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Seven deadly career sins and how to avoid them

How to make the most of your career

career sins Unsplash/Anni Spratt
Making the effort to network and help others throughout your career means you won’t feel bad asking for help yourself

As a coach and trainer I work across all kinds of industries, with people with differing roles and from every cultural background.

I work with baby boomers through to Gen Z, and when I speak with them (and their bosses) they have more things in common than separating them. 

Many are unhappy with their careers. They may enjoy their jobs (not always) but often they’re disappointed with their career trajectory. Many have made the same mistakes, which I identify here as the seven deadly career sins.

  1. Not networking
    This is the most common career mistake. People get comfortable and then find themselves having to look for another role, but they don’t know anybody who can help them. It’s too late to start making friends when you need them. Instead, make the effort throughout your career. Help others so you don’t feel bad asking for help yourself.
  2. Not speaking up
    The chances are you were hired for what’s between your ears and your ability to express this in a way that influences others. You can’t help make good decisions if you’re silent. 
  3. Not listening to feedback
    If you have people around you who are prepared to tell you when you’re doing well or could be doing better, take that as a gift. Listen to them and reflect on what they’re saying. If they’ve got a point (and if you hear it more than once, the chances are they do) then try to make the necessary changes.
  4. Not saying sorry
    Unless you’re perfect the chances are you’ve screwed up at some stage. Instead of making excuses or worrying about what apologising will do to your ego, learn how to say sorry properly. Taking responsibility for your actions, acknowledging when you’re at fault and doing better will all work wonders for your reputation. Pretending something didn’t happen, or that you didn’t do it, doesn’t stop everyone else from noticing the truth. 
  5. Not putting your hand up
    If you want to make progress in your career you need to let people know. We’re not the main character in anyone else’s life and so nobody (not even your manager) is going to be paying close attention to our hopes and dreams. If you have an ambition then make sure people know about it and ask them what you need to do to get there. Then do it!
  6. Not bringing solutions
    We’re not recruited to fill a position, we’re hired to solve a problem, so focus on that. If you want things to change, make the business case and explain how things could be better. You don’t have to wait until somebody gives you permission. Well expressed good ideas that save money, increase revenue or reduce risk will always be welcome.
  7. Not getting to the point
    When you bring your good ideas to the table, do it succinctly. Explain what the problem is and why anybody should care, then talk about what your idea is and why it will work. Too many careers are ruined by people who fail to get their ideas across because they’re stuck at a level of detail nobody wants to hear, or they forget to take their audience into account. 

Dawn Metcalfe is a workplace culture advisor, trainer and public speaker