Making mistakes is all part of being human. We all make them and we learn from them. But there are just some career mistakes we could be making that could jeopardise our chances of success in the future. Most of us are unknowingly making these mistakes, so we’ve gathered ten of the biggest and most common career mistakes women make early on in their careers and what you can do if you’ve made a bad move.
Mistake 1: Your profile looks unprofessional on social media
Have you ever looked at a Facebook post or LinkedIn profile pic and thought ‘uh-oh, that’s a bit inappropriate!’ Whether it’s a drunken profile picture, damaging comments or unprofessional language, these things can ruin your chances of scoring your dream job.
What to do: Clean up your social media profile. You can ask a friend to review your profile and give an honest opinion of how it’s perceived — is it friendly? Is it semi-professional?
Depending on your privacy settings, anyone can share or screenshot your social media profile. Before posting anything, consider what your future employers will think. After all, it’s very common for recruiters and hiring managers to check your socials before they reach out to you. This means you want to make sure you’re always leaving a good first impression.
Mistake 2: Burning bridges
Most of us have had jobs, colleagues or bosses we never want to work with again. Or perhaps we currently work with them and fantasising about quitting spectacularly (oh yes, we’ve seen so many viral videos on that). The truth is, reputation is everything.
If you’ve quit your job in an unprofessional manner or burn bridges along the way, it could come back to bite. You may never know if you’re going to cross paths again with your boss or colleague — especially if you work in the same industry.
What to do: Whether it’s big or small, own what you’ve done. When we hide the issue, it always makes things more problematic in the long term — and awkward too! It takes a lot of courage and although you may not be able to fully repair the relationship, taking accountability and apologising is always the first step.
Mistake 3: Being complacent with your skills
The world is continually disrupting (hey look at what 2020 did). This means we need to continually keep up to date with our skills to attract potential employers. It’s incredibly easy to let our skills slip and become complacent. Not all employers offer any training or certification opportunities, so it’s up to us to pave the path of our future.
What to do: Create your own growth opportunities. Future employers want to know that you’re committed to developing your skills. Take an online class, attend webinars and research certifications in your industry. But before enrolling, check whether your employer might be willing to cover any costs, especially if it is linked directly to your job.
Mistake 4: Not applying for the job or turning down opportunities
Most of us fear the unknown, and this includes turning down opportunities because we feel we’re not ready or not applying for our dream job because we don’t tick all the boxes. Research shows that women feel they need to meet 100% of the job criteria before applying while men usually apply for a job after meeting only 60%
What to do: Don’t be tempted to find excuses for not taking on a new challenge — simply go for it! Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone to progress in your career. If you applied for a job and unsuccessful, please take it as a learning opportunity rather than a setback. Get feedback from the recruiters, so you know what to look out for next time. Don’t give up!
Mistake 5: Not negotiating your salary and benefits
According to a report from recruitment firm Randstad, about 60% of women have never negotiated their salary. This often leads to 72% of women changing jobs more frequently to get a pay rise somewhere else.
What to do: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Many women don’t negotiate pay because of fear of rejection or don’t want to appear too troublesome. The best thing to do is have an honest, two-way conversation which would probably take less energy than going through a job search.
Make sure you have all the information to support your reasoning. Come up with examples of where you’ve gone above and beyond in your role. Gather some positive feedback from colleagues if you can.
To help calm your nerves, practice negotiating your salary and benefits with a friend or colleague. This will help boost your confidence so that you can negotiate your salary on the day with conviction.
If you need some further inspo, check out this article on How to Negotiate a Salary, According to 25 Famous Women.
Mistake #6: Giving up on networking once you land the job
Research from Harvard shows people actually feel physically dirty at the thought of networking. It’s no wonder why so many people stop networking once they’ve found a job — or worse, don’t even attempt to network at all!
What to do: We’ve all heard the saying that it’s ‘who you know, not what you know’. Networking is key to taking your career to places. Build your reputation by staying in touch with people in your industry and field. It could be previous bosses, colleagues and industry associates. Relationships take time to build and nurture. We also need to shake the mental image of older men in a room handing out business cards.
There are many ways to network. Platforms like LinkedIn has made it easy to network online. You could also look into industry meet-ups and events, so it’s more targeted and specific to your field or where you want to explore. Even getting involved with the community, such as volunteering or taking up special-projects at work will put you in front of so many amazing people. So, go on, and get out there!
Mistake 7: Being unprepared for interviews
Thanks to Google, there is never any excuse to attend an interview unprepared. And it’s not about knowing what to say, but also how you scrub up. If it’s a virtual interview, you still need to ensure you look professional as well.
What to do: If it’s a new company, make sure you read up on the company, the latest news and also come up with questions of your own before you go for the interview. Make sure you understand the company culture to ensure you dress appropriately for the interview. In some places, you may be able to get away with business-casual, but for some, like top law firms, a blazer is a must. Body language, such as maintaining eye-contact and minimising movement is excellent for building rapport and minimising distractions. Interviews are always nerve-wracking, so practice a few mock-interview sessions with a friend.
Mistake 8: Not seeking career sponsors
Too often, the focus has been on looking only for a mentor. What women need to focus on is getting a sponsor. A sponsor is interested in your career success and will get you in touch with crucial people who may not be in your network or radar. A sponsor opens doors for you, advocates when you’re not in the room and helps you see opportunities around the corner.
What to do: To get a sponsor, you have to get comfortable with being visible, and people to see the value you bring. Sponsors are usually previous bosses or senior managers in the business you work for. Or it could really be someone in your network who has a strong personal brand. When reaching out to a sponsor, be specific about what you want to achieve and make sure you follow up. For more information on sponsors, check out Harvard Business Review on why A Lack of Sponsorship Is Keeping Women from Advancing into Leadership.
Mistake 9: Staying stuck in a career rut
When we’re not clear on our vision, purpose and values, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut and in a job that’s not fulfilling us. You could be in a job that pays okay, but you don’t feel engaged or believe in the company’s mission. Or you might feel dread when your alarm goes off on Mondays, and so your work will suffer as a consequence. People can tell when someone is not motivated, so the danger is that you don’t want it to affect your reputation.
What to do: Discover the root cause of your dissatisfaction. Develop a plan to get out of the rut. Is it the location? Is it lack of work flexibility? Is the industry no longer fulfilling? Is it the working culture?
What we do know is that it’s a waste to just stay in a job you don’t love. If you’re unsure about your direction, think about getting a career coach who can help you brainstorm career options that suits your skillset, lifestyle, personality, needs and wants. Having a clear career direction and strategy will help get you out of that career rut.
Mistake 10: Overpromising and underdelivering
How many times do you hear yourself saying, ‘yes, sure I’ll do that by Friday’. But in reality, you know it’s hard to deliver on that promise since you have a million things to do on your list. It’s tempting to say yes to everything, but when we are not honest with ourselves and others, it can ruin our reputation.
What to do: It’s tempting to say yes, but it’s far better to underpromise and overdeliver. People respect you more and find you reliable when you can be realistic with timeframes. You’ll become someone who delivers on their promise.
Ready for an impactful career?
Our careers play a considerable part in our lives. After all, we spend more than a third of our lives in our job! If you would like further clarity into your career, Girls of Impact can help coach you to achieve the job of your dreams. By the end of your coaching session, you will feel super confident and ready to kick some goals.
Visit our Dream Job Coaching page for more information.