Common career mistakes you must avoid (Part 3)
9. Being filial
This is the difficult part of this article to write because filial piety is so ingrained in our Asian culture. And it is very important to remain filial. That is why what I am going to say will come across as harsh to some. Yet, I have seen this happening enough times to know the impact this has on our career. Before we go forward, I need to reiterate that it is good to be filial and I am not advocating that you not be. Yet, when it comes to your career, there can be a potential pitfall here. In the many cases I have seen, people – men and women alike – have taken time off their career to take care of an ailing parent. This is a very noble thing to do, but you need to be aware of the impact that might have on your career. Pulling yourself away from your career for a few months won’t hurt it; so long as you have already put in enough time on your current job to have had ROI. Moving off when you have not really solidified your position in the job may leave you starting off, at best, at the same level when you return but, in most cases, at a little lower.
Again, if you are leaving your job for a short, few months, there is little impact on your career. You may even be able to return to your current job. But if the duration is long – in one instance I saw a man leave his career to take care of his mother for 4 years – it might have an adverse impact on your career. Indeed, when that man decided to re-enter the workforce after 4 years, many things had changed, and he was unable to secure a suitable job for another year! And the job he finally attained was a much lower-level job than his previous, and in a different field! In effect, his career goal (if ever he had one) had been compromised and he languished in unmet potential for the rest of his life. Imagine the impact that has on his psyche, his self-esteem, his earnings! The saddest part of this story is that not only did his mother eventually pass on, but his wife also left him! I am not implying that all such decisions will lead to such an outcome, and I am certainly not implying that you should not be filial, but you have to be cognizant of the outcomes of such a decision. So be careful when you want to take a career break due to filial piety. There are many ways to remain filial without having to take that break; but ultimately, you are the one to make that decision. Do decide well.
10. Raising a family
Along similar lines as the previous point, taking a break to raise your children can also have a negative impact on your career. Fortunately, many employers now look on this with some level of understanding and empathy (more than for filial piety, unfortunately). The industry is more inclined to take you in at the level which you left the profession provided you can prove that you can still deliver the value you used to. Some professions, like teaching, see the relevance in raising your family akin to teaching and do not ask for proof of value. Other professions require you to take a re-certification test before you can begin. Yet there are many others who may jump at the opportunity to hire you.
There is this professional I know who was the head of marketing at one insurance company before she left her job to raise her child. In the meantime, she had also accompanied her husband on an overseas posting for 4 years. When she returned to Singapore, and rejoined the job market, not only was she picked up by a different insurance company, she was also given a higher position. Why? Because she is really good at what she does, and she had kept up with the industry while she was away. Again, it boils down to the value you bring to the hiring company and how relevant you are today. So, the bottom line is this; you don’t need to be isolated from your field, from your industry, from your career, while you are raising a family. Do what it takes to be relevant and when you re-join your career, it would be as though you had never left!
11. Not being financially prepared
Talk to any financial planner and they will tell you that you need to have an emergency fund equivalent to one to two years’ of expenses. This is because you will never know what will happen to you. In Singapore’s high costs, that would amount to about $80,000 to $200,000. I am not sure how many of you have $200,000 spare cash lying around, but that is the reality. You might not need to have all $200,000 in cash; it can be a combination of cash and near-cash. Essentially what it means is that when you are suddenly in a position of need, you can muster up the funds quickly to sustain your lifestyle. Why is this important? Well, of course, we need to eat. So that already has inherent costs. Of course, we could pare back discretionary expenses like the luxury vacation, or your third car. Yet, when you pare too much back, you start impacting your self-worth. You start to doubt yourself. You start to pull away from your friends. You start to be more frugal, which may even take away that morning cuppa at Starbucks. Once you do that, you start to feel down, you start to question yourself, and your self-esteem takes a hit. Anyone who has been in this position knows that to get back onto the career wagon, one needs to have self-confidence. This will cushion you from jumping onto the first job that comes your way, thereby jeopardizing all your efforts at building a first-class career. Remember, employers do not frown on the gap year these days; but they are interested to know what you did in those years to get you back onto the career bandwagon. If you are paring away at your expenses, you are cutting your costs into oblivion; so how can you create a more valuable career? Remember, you are judged at how you create value to yourself, as you are trying to sell your value to your potential employer. If you are not financially prepared for the career downturn to happen, then you are putting yourself at a big risk. The best mitigation, of course, is to never be in that position, to always be at the top of your game, to never be complacent, to never take a sideroad in your career.
12. Thinking it will never happen to you
Finally, a common career mistake is to think that all that we shared will happen to someone else and not you. This is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand when it senses danger. The best defence against this is offence. You need to plan for the day that it WILL happen to you and go against that. And what do you need to do? Here is a summary of things you have to start doing today: (1) Identify your Career Intent (2) Build your Career Ladder to reach that intent (3) Increase your knowledge and experience repertoire
(4) Be a valued employee, even if you have a terrible boss (5) Market yourself
(6) Move to a new role or new employer (or both!) and deliver ROI – again!
(7) Build your war chest as you build your career
(8) Never give up!
Building towards a brighter future
Many people wonder why others are successful in their career and they are not. It could be that they had made som