“Career” means different things to different groups. For some their time with a specific company is a “career”. For others “career” covers their time in a certain field or industry. For still others their “career” encompasses the entirety of their time from leaving school until retirement. Regardless of definition, most people worry about the possibility that they will fail in their career. Plenty of events happen in a person’s career which are beyond their ability to predict or effect, but here are 10 reasons for failure which can be controlled and avoided with a bit of effort.

1. Not coming to work
People wreck careers every day by deciding to take time off from work. Companies hire their employees to perform certain tasks, often with a specific time frame in mind. Most companies create time off programs to allow people to deal with and enjoy their lives. Employees leave these guidelines at their own risk.

2. Ignoring responsibility for your career
Companies ultimately help people who help themselves. Many people assume that their company will take the time and make the effort to figure out how to make them better. Employees who fail to sort out their career desires and take steps to see these accomplished often see their career falter and fail.

3. Allowing skills to become outdated
People working in IT are particularly impacted by this one, but everyone must pay attention to their skills. Employees must consider and refresh their skills in order to remain effective and competitive in today’s business environment.

4. Not learning new skills
Careers stagnate when people stop learning new things. Learning becomes more important for those who are “new” as well as the person wishing more responsibility and higher positions within their company.

5. Completing tasks incorrectly
Whether the task is small and routine or large and unique, when the finished product misses the company’s expectations the employee needs to figure out how to make it right. Too many wrong attempts quickly convinces managers that the person is incapable of their job.

6. Consistent failure to meet deadlines
Few things erode the trust a company places in an employee more than their consistent inability to meet deadlines. Whether these are major deadlines with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line or showing up to work on time, employees who fail to meet the specified times and dates often faces reduced chances of promotion and greater chances of termination.

7. Not caring about the employer
Companies talk about “engagement” and mean caring about the company, its mission, and its employees. Companies and managers want to work with people who believe in what they are doing and their company’s ability to do it. Whether a person’s company makes plastic poo or maintains the IT infrastructure used by the Department of Defense, this expectation remains constant.

8. Failure to understand the boss(es)
Like it or not, the manager(s) that an employee reports to have immense power over the ability of that person to succeed or fail. Failing to understand what these people want often leads to career problems which can and should be avoided.

9. Failure to get to know people, i.e. “to network”
Few people escape their career without the assistance of people they know in their professional life. The word “networking” can seem like a four-letter word to some, but ultimately it is about taking the time to find out a little about people and being friendly. A small investment of time getting to know people makes a world of difference when advice on job searches or projects might be necessary.

10. Making poor first impressions
Every time employees meet someone new, that person forms a quick impression. Over time employees meet key individuals in the company, the industry, and perhaps even the world. That first impression can often be worked past, but not always.

For those who have made these mistakes, remember that no career is truly failed until the person leaves it. Admitting mistakes and correcting them often goes a long way to repairing most of these problems. If that sounds hard: that’s right, it is. But it can be better than starting from scratch.


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