Saturday, September 26, 2015

Decisions that can ruin your career

Your decisions have consequences. Some of your less than optimal decisions have a long-term impact on your career. Awareness and prevention is the best solution. Here are a few decisions that can ruin your professional life.
 
Following your passion: If your passion is playing the guitar or physical adventure, you can choose a career in a band or the armed forces respectively. However, both choices can limit your income generating ability. This could leave you resentful later in life when you seek wealth. Know that your passions are not permanent. Realise that the world pays for what it needs and pays well only if you are very good at delivering it.
Accepting the bird in hand: Though at first glance the first opportunity that comes your way seems better than opportunities you cannot see, accepting it is not always the best decision. The endowment effect causes you to ascribe a higher value to what you own and prevents you from working towards a better opportunity. Think before you accept the first offer on the campus and avoid getting on to a sub-optimal career trajectory.
Finishing your education: Done with graduation? Good. Finished your postgraduate professional course? Great. Done with your education? Bad decision! While you may heave a sigh of relief with a coveted degree under your belt, it is only good enough to give you a great first job. Later opportunities are an outcome of skills you learnt at your current job. When your formal education ends, your on-the-job learning begins and this phase should last your lifetime.
Switching jobs for salary: At any point of your career, the highest paying job amongst competing opportunities is probably pointing towards a dead end. Choose it only if it is your last job before retirement. Consider the demand-supply dynamics for your skill set. A job that offers higher longterm rewards is attractive to more applicants like you and thus employers would prefer to offer lesser compensation in the short-term. Where long-term career growth or returns are missing, employers offer higher compensation to attract you and your competitors.
Choosing a bad life partner: If your life partner is not aligned with your professional ambition, your career will plateau. A huge amount of your bandwidth will be expended in getting a buy-in for every career move, every late night and every weekend spent on work. This will leave little motivation to put in the effort needed to succeed.
Settling roots too early: Choose a city to settle down early in life and you are blinded to opportunities that could take you places. Buy a house and move into it early in your career and you are unable to rationally evaluate opportunities that either require a long commute or a change of house.
Avoiding sales: You have decided to never be a salesperson? Terrible decision. Know that at every point in your professional life, you are required to sell if you wish to succeed. Sell yourself at the interview, sell your achievements during appraisals, sell the benefits of your output to a client, sell your ideas at a meeting. Recognise that sales is part and parcel of every role you choose, so welcome opportunities to get better at it.
Forgetting your job friends: Every time you switch jobs, you leave behind a set of friends made at your old workplace. As you get caught up in your new role, those relationships fall by the wayside. Not only do you lose an external professional support system, but also on great job opportunities in the future. The best job opportunities are never advertised on job boards or to headhunters. They go to individuals referred in by employees who know about the vacancy. So keep your past relationships alive.

Changing careers: Are you a pilot who is fed up of flying or a software engineer who is done with coding? You switch careers and find yourself starting afresh in a temporarily exciting job. You find yourself at the bottom of the heap, where your past experience is not acknowledged. People your age are ahead of you and will continue to remain so. Sticking to one career gives you exponential benefits with increasing experience so change careers with caution.