24 September 2021, Isaac
There were times, our parents’ times, where you finish school and quickly get a job with a decent income. Then you stay in the same company for your whole life, with minimal or no fear of losing your job.
Well, I got news for you. Those times are over. We live in a different reality. Today’s business world is tough, it is more competitive than ever. With that, it is not only hard to start your career, but it is even harder to keep it.
Lady’s and gentlemen, I would like to share with you three mistakes you should avoid, if you don’t want to kill your career. I will also give you real life examples I have observed in my experience with different companies.
Mistake #1: Complacency.
When was the last time you proactively learned new skills? When was the last time your reached out your connections? When was the last time you polished your resume or your LinkedIn profile? If you cannot remember these questions, you are probably being complacent.
When you start a career and assume that the way things are operating will never change, you are actually luring yourself… and you will become like those senior employees who always complaint about the younger generation, because the failed to adapt to new technologies.
For example, at one of the companies I worked for, there was this John Doe who started 2 years before me. He saw me going to take Data Analytics courses twice a week, or sometimes, I would stay late in the office to get things done. His comments to me were something like: “Isaac, you are working too hard… you don’t have to work late… you don’t need those extra courses… you are wasting money… etc. etc.” I considered his comments just like a blowing wind… I kept following my plan… and always tried to subtly change the subject. 4 months later, things changed at the company, we were suddenly being held at higher standards and our work were becoming more and more scrutinized. His work was audited, and the auditors found lots of mistakes. They did not find any mistake on mine.
Consequently, I was given the opportunity to supervise John Doe’s work. He was not happy about that, because he started 2 years before me. On the work he was doing, I kept finding mistakes every day and kept asking him to redo the work. Because, I would not sign off on something I am not comfortable with. His frustration became worse and worse, and he ended up resigning without a new job. He stayed unemployed about 9 months before finding a job.
His mistake is that he was too complacent and laid back. And that cost him his job.
Another mistake similar to complacency, is the fear of change.
Mistake #2: Fear of Change.
Are you familiar with those people who always complain when there is a new process or system change? Their comments is something like “… but we’ve always done this way.” They are always working hard to keep things the same. Their logic goes completely against the logic of business. Business has one ultimate purpose: keep making profit to increase shareholder value. To keep making profit, a business must keep reducing cost and increasing revenue by adapting to changes. And when change comes, everyone may be impacted. If you are unwilling to adapt to change, well you are replaced… because there are thousands of qualified people who wants your job.
At one of the companies, I worked for, the world’s largest food manufacturing company, the company decided to change its system of records, by moving from AS/400, which is a DOS based system, to SAP which is an ERP system. That was a big shift that required a process, technological and culture change, at every level of the company. But to the company, it was necessary to keep making more money.
There was this guy who spent 30 years with the company. He was an AS/400 expert, the go-to guy. Now suddenly, AS/400 is no longer needed. However, the company was offering extensive training to all employees. So, there were opportunities to learn and adapt to the new system. Instead of embracing the change which is beneficial to the company, he did not stop complaining and was not taking the trainings seriously. Sometimes he would try to make life difficult for younger employees who were willing to learn.
Well, guess what happen! He was studently fired.
What people who fear change don’t realize is that changes are necessary to business. Decision makers understand that. If you are someone unwilling to adapt to change, well, you are just shown the door out.
At the end of the day, why keep an employee who is not adding any value to the company? Specially, when such employee brings negative mood to the team? Which lead us to the third mistake you should avoid… negativity.
Mistake #3: Negative Attitude.
Like people who fear changes, negative people see the bad sides of everything. The most common word used by negative people, is “But…”. What they don’t realize, is that their negativity affects not only their boss, but the entire team. Depending on the kind of job, some people spend more time at work than at home. Can you imagine having to deal with that negative co-worker who complains about the work, the department and other people all day long.
In one of the company I worked for, there was this young woman who was not only laid back, but she would complain about everything. She had zero can-do attitude. The common phrase she always had was “this is to much work…”, “this is garbage…”, “what this other woman is wearing is ugly”, “what kind of hair is that”, “I cannot stand John…”, “John has no clue of what he is doing”, etc., etc. She was always complaining about everything and everyone but never about herself. She was the champion of gossiping, spreading bad information… And the most amazing part was that she considered herself always as a victim. She was really incredible. Her behavior had motivated me to do small research on her personality. Per the results I found, she was a sociopath.
What happen to her? With our kind of job, we always work with other departments to evaluate their processes. And that required collaboration and partnership. And if you cannot maintain a positive relationship, you are doomed to failed. Unfortunately, that is what happen with her. Overtime, people can no longer stand her negativity. Every department head complained about her. And despite all that, she never changed. Our department head had to fire her… As soon as she left, everyone in our team felt the positive mood. She was the bad apple to remove.
To conclude, if there is one common thing you notice is that all the three mistakes lead to the same results – they all lost their job. If your career matters to you, you must avoid being complacent, having a fear of change or a negative attitude. But what you should do with those kinds of colleagues? Well, the subtle tactics I used were simple: with complacent colleague and colleagues who fear change, I listen, smile and never lost focus on my aim. And because I am not complacent, I do not have the fear of change. With negative colleagues, I avoid them whenever possible, especially when such negativity turns them into a sociopath.
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