Linkedin Twitter Facebook YouTube Mail

The 5 biggest pitfalls you can step into during your career and how to avoid them

On average, people change jobs 10 times throughout their career. However, most organizations look like a Jenga Tower nowadays: the game in which the participants have to alternately remove a piece of wood from the tower while avoiding that it collapses. I really love to play this game with my daughters now and then. But meanwhile, I have learned that building a solid Jenga Tower is not that easy at all. In this comparison, the pieces of wood correspond to a persons' career. The only certainty you have, is that nothing is certain anymore. Except for the fact that companies will keep removing pieces of wood from the tower. Insight into the five biggest pitfalls you can be confronted with during your career, can help you to avoid this.

In January 2010, Harvard Business Review published a research done by Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams. They surveyed almost 1000 people about the 5 biggest pitfalls you can step into during your career.

  1. Not enough research
    People insufficiently exploit the advantages offered by the Internet. It provides the opportunity to take a really close look at organizations. By actively networking, you can also obtain lots of information in advance. Don’t forget that knowledge is power! Is the company you are dealing with financially stable? What can you learn in advance about a company’s culture? Is it really something for you? Unfortunately, I have often noticed that people didn’t really seem to fit into a particular culture after all.

  2. Money
    When people are asked to draw up a list of their 10 major values, they usually put money on the 8th or 9th place. In practice, people often choose for money when it really comes to the crunch. Whatever the reason, money eventually makes people neglect other important aspects when they are weighing the pros and the cons. People are often blinded by money in the real world.

  3. Leaving, rather then going somewhere
    You are so tired of working for a particular company, that it is filtering out all your new opportunities. ‘The grass always seems greener on the other side.’ Therefore, your top priority should be to look at your career on the long term. What do I want to achieve within the next 10 years? By reasoning backwards, you can determine if the step you are about to take, is a step in the right direction. This theory is not that difficult to understand. But mind you: in practice, I have often experienced how difficult it is to apply this strategy on your own career.

  4. Overestimating yourself
    Not everyone is fully aware of the impact the company you work for has on your performance. What difference does a world-famous brand on your business card make? Which opportunities do you get because of your function title? Do you receive exclusive invitations for who you are or because of the commercial interests they imply? Sometimes, it is difficult to see the difference. You get so interwoven that even your performances get interwoven with the company. Why do people laugh about your (bad...:-)) jokes? Because of the joke itself or because of the authority you have? Still, in order to evaluate your performances, you really need to thoroughly analyze how you have managed to make the difference. What makes me different from other people?

  5. Short-term thinking
    In our hectic lives, short-term thinking has become tempting. Furthermore, financial obligations can reinforce our behavior. Or the way we feel about financial obligations. Even if we haven’t done the 'number crunching'. This becomes clear when we take three personal financial scenarios into account, for instance. The media have only grown faster. Everywhere, ‘brain pollution’ is around the corner. And since it is human to live and work according to inertia, it is hard for us to change our behavior when it comes to our own career. If we don’t pay attention to this pitfall, it will only reinforce the four other ones.

Everyone can make mistakes. This is nothing to worry about. Generally, selling a mistake on the market is not a problem. The impact of such a mistake is often being overestimated, but some insight into the most common mistakes can prevent us from making the same mistake again. Another important step could be to ask for professional and really independent advice.

We would like to receive your feedback about these five pitfalls. Have you already stepped into one of them or do you know people who have? Or have you prevented someone from stepping into them? Let us know by using the comment fields below the column on our website!


Feel like reading more on this subject? Read Herman’s column about the fact that impatience has a negative impact on your career.

By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

Share this column:
Stay inspired and receive your new column every two weeks

We want to give the people in our network a little bit of inspiration on a regular basis. We will never send you any spam.

Prefered language

Notice: Undefined index: in /var/www/web14/htdocs/application/modules/site/controllers/StarController.php on line 435

Notice: Undefined index: in /var/www/web14/htdocs/application/modules/site/controllers/StarController.php on line 437