The 5 Most Common Career Mistakes and How to Avoid Repeating Them

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Transcript for the video

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great holiday even though it was probably not the norm. I'm excited to talk to you today about “The 5 Most Common Career Mistakes” I see people making and how to avoid them.


What you will leave this training with:

  1. The impact of making one or more of these mistakes.
  2. The 5 most common career mistakes.
  3. How do you know if you're making that mistake?
  4. What to do if you are.


If we haven't met yet, my name is Melisa Liberman. I am a career coach for tech leaders, and I help tech leaders achieve their big career goals, whatever that might be. For some of you, it's landing your next opportunity. For others of you, it’s improving your leadership skills, being a leader of leaders, getting promoted, getting recognized, and navigating corporate politics. I love helping my clients achieve their big goals, but I can't work with everyone one-on-one. So, I created this lunch to share some of the best practices that I help my clients with! And that's what we're going to dive into today.


First of all, I have to say to you guys, that these 5 mistakes I'm sharing with you today are really, really good. And I’m not just telling you that to brag – but this material is going to be so impactful for you. I say that, because I talk to you so many of you and know that you don't want to feel like you’re bragging and that someone else should recognize you and that YOU shouldn't be the one recognizing you. And I'm telling you, this content is amazing.


First, The Impact: Why do these mistakes matter and why should you care?

If you DON’T care…

  • You’re at the risk of being blindsided,
  • You’re not making as much money as you could be,
  • You're not getting the recognition you deserve.
    • You can recognize yourself - there's a lot of value to that, believe me, I'm not someone who has ever celebrated myself until recently. There is also value to being recognized by your management, your peers, your colleagues, and your client customers, right?
  • You’re stagnating, stalling, and under-living compared to what your potential is.
    • I don't know what you believe and I don't want to get into like the big, big picture here. But what if we only have one life to live?


Think back to the ultimate impact here - which is financial, and quality of life. You as tech leader are ambitious, which is not a bad word, even though sometimes people think it is. You want what you get the most out of life. So, let's make that happen for you.


Mistake #1 - You are not treating your career, like a business. You're not acting as a CEO of your career.

“Hope is not a strategy” – Vince Lombardi.

You're in charge here, no one else is in charge. No one else is going to bestow anything upon you. At the end of the day, you're responsible for getting what you want out of your career and treating it literally like you're running a business, your business of your career.

What this mistake looks like:

  • You are approaching your career from what I call the bottom up versus the top down. So, you're working in your business, not on your business. You're completely neglecting this side of the house. You're just executing, versus focusing on all of the elements that are required to run a business.
  • No vision or goal - And not just a goal of like, “Oh, this is realistic”, but like “If I want anything if I could have anything, what would it be?”
  • No three-year plan. If you don't dream and map out what you want, even if it does turn out differently, you're not going to get it. That's not what we're here to do, right? We're here to take control of our own destiny and get what we want out of life, and not just wait for someone to tell us what's possible for us, or what we should get out of it. Take control of this situation. As a CEO of your career. What is your plan? What is your three-year plan? What is your 10-year plan? In interviews, if someone asks you that, make it fun. Put something down that you like that energizes you. Think about it. When you were in high school or college, you had all of these dreams and ambitions. How much do you think about that kind of stuff right now? Putting it down on a piece of paper, at least a three-year plan, if not something larger, as the CEO of your career, will help build yourself a sales and marketing plan.
  • No financial targets. If you're in a job search, you probably have some resemblance of that. Your sales and marketing plan might not be where it needs to be because you're being too humble. You're not really thinking about, “what do people care about?”. You're thinking about, “I'm going to list off all of my accomplishments and hope for the best.” No, that's not how you run your career or your job search. Ask yourself what is your financial plan of how you are going to run your career and get yourself to the place where you can retire, where you can do whatever it is that you want to do, where you can make your own business, and where you have whatever the goal is. What is the financial plan that you want to back into, that supports the life that you want to have, in the long run, in the short run, in the medium run? What does that look like? Don't just take your current salary and say, “How am I going to stretch this?”

How to avoid this mistake:

  • Create the plan from the CEO seat. (This is walked through more in the 4 Steps to Create Your Career Roadmap Webinar)


Mistake #2 – Underselling Yourself (To Yourself)

What this mistake looks like:

  • The comfort zone.
  • “I don't want to go after (specific goal) because I want work life balance.” You don't even know if the goal is contrary to work life balance, you just decide “I'm not going to go bigger because I don't want to mess up.” We're blocking ourselves from even pursuing a goal because we think this or some other thing, right? It’s an excuse in a lot of ways. There are people from CEO level all the way down, who have work life balance. There's no reason for you to just completely throw a goal out with the bathwater, because you think that it's going to prevent some work life balance, or some goal that you have.
  • “I don't want to put myself at risk.” “I don't want to lose my security.” Which by the way, again, security is a false concept. There is no security. It's what your brain thinks is secure. By tomorrow, your company could go under, who knows, right? There is no security that we really think there is to make ourselves feel better. So, you're telling yourself, “Hopefully this isn't like a doomsday.” It's not a doomsday. You can make all of this stuff happen. What's the worst that could possibly happen? You're resourceful? I know you are. If you get knocked down, you'll get back up again. It's not a big deal. Why are you making it such a such a monumental problem, if for some reason, you get fired, or your company goes under, you get laid off whatever it is, it's not so monumental?
  • “I need more.” A lot of people are telling me how many certificates they need, or an MBA or all these things? Right? I need more something. “I should have accomplished more before I do this.” It's all an excuse. Now, do you need a degree? In some ways? Yes. Could you be an astronaut? Without whatever? Yes, obviously, some of this is true in certain circumstances. But a lot of times, it's just a way for us to feel more comfortable and make ourselves feel like “oh, well, I have a plan. I'll get there eventually.” And you never do. Right? The reason why we do this is what’s called the motivational triad. Literally, our brain is designed to avoid pain, maximize pleasure in the short term, not the long term, and conserve energy. That’s it. If you just let your brain go on autopilot and make decisions without really thinking, this is what's going to motivate you and drive your decisions and your behavior.

How to avoid this mistake:

  • Be aware of this motivational triad, first and foremost, and -
  • Ask yourself better questions.
    • How could I make that work?
    • Whatever that goal is, what skills do I already have? Or experience?
    • How is this goal that I have possible for me right now? Improve the quality of the questions you're asking yourself and notice where you're underselling yourself to yourself to start moving past this.


Mistake #3 – Recognition Expectancy

Again, “Hope is not a strategy.” – Vince Lombardi

What this mistake looks like:

  • You're expecting your work to speak for itself. Looking back, there were a lot of scenarios where I should have advocated for myself more, and I didn't, because I thought my work will speak for itself. “I'm going to go over here in my office and put my head down and drive my team as hard as I can and deliver the results and it will all be recognized.” And it was. But for a lot of us, it doesn't even work. It doesn't even work the first time let alone again. So really look at this for yourself, your heads down working expecting real recognition.
  • You're neglecting networking. I've talked to a lot of you about the biggest regret, “Oh, I wish I networked more. I wish I wasn't so complacent.” And then you're disappointed.
  • You're blindsided, you're undervalued, you don't get what you want. Because of this recognition expectancy.

How to avoid this mistake:

  • I don't watch football really, but I will tell you, it's either a defense that you're playing right now or you're not even on the playing field. You're just doing your work without any focus anytime spent beyond like a fleeting thought here or there about your career, and what you want, where you want to go, what you want to be making, and what kind of span of control. You want to have all of the things in your business plan from step one, right?
  • Turn that into offense. Figure out purposefully, how you're going to get the recognition you deserve. And make it for yourself. Give yourself permission to recognize yourself. Most of us aren't even doing that. Tell yourself, “I did a great job.”
  • Ask yourself:
    • Where am I expecting recognition? Find out where that recognition expectancy is and then ask yourself –
    • Where, who and with whom can I intentionally create recognition? Start with yourself too.


Mistake #4 – Certainty Greed

What this mistake looks like:

  • “I need to know all the facts before I decide how to proceed with my goal or my direction.” Look, most of us here are very analytical, fact based, step by step kind of people. That's who I am. That's probably how you are.
  • We overanalyze, we overthink, and –
  • We end up in paralysis. And the result of that is what's called –
  • Failing ahead of time.

How to avoid this mistake:

  • Recognize it’s rare (if not impossible) to have all the information. For the most part, 99.9% of the time, we will never have perfect information. There are too many variables.
  • Trust yourself to follow your gut, and to make the right decision with what you know. More importantly, trust yourself that you'll recover if you fail. You've got this like, there's not “what's the worst that could possibly happen?”
  • If you decide to take a risk, without all the facts, ask yourself things like:
    • What am I over-analyzing? What have I not done?
    • Where am I thinking I need more information, but it's really just that fear in my way?


Mistake #5 – Evaluation Entitlement

What this mistake looks like:

  • My manager isn't giving me constructive feedback.
  • My leader doesn't prioritize performance reviews.
  • My ______ isn't providing me with the inputs I need to grow and be successful.
  • I just can't improve without feedback. No, you're not entitled to feedback. It would be great. It would be nice. But you don't need it, nor are you entitled to it in order for you to be successful.

How to avoid this mistake:

  • Keep going without the feedback and stop festering on this. At the end of the day, it’s not hurting anyone but you to be festering and focusing at ruminating on this situation. You're either getting feedback or you're not and keep it moving.
  • Evaluate yourself. I give you permission right now. A lot of us think somehow our own evaluation or critique of yourself isn't valid or isn't meaningful. What? How could your feedback and your own self-evaluation not be meaningful? I teach my clients to self-evaluate after things like interviews, or after an event you go to and make a big presentation to a group - go evaluate yourself afterward. You finished a month? Go evaluate yourself. I promise you, I do this every day and I continue to improve in what I do, how I run my business, how I help my clients, because I evaluate myself. You can do that, too. Every week, every month, after every event, it can take five minutes, it could take 30 minutes, whatever you have available. But I'm telling you prioritizing this is incredibly informative and you don't need someone else telling you what or how to improve.
  • Ask for feedback from management, peers, other influencers (vs. general requests). The goal is to figure out three questions you want someone to answer for you in terms of feedback, and then go ask someone, whoever the person is, “what are your thoughts about this?”


Those are the five mistakes! Now, let me tell you something, there's more! I have five more, I couldn't stop, and I didn't want to! I don't even have time to go through all of them today. So, I decided that next week, rather than whatever topic I had picked, we're doing five more of these mistakes.

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