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The million dollar career mistake

When you think about career mistakes, you might start with the most obvious, say, yelling at your boss or not bothering to show up for work.  Then you might work your way into the more mundane things such as slacking off, not paying attention or getting behind.  Its actually amazing how much bad advice there is out on the internet about career mistakes.

Here are some of the things listed as career mistakes on other sites that you should NOT LISTEN TO:

  1. Working Overtime

Work life balance is essential to keeping up fresh ideas and rising to the top.  There is never a reason to work overtime and there is no reason you should believe anyone that tells you to.  We are not designed to concentrate on one thing for 8 hours at a time let alone 10 or 12.  How many people are burnt out because of overworking?  I would say most of america.

Advice so terrible, it probably belongs in my failing 101 article. Now, I am not saying work/life balance is a bad idea because obviously it is important. If I had to work somewhere where I never saw my wife and son I would quit instantly. However, there are going to be times in your life where you have to work. If you want to be the best, you have to put in extra effort, there is no way around that. I have a friend who likes to say “work smarter, not harder.” I agree with that statement, but quite frankly the person who only puts in their 9-5 is not going to be a top performer. I would not want to hire or work with such a person. If you are getting stressed or burnt out during a work crunch time try exercise and some healthy food.  Sounds cliche, but it works.

Here are a few other so called “#1 worst career mistakes” that I found on other websites:

“Not watching your back”
Really?  Im not even sure I should comment on this.

“Not experimenting”
Uh, ok?

“Burning bridges”
WRONG.  Act with character.  At times this may mean that bridges are burnt down. If you act with character then any bridges that are burnt aren’t ones you would want to cross again anyway.

So what is the true number one career mistake, the one that harms more people in the workforce than anything else?

Its very simple; not having a plan.

career plan

That’s right, the absolutely worst thing you can do for your career is not having a plan.  How many people do you know that are in their job and have no idea what they are going to do next, or don’t even have a “next” in mind?  It goes along with the college kid who is getting a degree but has no idea what they are going to do when they graduate.    I have a couple examples of people that I would like to share.

Person One: John Doe
John is a borderline genius.  He has a masters degree in an advanced field.  John has vast amounts of experience in more fields than I can even count.  Hes intelligent and a very quick learner.  He has taught himself everything he knows, including what he is currently doing for a job.  John’s problem is that he never really made a long term plan and never really took initiative to further his career.  He is, in my estimation, the best person at his particular job of anyone that has ever lived.  He should be the VP of engineering somewhere, and they would be lucky to have him.  John makes somewhere around $75,000.00 a year.  He should be making $250,000.00, no exaggeration.  In my estimation, he has lost out on a million in the past 10 years alone.

Person Two: Jane Doe
Jane has worked at her company for 30 years.  She has known that layoffs were happening all around her but she was loyal.  She never made a plan, she never even thought of what could happen.  Now she is laid off and has no idea what to do next or where to go.  She feels like it is too late for her to start over but she has become so specialized in her skillset that she cannot find anything.  Jane is less extreme than John.  I would guess that had she had a career plan, she could have advanced from her job as an assistant to an executive assistant, to a program coordinator.  I estimate she ended around 50k a year. She probably could have averaged an extra 30k a year over the past 30 years.  30k * 30 years = 900k.  Nearly a million.

All of the above people are great employees.  They all excel at what they do.  However, all have cost themselves immensely in the span of their careers.  In fact, I got kind of emotional writing this because it is sort of the old adage “life is not fair.”  That actually is great news, if you use it to your advantage.  Don’t waste your million.

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