Avoid These Common Career Mistakes

Original Post on Fastcompany.com
By: Stephanie Vozza

5 Common Career Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Future

If you’re not as far along as you’d like to be in your career, you’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of Americans hate their jobs, according to Gallup. A lot of people blame their boss, and perhaps he or she is partially responsible. But the problem might be staring at you in the mirror. Many of us are making mistakes that hold us back, says Skip Prichard, author of The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets for Creating a Successful Future.

“I’ve always wondered why some people succeed and some fail,” says Prichard, who has been CEO of several companies, most recently OCLC, a global nonprofit computer library service and research organization. “Some of the biggest regrets are not being more true to yourself.”

After studying leadership psychology and interviewing more than 1,000 people for his blog, Prichard found that the difference between success and failure is avoiding common pitfalls. Here are five that might be holding you back.


Maybe you studied engineering on the advice of your parents, or got into marketing because your boss thought you’d be good at it even though you were more interested in finance. “You had a dream but you killed it,” says Prichard. “When you go through with someone else’s dream, you won’t have the same amount of drive or energy to move forward in your career.”

Feeling drained is a signal from your subconscious that what you’re doing is not right for you. “When you are doing your passion, you feel energized every day,” he says. “You might also be doing the right thing in the wrong environment. Perhaps the organization or leadership style isn’t for you. Know yourself, and take the risk to go follow your dream career or company.”


It costs about 11 cents to make a nickel, but we all accept that it’s worth just five because we labeled it a nickel, says Prichard. “How often do you let someone else define your value with statements like ‘You’re not good at sports.’ Or ‘Who do you think you are?’” he asks.

Successful people do not accept labels that are falsely put on them. “Be confident, master your strengths, and do not be defined by what others say about you,” says Prichard. “Why would you let someone else define your value?”


This is a big one because it touches everything we do, says Prichard. “It’s about personal accountability,” he says. “When someone has a lot of excuses, they may be compelling, but not many people care. We’re all busy.”

In the corporate world, leaders take ownership. “They say, this is my fault, I tried something and it didn’t work, but I’m going to make it right,” says Prichard. “They don’t run; they take personal accountability. They don’t pretend nobody noticed, and say, ‘It’s not my fault; the product was the problem.’ People who make and accept excuses are not likely to get promoted.”


You will be the same person in five years except for the books you read and the people you meet, motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said. Who you surround yourself with are the voices you put in your head, says Prichard.

“What are you feeding your mind?” he asks. “People can’t ignore this one; you will become the people you hang around with. Where are they taking you?”

Pay attention to your colleagues. Are they working to improve themselves? Or are they blaming others around them? “Select your friends as deliberately as you select your wardrobe,” says Prichard.


All growth happens at the boundaries of your comfort zone, says Prichard. For example, at the gym, the last few reps are uncomfortable, but that’s when you reach new levels.

“Prime time is in the evening,” he says. “Are you on the sofa eating chips and watching TV instead of using your prime time to change your future?”

When you learn a new skill, the first time can be nerve-racking. “Success is about consistently doing uncomfortable things,” says Prichard. “If you let your comfort zone fence you in, you’ll miss it. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. You’ll increase your comfort zone and become more valuable so you have better earning potential.”

Successful people realize there’s not a fixed and limited amount of anything. “Success is an unlimited resource available to all of us,” says Prichard. “When you see someone else doing well, go from jealously to curiosity. You can duplicate it and succeed in a different way.”