I frequently see the effects of actions that could have been avoided. If you want a long and successful career, don't make these mistakes:

1. Failing to have a personal action plan – Like great companies, very successful careerists know where they're headed. They have a clear plan. And after it's created they continually massage it, and refer to it for guidance.

I'm constantly amazed how many smart people (who'd never think of trying to run their organization without an annual plan) somehow think they can do a great job of running their life without one.

When I am brought in to an organization to work with someone who on the brink of being let go; I always start by asking what they want out of their professional life. Invariably, they don’t know. And, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there?

Most successful individuals have a plan for their career, their personal life and/ or their finances. They may not have it written down; but they can tell you what they intend.

2. Failing to deliver results – Career winners know it’s all about accountability.

I recognize that in many fast growing companies that promotions or raises are granted based more on who one knows, or their appearance. Also, in North America and Western Europe particularly, many companies still promote based on seniority without much weight on results.

In such environments it’s easy to become complacent; believing that results don’t matter, or worse that you are bulletproof. But in today’s job market, no one's bulletproof any more. Nobody survives forever without delivering the goods at least some of the time.

Take a hard look at what you’re giving the company with your efforts – can you quantify that you're making a difference? If all you've got are soft and squishy contributions that don’t make an impact of the company’s key objectives or financial targets – you’re at risk.

3. Failing to self promote – Bragging is one thing, but ensuring that others throughout your company are aware of your contributions is simply a smart practice.

  • Career Losers often fail to recognize the importance of letting others know about their successes. Or they go about it in entirely the wrong way.
  • And relying on others to look after you is a quaint idea at best. (I’m pretty certain it was naïve even when everyone drove a Ford or Chevy and no one doubted that the USA would always be the dominant leader in technology and management practice.)

In today’s world, decisions affecting one’s career are made more quickly than ever. This trend won't stop:

  • I know execs in startups who thought that the new company they just joined was going to make them wealthy...then saw the company bought out by a competitor.
  • Everyone knows people who'd enjoyed a good career but their employer couldn’t succeed due to industry evolvement. (Talking to a new supervisor about why they should be kept in the new entity is a bad situation to be in.)

Summary:

Know where you're going.

Be better than others in the same role.

Don’t put your future in the hands of people who are preoccupied with their own success.