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Common career mistakes you must avoid (Part 1)

No matter at what stage you are now in your career, you can always go higher. I was just speaking to the former CEO of a large manufacturing company with 5,000 people working for him. He had just left his job after many successful years, and no sooner had he stepped out of the office building, a headhunter called him and talked him into taking another, larger CEO role. In the Middle East! And how old is he now? 64 years young!

This just goes to show that if we manage our career right, we will constantly be sought after, we would constantly get a better job. It is an upward trajectory!

Of course, for every such successful CEO, there might well be 50 (or even 5,000!) less successful careerists; people who struggle to overcome a downsizing exercise or a job migration. These are the people who have faithfully come to work for the company for the past 20 years or so, and who have been ignominiously given the pink slip and asked to leave.

Suddenly, their reason for waking up early in the morning, for giving up their weekend to meet a deadline, for missing their kids’ every developmental milestone just flew out the window. And with that, their self-worth. So for all of us who might be staring at such an eventuality (and you will never know when that will strike!), take heed of these 12 common career mistakes you must avoid – and start correcting them TODAY!

1. Not having a career intent (or goal)

This is one of the biggest culprits for people not going to where they want, or should, go. That is because they have no clue where they should be in the first place! When someone does not have a career intent - or goal - they will go where opportunity takes them. This is akin to gambling with your career; sure, you may be lucky, but can you be lucky ALL THE TIME?

Relying on luck to make your career decisions is extremely reckless, something that you have no control over. Your career is one of the most important things in your life, since it provides earning power to live out your dreams and gives you a sense of self-worth. I am sure you have met people who had suddenly lost their job; they lose a little bit of themselves each passing week, and over time, they lose their self-confidence.

Don’t let this happen to you. You need to have a clear career purpose - your career intent - and keep that focused in front of you as you build your steps toward this intent. The intent cannot be a simple one; it has to be a calling, something you will strive for over time.

For me, my career intent is to be the best organisational business consultant in Singapore. Of course, in order to be one, I would have to be a CEO (because if I have not been a CEO and understood all the vagaries of a CEO, how can I consult? I need to be authentic!) And in order to be a CEO, I would have to work my way up, perhaps as a COO. And before that, I would have to be a senior manager or director. And true to my career intent, I had been all these, from director to COO to CEO. And now, am I the best organisational business consultant in Singapore? Well, I am not so sure. I am consulting, for sure, but not in Singapore. I am currently consulting in Qatar! And I am enlarging my experience and knowledge and value in so many more ways than one! So, one might say I have met my career intent; but I won’t say that I have. I am not nearly at the level of consultant I want to be. This therefore pushes me on, giving me the drive to build the next stage of my career! And the next…

So, for those of you who have always relied on luck, or your family and friends, to help you out in your job search, it is time to create your own luck by identifying your Career Intent, and from there, work your way back to where you are now. This will become your Career Map – the path you need to navigate from where you are to get to where you want to be. Nothing good will ever come to one who just sat around and waited for his Career Goal to fall on his lap!

2. Giving everything to your employer

I am sure many of you have bought into the “lies” that have been told to you, either by the big corporations, the government, your friends, or even your parents. The “lie” is this: study hard, do well in school, get a great job, work hard and don’t create trouble for your boss. Then, after 35 years with them, you can retire and live well. Happily ever after! I say it is a “lie” because while it may have been true 30 years ago, it no longer is.

Yet, many people today still believe it to be true, and many corporations still try to tout it as the truth! In r