes people think stretching the truth about their job responsibilities, fudging a sales number, or taking credit for an initiative that was part of a team effort is no big deal. But remember, chances are you will be asked to explain your success stories during the interview and you must be able to back up everything you write on your resume with the proof of that success. Gayle Howard of Top Margin Resumes says, "never fall into the trap of telling people what you think they want to hear, especially if your experience does not support it. What may follow your 'little white lie' may end up being one of the worst and costly career and life mistakes you'll make, if not through exposure at the interview leading to your candidacy being dismissed, then perhaps much, much later when you're established in your career."


You think sending thank you letters after interviews isn't necessary

My clients often ask me if anyone really cares about or reads thank you letters and if it is really necessary to send one after an interview. Yes! The thank you letter is more than a courtesy. It is also a way to reconnect with the hiring manager and remind them why you are an excellent fit for their open position. Rosa Vargas of Creating Prints adds, "everyone likes to be thanked. What they don't like is reading long-winded letters drowned in empty gestures. Strategize and leverage the opportunity of the thank you letter to persuade and reinforce."


You think you don't need references

Every job seeker needs references. They may be in the form of written letters, a list of contacts a prospective employer can call, or LinkedIn endorsements, but all candidates need the persuasive words of past bosses and colleagues to advocate for their candidacy. Heather Huhman of Come Recommended suggests, "seek out those with whom you've worked in the past. Ask for permission to use them as references and talk to them about what they'd say about you if contacted."


You think having an online presence isn't important for what you do

Having an online presence is becoming increasingly more important for everyone, regardless of occupation. More and more recruiters are using tools like LinkedIn and even Facebook to source candidates -- and you can't be found if you are not there. Walter Akana of Threshold Consulting says "if you aren't exactly a 'digital native,' it's time to become a digital immigrant and find your way to a presence in the new world of the social web. As long as you stay tied to the concept of traditional job search in order to find a regular job, you are fooling yourself." Hannah Morgan of Career Sherpa adds, "ensure your reputation and brand are on the web -- LinkedIn, Facebook, Virtual CV, Google Profile, etc."


You think your past experience should be good enough to land you a job

Employers need employees that are flexible, nimble, and current. According to Kathy Hansen of Quintessential Careers, "one of the biggest mistakes of mid-career and older job-seekers that we see is that they stop learning new and emerging technologies and techniques -- encouraging the stereotype that old dogs can't learn new tricks. Lifelong learning and professional development is essential in all career fields. Ideally, your current employer provides you with a professional development allotment; but if not, pay for the training, certifications, and education yourself. Besides staying current in your field, attending classes and professional meetings are also great methods of meeting new people and building your network."

Next: Down With Performance Reviews >>


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