The six things that hinder successful careers

Six mistakes that hinder careers - Newsreel
Many worker inadvertently end up being the go to on everything. It does not always help your career. | Photo: PeopleImages (iStock)

By Shane Rodgers

Most careers can survive a few ups and downs. You win a few, you lose a few. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes, not so much.

When I started writing the Worknado book a few years ago, I talked to a lot of people about the things they observed that really set back careers.

Here are six of biggest career killers (or at least career denters) that came up regularly. I’ve been guilty of most of them (but hopefully not the being difficult one).

1. Taking a job with your eyes shut

If you look at long-term CVs, you regularly notice a couple of short gigs – usually less than a year. When you ask about these roles, you always see the same look and slight shake of the head.

“It just wasn’t right.” “It wasn’t what I was expecting.” “The job was nothing like they promised.” “It was a big mistake.” “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

Sometimes these poor job choices are just bad luck. More often they result from lack of research or taking a job because you were flattered that somebody asked you to do it.

From my experience, you really need to be sure that the job you are going to is really better than the one you are leaving. This requires getting past being flattered and doing some genuine soul searching and homework.

2. Having a reputation for being difficult

We are all stuck with our own personalities. Some people have to work harder to fit in at a workplace. Some people rub people the wrong way without realising it.

I’ve been a job referee for dozens of people over the years and the thing that seems to most interest those doing the referee checks is “cultural fit”.

Referees are one thing, but if a lot of people believe you are difficult to work with, the job prospects will be considerably less. It is one of the few reputational things that can really upend the careers of talented people.

You have to be yourself, but you also need to be able to work with people. If you can’t, Houston we have a problem.

3. Staying somewhere too long if you are not getting ahead

Various surveys over the past 10 years have revealed that employees who stay with the same company for a long time are likely to be paid less in relative terms than their high job turnover colleagues.

This is because employers often have to top up salaries for a new employee due to competitive issues, but few can afford to top up all of the incumbent staff when this happens.

It is a bit like the incentives banks and phone companies give from time to time to attract your business. New customers get it, but loyal, long-term clients don’t.

It doesn’t seem fair, but it is often the price of hanging around, particularly if you really like the job. This is not so much a blunder as a consequence of an imperfect system. Long-term employees should not take their value for granted.

4. Moving up before you have consolidated

Lots of ambitious people never stop angling for the next promotion. Sometimes they do this too quickly. If you are ambitious, as soon as you feel like you have outgrown your current role, you should start working on the next one. But not before.

I’ve seen lots of good people get stuck in jobs below their potential because they didn’t take the time to consolidate and nail a role before they started trying to move on. If you take that approach, eventually you will end up out of your depth and under-credentialled for a role. That will often dent your reputation and hold you back from reaching your potential.

5. Not varying the intensity

You can’t keep your engine running in top gear all the time. Eventually you burn out. Over the course of a long career, you need to vary the intensity.

People who don’t do this tend to eventually have health issues or lose their zest for work.

Careers will end up running 60 to 70 years as people live to more advanced years. It is a big mistake to treat a career as a sprint. You need to pace yourself and have proper breaks or your career and health will ultimately suffer.

6. Being the go-to on everything

Sometimes it can be useful to have a reputation for being able to fix every problem. If you want something done, give it to a busy person they say. That is well and good, unless you are the busy person.

To sustain a career, your value has to be delivered in the right mix of supply and demand. Otherwise you can quickly evolve from superstar to dog’s body and get left behind doing all the work while the lazier smart people elevate to the really senior jobs.

Shane Rodgers is the author of  Worknado _ Reimagining the way you work to live and Tall People Don’t Jump – The curious behaviour of human beings.