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Oops! Have you ever made a career mistake?


Career Mistakes

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:

  • Thinking your career should be linear
  • Not asking other people for help
  • Prioritising money over learning

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.

Career Learnings

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.

Career Intentions

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 love.

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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