I’m George Karris, and here are nine career mistakes that you’ll regret when you retire.
Number one, staying put at something that’s just okay.
There are a lot of great firms you can work at, there are a lot of great firms that are really miserable to work at, but there are a whole lot more firms that are just kind of okay. Frequently it’s just easier to stay with something that’s just okay as opposed to finding something that’s really great, and so regret number one is staying at something just way too long.
Number two, staying where your not really developing skills.
One of the things that can happen really easily is you get into a roll, and you’re doing it for awhile, and you feel good at it, but you’re not really developing any new skills. If you stay at something like that too long chances are the world will sort of evolve and change around you, and the position that used to be there might not be there, and you really haven’t advanced much.
Number three, not talking to someone who’s in the role that you’re trying to get to.
I had this happen recently, where I was consulting with someone very early in her career, and she said, “Well, you know, what I want to do is be like so and so.” I said, ” Well, have you talked to so and so, and asked them what their career is like and how they feel, and what they feel, and what their day to day is?” and She said, “No, I really haven’t.” And so, I recommend to her, “Hey, go talk to that person.” You want to make sure that when you’re climbing the career ladder, the ladders against the right wall. That’s absolutely critical, and there’s actually interesting research on this that shows that people are really bad at predicting how they’re going to feel when they’re in a new role. So, go ask somebody who’s in that role, it’s much more accurate, and easier to understand.
Number four, trading the present for the future.
What that means is, frequently you here about the rat race, where somebody will say to you, “I’m doing this now, and I don’t really like it, but it’s going to pay off at some point way down the road.” Well the challenge is that, that frequently happens for a really long time, where you just don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it, and you know, hopefully some day when you retire you’ll do something great. Do something great, do something that you love today, it’s much more enjoyable.
Number five, not building an asset.
I think one of the things that’s tough as an employee is, you work at an organization, you give it your all, and at the end you sort of walk away with nothing. And the idea of building an asset here is really trying to create something that you can take with you. For most of us what that looks like is just becoming better known, becoming well known, building your personal brand. I talk to a lot of people who use LinkedIn to do that, but just getting known so when that you decide you want to change, you’ve got an asset. That’s your brand of yourself that you can move on with.
The next one, number six, is over prioritizing money.
When you retire, if you have plenty of money, that’s great, but if you have too much you say, “Wow, I wish I hadn’t spent quite so much time working, and spent more time on doing things I really enjoy.” You can’t under prioritize it either, because you hear about all the people who can’t afford to retire, or will have nothing in retirement. You don’t want to be there either, but the idea is to find just what that right balance is.
In terms of, going hand in hand with number six, is number seven, which is focusing on work so much that you work way too many hours.
This is a story I heard a lot when I was at Harvard from very successful executives who are late in their career, which they said, “I focused on money, I focused on achievement, I worked a ton, I don’t have great relationships with my family, and my kids anymore, and I regret that.” I wrote a separate blog post about it, but it’s definitely a very real possibility for people. And as they say, nobody ever says, I worked too much on my death bed.
Number eight is focusing on the negative.
There are things in every single company that aren’t right, and there are things in life that are just challenging. And if you focus on them, you spend much more of your day aware of them, and dealing with them, and that’s just challenging. So, what you want to do is focus on the positive, focus on the things that are right. There are a lot of things that are right in your career, and if you focus on those over the duration of your career you’ll just feel much better about your experience over all.
And the last thing is, not taking a chance on a dream.
We all have passions, we all have things we’ve dreamed about. Maybe you can’t take the leap directly into doing something that you absolutely love, but at least you can spend some time doing it on the side. There’s some really great research that says, even if you have the opportunity to do that just on the side as sort of a hobby, that influences and spills over into your regular working career, and into your life, and increases your happiness, and just the way you view things.