9 Fatal Mistakes Most Employed People Make Today

professional mistakes at workBy Skip Freeman

You are employed. You are extremely busy. In fact, you are harried, frazzled and often any semblance of a good work-life balance seems a very distant, almost quaint memory.

Additionally, you have seen your colleagues downsized. You have either gone without pay raises or the ones you have received have been less than hoped for. Promotions? Much slower in coming these days! You currently are doing the work of at least 1½ people, and quite probably even more.

Based upon recent surveys, the above describes 120 million currently employed Americans, or about 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. Which means:

You are miserable and long for something new.


You are not necessarily miserable but still long for something more. You want career progression as well as appropriate recognition and pay for what you do.

Fatal Career Mistake #1: Forgetting (or not realizing) that the best time to find your next opportunity is while you still have a job.

Stop and think about this for a moment. When a college decides to go look for a new sports coach, whom do they want? They want the coach who is at the pinnacle of success with their current team, the coach who is winning games.

So, whether you are happy in your current job or not, if you are performing, hitting the performance objectives and doing the job, NOW is the best time to consider new opportunities. In today's brutally competitive economic environment, you have to oftentimes make a job change in order to:

  • Receive competitive pay
  • Achieve appropriate recognition
  • Obtain that next promotion
  • Get back on an upwardly mobile career path

Fatal Career Mistake #2 - Believing that a company will be loyal to you

Company loyalty to employees is gone. They don't care if you are on the unemployment line. They don't care if you and your family have health insurance. They don't care if you can feed, clothe and house your family. Your keeping an eye open for better opportunities is no different from the company keeping an eye on its bottom line and determining every month whether you are worth it to them to keep you on the payroll.

Don't be lulled into a false sense of security on your present job. Don't believe that your current position is secure; know, with absolute certainty, just how secure it is NOT!

Fatal Career Mistake #3 - Thinking there are no jobs available

In 2011, on average, there have been 4 million jobs filled each and every month; another 3 million jobs have gone unfilled each month. (Source: BLS JOLTS report).

The perception that there are "no jobs available" is driven by the news media. Each month they heavily report on the "new jobs created" data. However, that is too often translated into "jobs data." While it is certainly true that few new jobs are being created, the number of job openings each month, as noted above, is a significant figure and one seldom touted by the news media.

Fatal Career Mistake #4 - Not effectively branding yourself as someone who can "make a company money" and/or "save a company money"

Today, you will not be hired exclusively because you have the correct technical skills, experience and/or "know how." Additionally, you must brand yourself as someone who can a.) solve a hiring manager's (or hiring company's) problem(s); and/or, b.) deliver a solution (or solutions) to his/her business needs. In other words, today, it all boils down to this simple question: "Can you make a company money or save a company money?"

If you aren't in the mindset of recognizing that everything you do must make a company money or save a company money, start today. Regardless of the position you are in, learn to translate (in dollars, numbers or percentages) how everything you do impacts the company economically.

Fatal Career Mistake #5 - Thinking that the only way to find a job is to actually look for one

You are now thinking:

  • Yes, I am good at what I do
  • Skip is right, the company won't be loyal to me
  • I do make my company money and save them money, So why shouldn't I be rewarded and get one of these 7 million jobs out there that could enhance my career, give me a promotion and enable me to get a pay raise? Because I don't have time!

So don't look for a job! Instead, let the jobs find YOU!

Create an "inbound" marketing plan. When it comes to getting a new job, the adage used to be, "It is not what you know but who you know." Today, the appropriate adage is this: "It is not what you know or even who you know, but rather, it's who knows you and can you be found?" So, at the very minimum, make sure you have an updated and relevant LinkedIn profile. Why? Because LinkedIn is the number one resource used by both corporate recruiters and "headhunters" to look for talent.

Fatal Career Mistake #6 - Not building a relationship with a "headhunter" NOW

Three percent of all jobs are filled by "headhunters." We often know about the "sweetest" opportunities in the marketplace and we will first call the people we know and with whom we have a relationship.

The odds of you calling us and our having that perfect opportunity available when you call are low. Build an ongoing relationship NOW with 3-4 recruiters in your niche so that we know about you and will proactively call you. This becomes part of your "inbound" marketing plan.

Additionally, in "Headhunter" Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever" we show you how to become your own "headhunter." How to find the "sweetest" opportunities yourself!

Fatal Career Mistake #7 - Failing to become visibly involved within your industry or professional specialty

Now is not the time for staying "hunkered down." It is critical today to achieve maximum visibility!

Become a "hub," an industry expert, the "go-to" person in your professional circle. Join organizations within your professional specialty. Become an active participant in appropriate LinkedIn groups.

If a company is looking to replace its vice president, are they going to advertise? NO! If you are branding yourself as a highly visible, impactful, contributing member of your profession, YOU will be the one contacted by the hiring manager, the corporate recruiter or the "headhunter" for that "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

Fatal Career Mistake #8 - If offered a new position with another company, you even think about entertaining a "counter-offer" from your current employer

To do so usually is tantamount to "career suicide." Why? From the moment you submit your resignation you will forever be considered to be "disloyal" to your current employer, a "traitor." It doesn't matter that they wouldn't hesitate to be disloyal to you.

When made a counteroffer, you will be led to believe that the company values you. That they can't do without you. That couldn't be further from the truth. All the company really is doing is buying "time" until it ultimately can replace you with someone who is more "loyal" to the company.

Fatal Career Mistake #9 – Failure to entertain an exploratory conversation

Let me conclude with this example from just this past week. I received a call that went like this, "Skip, you called me three months ago about a National Sales Manager's position. I told you at the time that I was happy in my current job and felt reasonably secure, so I was not interested. Unfortunately that just changed. I was let go yesterday and now I desperately need your help! Is that position still open?"

Unfortunately for this person, the position is no longer available. (We filled it two months ago.)

When you receive that call from someone making you aware of a potential career opportunity, unless it is totally off the mark, in today's brutal economic environment you owe it to yourself to have a non-committal exploratory conversation.

Skip Freeman is the author of "Headhunter" Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed... Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

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The best job ? Two things are neccessary in an economy. Producing a product and selling it to the consumer. Work on commission, never on salary, if you are good at your job you will never be unemployed and you can take your pick of where you want to work. If you want to take a few months off and your company objects, quit. When you are ready to go back to work, if your old company wont re-hire you, their competitor will.

October 07 2011 at 11:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angie Marie Langston

So I agree with most of this article!!! Companies do not care about being loyal to you in any way shape or form (Even though it goes totally against good HR Practices) however; I believe that in these tough economic times, you have to be really careful about transitioning jobs. You dont want to regret getting a new job and burn bridges with your old employer. However, if you are unhappy it puts you in a tough spot when you are depending on your job! Just beware before transitioning jobs to make sure you are positive that its for the better!

October 07 2011 at 3:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fatal Career Mistake #2 - Believing that a company will be loyal to you. Company loyalty to employees is gone.
What? Company loyalty to employees was always rare, in corporations it's a "never was".

October 07 2011 at 9:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cjohns58's comment
John Lewis

Absolutely correct.

I would also add that individual belief in someone in your company who is making you promises concerning your job/career prospects will NEVER come through once the time comes for them (or the company) to make good on those promises.

They are using that carrot to get what THEY want from you, SUCKER!

The social contract that once existed between employer and employee was ripped to shreds in the 1970s, and has disintegrated in the time since then. Truly, this is a dog-eat-dog world.

October 07 2011 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1] Don't be Protestant
2] Don't do a great job
3] Buy the most beer after work
4] Kiss up to all the "in" people & buy them all beer after work....
5] Learning how to play pool or golf (and buying the most beer after work)is more important than
learning your job....
6] Never squeel on anyone doing a bad job......even if everyone ends up going to jail over it.....
7] When some big wig tells everyone they are going to keep your division, but they're going to
keep their's too........DON'T BELIEVE IT!.......It's time to bail!.........They're going to look after their
people first...........But enjoy the "in" crowd thinking they are going to stay and keep their jobs.


October 07 2011 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What are all those people doing sitting around $10,000 tables on $5000 chairs? Do they change out of their Sunday church clothes,and go outside to do work when they are done talking about what ever they are talking about? Where does the money come from to pay all these people that go into those big buildings and talk about stuff each day?
What are all those people looking over on all those fancy computer generated graphs? Do those pretty graphs help with the betterment of our economy? If so,please explain.

October 07 2011 at 7:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Small-town crash sparks calls for illegal immigration crackdown in Mass". Liz Goodwin/ The Lookout/ today 9.29.11. "Ecuadoran Nicholas Guaman was charged with vehicular homicide for allegedly running down 23-year-old motorcyclist" Link to article: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/small-town-crash-sparks-calls-illegal-immigration-crackdown-164248241.html.

October 06 2011 at 8:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

"Small-town crash sparks calls for illegal immigration crackdown in Mass". Liz Goodwin/ The Lookout/ today 9.29.11. "Ecuadoran Nicholas Guaman was charged with vehicular homicide for allegedly running down 23-year-old motorcyclist" Link to article: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/small-town-crash-sparks-calls-illegal-immigration-crackdown-164248241.html.

October 06 2011 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

#1 Mistake.....reading this article while at work.

October 06 2011 at 7:05 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Good advice, but for what is out there right now, you may be going from bad to worse with any job switch. Contemplate carefully.

The rest of the article, I could not agree more. People are like products today. Nobody cares about nobody.
Biggest evidence, your average pay today, not too great or near minimum wage.

October 06 2011 at 6:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When the employer writes such an unprofessional employment ad in the newspaper, this is what you will read: "______ needed for day shift, must be 21+.You have a pro-active upbeat attitude! (No Whiners)You want to work(no slackers), you like people(our customers are #1), and you know how to ____.You are available anytime and you do work holidays. If this sounds like you, then come on in, if not then stay home. Shift is 2-10pm, 4+ days a wk. Apply 6 am-noon Mon-Wed NO CALLS! " This employment ad is a typical repellent example of how some employers will treat future employees. I highly recommend to read between the lines when applying to any employment ad. The signs and symptoms are there. Sometimes, I wonder who writes these employment ads.

October 06 2011 at 5:20 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CJ's comment

Well,what would you want an employer to do for the perspective employee?
i mean it's hard enough acting as an employer as it is.There are drug tests,back ground tests,dna samples to be recorded,employee numbers to be documented just so a man can have a $10 an hour job.It costs an employer more for the red tape than it does to write the employee's pay check.
I guess this is where some of the money comes from that pays the people that go into the big buildings each day that sit around looking at graphs and dressing real nice each day.

October 07 2011 at 7:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to springerdx's comment

DNA samples? Are you kidding me??

October 07 2011 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

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