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I've recently been reading quite a lot of online commentary on
"career mistakes and how to avoid them". It seems to be a popular topic
and so has got me thinking. The most commonly cited career mistakes in these pieces are:
As a mid-career worker (I'm currently preferring this term to
"middle-aged"), I'm not sure that these resonate with me as much as
they would with an early-career worker.
Having said that, I've just counted how many mistakes I have made
in my career and it's quite a few. Six to be precise. Two of them were
unforeseeable, one was due to a breakdown in trust and the other three were all
what I like to call "over-exuberance" but is otherwise known as not
doing my research properly. This ended up in me doing a job I didn't really
love three times.
This is quite typical of my nature. I love to explore new things
and take on new challenges. I don't like detail. I take people on face value
and tend to believe what they're telling me. When I don't like something, I
move on. Quickly and decisively.
When I look at my career mistakes, however, I also notice that I
learned something from each role. Whilst it's clear I wasn't getting the
message that I needed to do more research next time, I did still learn.
In the first role I didn't love, I learned how to provide a
professional service to clients and I learned how to pitch for and win
business. In the second role I didn't love, I learned how to stand up for
myself and what I believe in. In the third role I didn't love, I learned how to
be a supportive leader.
You may recall the Career Conversation interview I did with Karen Murray, business coach. In that interview, Karen
talks about how nothing is ever wasted. All of the skills, knowledge and
experience we pick up throughout our careers end up being useful. Our careers
become a mosaic of what we've learned along the way.
So, I'm concluding that career mistakes are all part of the
journey and can oftentimes be reframed as career learnings. However, what I do
know now that I did not know earlier in my career, is how to be a lot more
intentional. I now know how to align my career with my strengths, values and
purpose. I've ended up in a great place through experimentation, recalibration
and learning. From here on in, I am more in control of being in a career I
And, if you're wondering, I did do some research before retraining
as a coach. Just a little bit!
If you look back on a perceived career mistake, ask yourself what
you learned from that experience? And stay here with me if you would also like
to be more intentional going forward.
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