Mistakes are inevitable as you begin your career. Simply being aware of the most common mistakes can keep career damage to a minimum. Avoiding them entirely will propel your career.
Based on my personal experience and observation, here are the 10 most common early-stage career mistakes:
- Over confidence. Sometimes there is a fine line between being knowledgeable and appearing arrogant or “entitled.” Know what you know, but admit when you need more information. That’s how you learn.
- Poor listening skills. Practice listening skills. Mentally count to five before responding to a question where more details might allow for a better answer. Ask questions that confirm you heard what was said, or build on the thought just shared.
- Underestimate importance of writing. PR managers rank writing as the number one skill desired of new hires. If writing isn’t a core strength, seek out courses or Writing Center. Improved writing skills will boost your career. Guaranteed.
- Lack of business acumen. Knowledge of business basics is the second most important attribute for job prospects, according to the agency leaders and it is tied with writing for corporate communications executives.
- Limited critical thinking. Gone are the days when PR pros were expected to simply take orders and develop tactics. Today, you must demonstrate the ability to think strategically and ask intelligent questions that help ensure effective communications. Be curious about everything affecting the business, and think beyond the immediate issues at hand.
- No mentor. Find and nurture mentorship relationships—not just with one individual. Identify mentors through every stage of your career.
- Self-interest over teamwork. Even if there are many interns vying for a single position, become the consummate team member.
- Lack of technology depth. Boomers and Xers give Millennials more credit for being technology savvy that often is the case. Due to these expectations, make sure you master basic knowledge of key technology being used in agencies and corporations where you want to work.
- Risk avoidance. Stretch yourself. If you have wanted to launch a startup, do it now. Don’t wait. And in your current job, don’t be afraid to voice an informed point of view even if it varies from what others are saying. Just do so in a positive, constructive manner.
- Life balance over work. During the early stages of your career, put in whatever time is required to impress co-workers and supervisors. Offer to help others who are buried, even if it means more work for you. The only person who should be concerned about your work/life balance is your boss—not you. Prove your talent and dedication through hard work, and bosses will view you as the “turn to” employee worthy of promotion.
This Culpwrit on Careers post appears in the current issue of PRSSA’s FORUM magazine.