Derailing a Career: Mistakes made that Alter Career Path

June 10, 2014

We’ve seen it in the real-life board room, in politics and even on television shows: people we think will go far in their careers, but end up shooting themselves in the foot.  Whether it’s a top sales exec, a rock-star or first-string footballer, the ability to derail a career is one that transcends job title, pay grade and industry.

How does that happen?  How can such a smart, successful person make such a life-altering mistake?  Here are six of the top ways we’ve seen people at the top shoot themselves (and their careers) in the foot:

  1. Assuming past success translate to future projects:  The problem with success is that is can breed arrogance over time.  After experiencing a series of successes, we tend to think: why wouldn’t this pattern continue?  Over-confidence can seriously affect the future of one’s career.
  2. Stop paying attention to detail: With more success comes more responsibility, more opportunity and less time; unfortunately, the first thing to go is attention to detail.  Getting busy allows things to slip through the cracks and sometimes, the damage is irreversible.
  3. Look past strengths and weaknesses:  Assuming we can be experts in every field, overlooking our strengths and weaknesses, is a slippery slope.  The most successful executives in the long-run never forget their weaknesses when they look in the mirror.  It’s important to surround ourselves with people who can cover our weaknesses because they have strengths in those areas.
  4. Disregard different opinions:  No one likes to be told they’re wrong, but when we become the boss, it’s sometimes easier to tell someone they just aren’t a fit for the team than look at our mistake head-on.  It’s important to avoid surrounding yourself with “yes men” and realize that we all make mistakes. 
  5. Forgetting to be nice: There’s an old saying: “be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll also see them on your way down.”  We all have highs and lows in a career; no matter how successful you are in the moment, you inevitably will get knocked down by something or someone.  Therefore, don’t alienate people – you may need their help in the future.
  6. Don’t build bridges with senior team members:  We live in a world where relationships matter; we can’t survive in the business world thinking that our successes will speak for themselves.  You should always be selling yourself and your accomplishments, making new connections along the way – especially with team members.  You never know who may stick up for you down the road.

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