Young professionals often hit brick walls early on in their careers. Learn how to identify the biggest mistakes — long before you make them.
Many young professionals want to be go-getters and climb the ladder at work. You have big dreams of graduating college, landing your first job and going on to conquer the world.
While it’s great to have big dreams and believe in yourself with a strong sense of confidence, the career world is not always welcoming or receptive to young people’s lofty plans.
Planning for success — and failure
What happens when your career stalls or plateaus? How can you avoid getting laid off, underutilized or stuck in mid-career doldrums? There are many hidden pitfalls of the career journey, and often, even the smartest, hardest-working and best-intentioned people get caught in a professional setback.
Here are a few of the biggest risks to young professionals’ career success — and how you can avoid them: (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Staying at the same job too long
Recent studies found that people who stay at one job for too long tend to earn less over the course of their lives. Forbes explains that if you stay at a job for longer than two years, you’re likely to earn 50 percent less in total lifetime income than you would have earned from being a more frequent job-hopper.
While this flies in the face of traditional career advice — where people say that “job hopping is bad” because it shows a lack of discipline and commitment — the truth is today’s employers often want people who have more experience. If you’ve worked for different types of companies, in different roles and on different types of teams, you’re going to develop perspective and the ability to adapt. It doesn’t hurt to try new things and strike out in new directions during your early career.
Don’t feel bad if you’re a job-hopper – your long-term career prospects will probably be better than if you allow yourself to get stuck in a rut out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.
2. Sticking with a bad boss
How do you know when it’s time to leave a job? Often, the best reason to quit a job is because you have a bad boss. There’s an old saying: “People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.”
A bad supervisor can ruin your career happiness faster than any other factor at work. If you get a new boss who turns out to be out of their depth, finicky and unpredictable — or is just a downright mean-spirited bully — it’s time to quit while you’re ahead. Does this mean you should quit your job at the first sign of disagreement with your boss? No! Of course not.
But you need to make sure you’re getting everything out of your relationship with your boss that you want.
Ideally, your boss should listen to you, care about your professional development and look for opportunities to involve you in bigger projects. The best bosses are ambitious not only for themselves, but for their people. They know that if their employees build skills and earn bigger opportunities, that makes the boss look good, too.
If your boss just doesn’t seem to understand you, or if you feel like your personalities just don’t mesh, these are signs it’s time to start looking for a new job.
3. Becoming overspecialized
One risk of staying in a career field too long is that you’ll gradually “learn a lot about a little” – you might learn more and more about your narrow field of expertise, only to find out that your skills are no longer in demand outside of your company or niche industry sector. This can make it hard to find a new job or qualify for a better-paying job. If people pigeon-hole you as “only” being an expert in a certain narrow field of knowledge, they’ll be less likely to hire you to do anything else.
Instead, keep learning as much as you can, even if it’s not directly related to your daily work. Read as much as you can about issues affecting your industry. Become a fan of industry experts, listen to their podcasts and follow them on social media. The great thing about the 21st century is there’s no limit to how much we can learn about the topics that interest us, especially since all of the information you need to build a more fulfilling career is available to you online, 24 hours a day. Why not put it to good use?
Many things happen in our careers that are beyond our control. Bosses come and go, our jobs might get lost due to layoffs and restructurings, our companies might get acquired by competitors, or our new product launches might fail. But the one thing we can control is our attitude – our willingness to keep learning and trying every day. No matter what happens with technology or broader economic trends, there will always be a demand in the business world for people who are curious and people who care.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, an industry-founding lead generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the B2B sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.