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Seven Ways to Ruin Your Career

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 8/11/2011

The world is full of talented individuals who excel in their work but nevertheless are unable to find jobs. As the adage goes, "He who learns from others' mistakes is truly wise," and learning why such talented people remain unemployed provides us with an indication of top career mistakes to avoid.

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    1. Wrong Career Choice

    Career Mistakes to Avoid If you have opted for a career based on trends, immediate jobs available or pay prospects, or to remain close with your friend, you have already made the biggest career mistake of your life! But you have company. Most people do likewise so you are not alone.

    Let your interest be the deciding factor when selecting a career. It is easier to advance to the top even in a career with limited growth prospects if one has the interest, aptitude, inclination, and a natural disposition to put heart and soul into the job, but sometimes, it's difficult to get ahead in any career where everyday is a struggle against the odds. For instance, an inherently introvert person would have to work out of his skin to make it big in a field marketing job, and wind up emotionally drained in the process. If he had rather selected a career more suited to his disposition, such as say computer programming, he could have avoided the stress and anxiety.

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    2. Changing Careers Haphazardly

    Are you among those who tend to take the first job that comes by, without considering the implications such jobs have on your career prospects? Taking up jobs on an as-they-come-by basis might serve short-term interests, but very soon your resume will betray you as a candidate with no intent or purpose. Not persevering in a particular career niche or profession also means having to start fresh every time, and by extension, there are remote chances of advancement.

    Most people make mistakes, but wise people avoid repeating mistakes. If you have already entered the wrong career, don't panic. Stay on the job, identify your heart's calling, determine whether your heart's calling makes for a viable career option, and if not, what is the closest you can get, and then work toward developing knowledge and skills in such areas. Start networking, and make the move only when a good opportunity presents itself. The time and effort it takes to make a successful midway career change means that most people can afford to make only one such change, so it better be worth it.

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    3. Burning Bridges

    Career Mistakes to Avoid Leaving a firm because of disagreements is common and acceptable, but burning bridges by giving your supervisor that well deserved punch in the face, slapping a lawsuit to teach that pompous boss a lesson, or even simply walking out without notice will inevitably come back to haunt you.

    Some people may be extremely talented in skills that are in chronic short supply for the new employer to overlook background checks from previous employers, but for most of us, a lack of a positive reference from the previous employer usually means no further hiring. The only option would then be to hide the experience from the resume; an unpleasent task in itself, and sure to attract firing with an additional poor reference if found out.

    In a stand-off between a company and an employee, there is only one winner. In the entire history of corporate America there is no evidence of an employee succeeding in taking down a reasonably sized company by leaving the firm, but instances of employers ruining the lives of ex-employees is commonplace.

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    4. Attitude

    Your boss depends on you to get things done. Your colleagues eagerly look forward to your valuable tips and insights. You soon assume airs of indispensability, and soon even without realizing it, you become arrogant.

    Skills and talent might allow you to reach the top, but will not ensure that you stay there. Arrogance, and a sneer or disdain for the lesser mortals around you will only cause them to become resentful, and spread ill-will. Very soon, people will start avoiding you, stab you in the back, and ultimately, refuse to cooperate with you, soon leading to dysfunctional work teams. When it boils down to one individual versus the others, the boss will always find it expedient to keep many employees in good humor, rather than someone who may soon leave. Now, having gotten used to the high position and authority, you will find it difficult to accept a lower position and take orders from lesser individuals in a new firm, and no firm would entrust an unknown stranger with unbridled authority from day one.

    Character counts as much as competence, and in some occasions even more.

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    5. Stagnation

    Career Mistakes to Avoid You have a cushy job that pays well. What can possibly go wrong? After all you live only once right? Allowing yourself to stagnate without keeping abreast of the current trends and updated knowledge is a recipe for disaster. In the fast changing world, chances are you will soon be made obsolete by fresh hands with the updated knowledge and competency in latest skills. The valuable experience you rely on to take you ahead may become redundant.

    Experience and a list of accomplishments guarantee career progression. The new order requires leveraging experience to build on competencies and skills that will help perform in an uncertain environment. Progress requires providing to employers that you have a track record of adapting to new technologies and overcoming challenges.

    Another mistake is staying too long in a bad company that rarely offers any challenging work assignments or any opportunities to your skills. Sticking with such a company might see your skills rusticated, rendering you incapable of competing when the time eventually comes to change jobs.

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    6. Sticking to the Rote

    Watching the clock, refusing to sign up for overtime, refusing to perform any job outside the job description, not willing to take the initiative or responsibility, and other similar habits means that you will have to search for a new job sooner rather than later. Employers look for commitment and a positive attitude, and overlook promotions and pay hikes for employees who do not display the necessary enthusiasm for work. Spending too much time chatting up with that long-lost friend you suddenly discovered on Facebook, when on company time will lead to the same results.

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    7. Integrity

    Dishonesty, in any form, be it moral turpitude, harassing coworkers, theft, embezzlement, or anything else, or twisting the truth to claim undeserved credit all allows you a moment of fame, but invariably comes back to wreck your career. Do not be under the delusion that honesty and integrity have taken a backseat in today’s ultra-competitive world where the end justifies the means. The fact is most companies do value integrity highly and seldom compromise on issues involving their employee's integrity and honesty.

    There have been many instances of skeletons in the closet such as forged degrees or faked work experience coming back to haunt highly successful executives after many years. Such skeletons make big time headlines depending on the stature of the person. Sudden dismissal from a job with no other company willing to touch you as a dishonest employee may be the least of your worries, for depending on the gravity of the issue, you might also be staring at prison time.

    Keep these top seven career mistakes to avoid in mind and you'll have a successful career.