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Avoid These Five Common Career Killers

by Chris Poindexter

Everyone has regrets in their working career. Life is a one time through the buffet line kind of deal and you don’t get do overs. So, of course, you’re going to make mistakes. My philosophy on mistakes is that it’s better to make cheap ones. Simply avoiding the big, expensive mistakes can take a lot of stress out of your working life.

You’re going to spend more time at work than almost any other single thing you do in life. While you may be off work longer in a 24 hour period, most of that is sleeping. Consequently, there are two things that should be absolutely awesome in your life: Your job and your mattress. Just those two things account for two-thirds of your life, so make them worthwhile.

Here are five common career killers. These are things that will cause the working third of your life unnecessary grief.

Signing Non-Compete Agreements

Everyone, on both sides of the table, goes into a new job with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, you can’t pay bills with good intentions. Employers are increasingly turning to non-compete agreements to try and protect business processes and keep junior employees from skipping. Those agreements don’t seem like a big deal at the time but they can hobble your career if the job doesn’t work out. Don’t assume that non-competes are not negotiable. One trick to getting the negotiations started is to say that you have no problem signing non-compete agreements, provided the company will guarantee your salary and benefits during the covered time period. Most will find that unacceptable but what you’ve done is staked out a place to start negotiations. You can limit the scope of non-compete agreements to only the customers you work with on a daily basis or make the company list specific competitors. Companies know those agreements are ridiculous and limiting the scope is in your best interest. If they won’t budge, find another job.

Not Keeping Up Your Personal Network

Keeping up a personal network is hard and relationships take time. It’s easy to let your network slide when you’re working. Yet those connections are the ones you’d depend upon to find a job if something happened to your current one. If you start warming up those contacts after a job loss, it’s going to be inherently obvious why you’re showing up again. Don’t be that person. Keep up on your personal network while you’re employed. You never know when you’ll need those contacts.

Not Documenting Career Accomplishments

Saying you’re a team player is so common no one even hears it anymore. Documenting how you brought together a team to solve a major business problem is showing prospective employers how being a team player translates into action. One is just talk; the other demonstrates you can use that skill to move the company forward.

Inadequate Research

This one is a killer. Any company can put on friendly face for thirty minutes during an interview but it takes real legwork to find out if it’s a place where you really want to work. Not all of that information can be found online and to get the really good stuff you’re going to have to track down former employees and reach out to them personally. The best and most valuable information takes work to dig up.

Moving Just For Money

People change jobs for a lot of reasons but switching for money alone is the worst reason of all. If your job sucks a few extra bucks are not going to make things better. If that job is a step up and pays more, good for you. Just be sure you understand the obligations that go with the money. If you’re getting a little more money and your employer expects a lot of extra hours, you might be taking a step backwards. Sometimes jobs that pay less can offer more in terms of schedule flexibility, time off, educational benefits or other perks that are, in the final analysis, worth more than a little extra money. Fit is more important than salary.

Sure, moving up the ladder and demonstrating increasing responsibility are important qualities, but so are your sanity and your happiness. The worst career killer mistakes result from a mismatch between the employee and employer, the main reason why, as mentioned up above, non-compete agreements can be so destructive. Take your time, do your research and invest in your personal network.

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