Career Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

Libby Kane

coworkers meeting in office spaceWhatever your chosen profession, we all have something in common: We’re trying to do the best we can in our careers.

Of course we aren’t going to gossip about our boss, fail to meet our deadlines or do anything else to jeopardize our jobs or careers … knowingly.

It’s that “knowingly” that’s the problem. We can easily avoid the professional pitfalls we know, but what about the ones we don’t? And even more important, could we be making major mistakes when we think we’re making the right move?

To keep from falling into that trap, we asked career experts to shed light on the missteps we make without even realizing it, whether at the office or in the trenches of a job hunt. Are you making these mistakes?

1. Keeping Yourself Offline

Knowing that social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn are rife with opportunity for career-damaging blunders, it’s understandable that you might want to lay low, leave your profiles dormant or even take yourself offline entirely.

But that’s the wrong move, according to Cheryl Palmer, certified career coach and owner of Call to Career. “According to recent data, the majority of recruiters now scour online sources for additional information on candidates,” says Palmer. “Positive online information about you will improve your job prospects, since that is what recruiters will be looking for to determine who they call for an interview.” She points out that since social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are some of the first results that show up on search engines, you’ll want to be represented—and represented well.

RELATED: Your 5-Step Guide to Surviving a Social Media Mishap

Palmer says that just having the profiles isn’t enough—you must have a dynamic presence. That means using these channels to promote yourself in a positive, professional way. Worked on a new ad campaign? Tweet it. Added to your photography portfolio? Facebook it. Come across a fascinating industry article? Share it on LinkedIn. When recruiters or interviewers look you up, they’ll find an engaging, productive individual.

2. Bonding With Co-Workers

You’re right: It’s always a good idea to attend work happy hours, volunteer days and other forms of group bonding, because while these people are your colleagues, they’re also the people with whom you spend 40-plus hours a week.

But bonding becomes problematic when you become very close to some co-workers … and not others. “It’s a mistake to align yourself with one person or one camp,” cautions Marian Thier, founder and C.E.O. of coaching, training and consulting firm Expanding Thought. “While it’s tempting to align yourself with a strong person or group, in doing so, you separate yourself from everyone else. Then what happens when personnel changes occur, someone falls out of favor, or you need support from someone not in the chosen group?”

RELATED: Coworkers Behaving Badly: How to Keep 6 Toxic Colleagues in Check

To keep from getting in too deep with some colleagues over others, Thier advises people to take some simple steps to keep things friendly across the board: Go to lunch with a group of people, or different people each day; sit next to people who aren’t your deskmates already at meetings; and mix up your routine a bit—stop by the kitchen or watercooler for a brief chat at different times of day to run into different people.

“The higher up in the organization you go,” reminds Thier, “the more important it is to be observant and prudent. Remember that while having allies is extremely important, so is having people who will challenge you.”

  • paganheart

    “If you spent six months scooping ice cream and are now applying for a
    completely unrelated corporate job in ad sales, Meier recommends
    eliminating your make-ends-meet job from your résumé altogether. If your
    employment gap should come up in an interview, he says, explain that
    you were devoting your full attention to finding the right job in a
    difficult economy—an understandable excuse if it’s been 12 months or

    So in other words, Mr. Meier advocates lying on your resume. Nice.

    Not only that, but if you apply for a job that requires a background check–and most jobs do–one of the records that companies often check is IRS or state Department Of Revenue records, which will show every company that has ever issued a W2 or 1099 form to you. Some go back as far as 5 years, and will cross-check those records with the jobs you list on your resume, to make sure they match up. Thus they will discover if you left off any jobs, and they will more than likely assume you left off a job not because it was unrelated, but because you were fired from that job with cause. Either way, they will decide you are dishonest and can’t be trusted, and your job offer just went into the circular file.

    And if you do manage to somehow get away with such a lie? Well I guess that just proves that Corporate America is becoming a bigger and more unethical cesspool of evil every day.

    • mjm724

      Your resume is your own best representation of you. It’s not a requirement that you list every job you have ever held – it’s meant to include your most relevant work experience and be a summary of your accomplishments and skills. It’s a document for which you control the content. It’s not the same as a job application (employer-generated content) that requires your entire work history up to 5 or 10 years.
      I worked in retail for a year and a half after I finished graduate school. It is not on my resume because it is not relevant to my career. The one time I was asked about the gap in my work history, I simply said I was working in an unrelated job while searching for the entry point to my career. That was a perfectly fine explanation and no one assumed I was fired for cause.

      • kt

        it makes sense to exclude it from the resume if its not related, but if asked about it, I don’t agree that you should say that you were dedicating your time to searching for a job, when that is clearly a lie.


    Some more perspective on blunders / mistakes : Career Limiting Moves