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7 Mistakes People Make in Choosing a Career (and How to Avoid them)

June 8, 2022

It is very common to feel stuck in a career, or to worry that you might have gone down the wrong path. Here are 7 of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a career, and how to avoid them.

1. You don't trust your gut

Making all your career choices based on practicality and rationality will only get you so far. There are two parts of yourself to listen to when you are making career choices: your head and your gut. Start trusting your instincts more. If a job doesn’t feel right, get curious as to why that is. 

2. You choose education because it will look good on your CV

Although an MBA is perfect for many professionals to kick start their business career, it isn’t for everyone. It involves a lot of time, money, and commitment. As Simon Sinek famously says, start with why. Ask yourself, why do you really want to choose a degree? Make sure your reasons for choosing a degree are solid before enrolling.

3. You get trapped by a high salary

Getting paid substantially more than your peers can be attractive for obvious reasons. This is especially true when you are just starting out. However, you might find you are more focused on ‘earning’ than ‘learning’ in some better-paid jobs early on in your career. Instead of focusing too much on the salary, ask yourself:

  • What doors will this career path open?
  • What is the typical career progression in this position?
  • Who will I be learning from? 
  • Apart from money, what does this job offer which I can add to my skills and experience?
  • What is the long-term earning potential of this career path?

4. You don't choose a career intentionally

Many of us are guilty of being quite aimless in our early 20s when it comes to choosing a career path. You might take whatever job is offered to you, rather than seeking out a profession. Although you don't need to have it all figured out when you turn 21, start to be intentional in the jobs you will and won’t accept. Write down the ideal situation for you, and then compare it to what is possible in the market with your experience and education. Whatever gaps there are between the two, start filling them.  

5. You play only to your strengths, and not your interests

Normally we are good at what we love, and vice versa. This isn’t always true though. Ask yourself, "does X bring me joy and fulfillment?". Write 2 lists: 

  • List all your strengths (not only skills, experience, and education, but personality traits too).
  • List all your interests (both personally and professionally)
  • Compare both lists and see what stands out

6. You overlook long-term demand in your sector/career

We might not be able to precisely predict the future job market, but make sure you don't end up in a dying industry. Do your research to establish the long-term potential of your career, so you don't find yourself at a dead-end professionally. Even if your career longevity is in question, you can ask yourself, how much of what you are learning could translate into other industries?

7. You let others decide 

Parents can be highly influential on their children when it comes to choosing a career. Not only can you feel pressured into following in their footsteps, or joining the family business, but you might be persuaded that your career in a less lucrative industry is a bad choice. As well as parents, friends, colleagues, the media, and articles (like this one) can all heavily influence the career decisions you make. Block out the noise around you and get real about what you truly enjoy doing. Appeasing others might work short-term, but eventually you could wake up one day and truly regret it. 

And if you still feel you are stuck, Nova’s Talent Agents are there to help you reach your full potential by leveraging the tools and resources of the global top talent network. This includes being able to understand when it’s time for you to get an experienced career coach and have the best ones for you. If you feel you are ready, you can sign up for a free discovery call with Sally Fazakerley!!

Sally Fazakerley is a proud Nova and an executive coach with 15 years experience in learning and development. She works with professionals to find more fulfillment, reach their goals, and get unstuck.

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