5 Career Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make in 2016

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By J.T. O'Donnell

Ever wonder why school teaches us everything except how to get the job? Do you ever feel like managing your career is really hard? You're not alone. Millions of people are struggling to build careers that are satisfying. Professional happiness eludes the majority of the working population. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of the work force is highly engaged, a.k.a. happy at work. It's not for lack of effort. Everyone is trying to figure out the path to greater career success on his or her own terms. Why then, aren't more people succeeding? Answer: They're going about it all wrong.


Want a Better Career? Start Unlearning Everything You Know About Building One.


Everything we've ever been taught or thought would help us in our career is outdated. For example, studies now prove a college degree does not guarantee you a better career. And, seeking full-time, long-term employment is a pipe dream. Why? Because every job today is temporary. We live in the gig economy now. The entire way we work has shifted. Yet people still try to approach their careers thinking if they can just find a job that makes them happy, they'll live happily ever after. It doesn't work that way. More important, some major shifts in business and the economy are going to make it even more important that you no longer keep approaching your career the wrong way. If you do, you could find yourself at the bottom of the talent spectrum, under-employed, and struggling to find any job to pay the bills. With that in mind, here are five career mistakes you don't want to make in 2016.

1. Assuming your job is secure.

Companies are now forced to change their business models very quickly. Your skills could be in-demand at the office one day, only to be useless the next. It doesn't mean you did anything wrong. It's just business. But, when it happens, you need to be ready to find a new employer fast.

2. Not having your career tools ready.

Besides an updated resume, you also need an optimized LinkedIn profile. It helps even more if you have a full-fledged personal brand too (i.e., blog posts you've written showcasing your expertise. Twitter account where you share timely industry info, etc.). You just never, ever know when you'll need to throw your job search into high-gear. Wasting days and weeks building your career tools when you could have had them ready to go is poor planning.

3. Not building an interview bucket list.

There are two types of people: those who look for work on a job board and try to fit themselves into a job opening they aren't really excited about, and those who create a list of companies they'd like to work for and keep an eye on them online in the event the right opportunity presents itself. Guess which one usually lands a job worth being excited about? Today, it's up to you to create a list of viable employers and start to networking with their employees. It's not only more effective (studies show 80 percent of all jobs today are gotten via referral); it's also more fun. Who doesn't like choosing whom they want to work for?

4. Failing to know your workplace persona.

Nobody is a superhero at work. There are eight key workplace strengths (I call them personas and you can learn about them by taking this quiz). At best, you have two or three top workplace strengths. You need to know what they are and how they add value to the company. If you know how you save or make a company enough money to justify its paying your salary, then you know how to market that value to other companies if you need to.

5. Not investing in serving your network.

I can't stress this enough: Today, your network is your net worth. Your professional contacts are crucial to your getting the job opportunities you want and deserve. The best way to build a strong network is to serve it. Understanding how to help those you are connected to is vital. People remember when you help them. That social currency will come in handy. Someday, you may need their help. By building up trust and respect within your network, you'll be able to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and contacts when you need to. Waiting until you are out of a job and desperate for the help of your network is not the time to start thinking about what you've done to earn their assistance.


We Aren't Employees, We're Businesses-of-One.


If you really want a better career, you have to stop acting like a helpless employee held hostage by the golden handcuffs of employers. Instead, you need to take full ownership of your career and become a business-of-one who wants to partner with employers to serve them. Building a win-win situation between you and an employer is your job, not theirs. Why? You're the service provider and they're the customer. If you want their business, you need to build a brand that is in-demand. Something they will pay good money for. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can get the professional respect you want and deserve. If you're ready to be in control, you can start by mastering these career moves.


It's Not Rocket Science, But It Does Take This.


Don't let outdated approaches to your career set you back next year. Avoid the mistakes above and focus on building your career strength. There are plenty of resources out there to help you close your gap in knowledge so you can get the upper hand. But, it's up to you to take action. Nobody's going to do it for you. Failing to do so could lead to some serious professional regret in the future.
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