6 Big Career Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Future 

We all make all kinds of mistakes—some because we’re inexperienced, some because we don’t know what we know, and some, unfortunately, because we have a tendency to keep repeating that one mistake until we finally learn our lesson.

Thankfully, most mistakes don’t do lasting harm and can even benefit us in the long run. There are, however, some mistakes that are so damaging they amount to career sabotage. Here are six of the worst:

Believing you must KNOW everything and DO everything to be successful. It’s important to become a subject matter expert, but when you think you have to know everything and do everything, you are setting yourself up to fail. You come across not only as a micromanager but also as someone who doesn’t trust your team or colleagues. The most successful people are good at letting those who are qualified do their job and at finding ways to collaborate and work together to get things done.

Thinking your leadership skills will develop naturally with time. Big mistake! You can be extremely competent in what you do, but if you don’t have any leadership coaching, mentoring or guidance, don’t expect to keep moving up—or even to stay where you are. Everyone who leads others has to be constantly working on their leadership development. As a leadership coach for top executives, I see this all the time—those who get promoted to prestige jobs don’t think they need any more coaching. But leadership is a skill that requires constant nurturing and developing. It may mean devoting time each day to your growth as a leader or hiring a coach  to help you sharpen your interpersonal skills and build your confidence.

Suffering from S.O.S. (Shiny Object Syndrome) SOS is an ailment of distraction, and it affects businessmen and women who are entrepreneurial, specifically because of the qualities that make them unique: high levels of motivation, a craving for new technology and new developments, and the courage to start new projects and create new things. Think of a small child chasing after something shiny. Once they get there and see what the object is, they immediately lose interest and start chasing the next thing. I am sure you can see how this would derail a successful career. Once you reach a certain level, success isn’t about getting new opportunities but getting the right opportunities. The time you spend looking for the next new opportunity is time you could be working on your own goals or simply enjoying your life.

Putting your life on hold while you chase success. If you don’t have a life, you don’t have a career. Thinking that putting in longer hours will make you more successful is a big mistake. It’s not the hours but the quality of what happens in those hours that matters. I have seen gifted, talented individuals who work all day and all night and still are not as effective as those who come in early and leave early so they can have time with their family. Study after study shows that you’re at your most effective when you take breaks, nourish your body, walk, exercise, meditate. Don’t work yourself ragged, neglecting your family, friends, and health in hopes that things will improve. Prioritize your tasks and become more efficient, and you can spend less time at the office.

Chasing the title but not being equipped for the role. Those who are average at what they do chase after titles more than results and effectiveness. Seeking out high status instead of focusing on building skills may not be the only way to disrupt your career, but it will get the job done. Stay focused on the substance, not the symbol.

Burning the bridge and not understanding the effects of the fire. You never want to become that person that the HR people use as an example: “I have a good story—a good example of what not to do when you leave a job.” Those good stories make for bad references and missed opportunities. And far too often they’re about poor behavior during an exit from the company. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of wanting to tell everyone what’s wrong, what isn’t working and how the place you have been is the worst place. It may feel good in the moment—everyone who’s ever had a bad job understands the desire to go out this way—but it isn’t likely to change anything and it will cost you in long-term career damage.

The important principle is never to make the same mistake twice, especially when they’re mistakes that will derail your career.

Lead From Within: Keep growing in strength and in knowledge and stay focused on your goals, and you’ll never have to make those mistakes that will derail your career



N A T I O N A L    B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: iStock Photo

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Bret Simmons

    31. Jul, 2018

    Hi Lolly. Another solid blog post. Really agree with the first observation about knowing and doing everything successful. BTW, I’m teach a class of 20 students how to comment on blogs with yours as an example 🙂

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      31. Jul, 2018

      Brett, Great to see you! I am sure your students are learning a lot from you. You are an amazing teacher. Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  2. That’s exceptional insight into what mistakes not make & why!

    15. Aug, 2018

    That’s exceptional insight to what mistakes not to make & why? It’s really a “game changer” for one’s present & future leadership success & aspiration! Moreover, it’s the antidote to bury mental & external “leadership sabotage!”

    Reply to this comment
  3. Career Coach

    29. Nov, 2018

    Thanks for sharing this informative post! I must say that Mistakes are a natural part of learning, living, and leadership. But some mistakes can seriously sabotage your future.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Job Search Coach

    05. Dec, 2018

    Great Insight! Thanks for sharing the big career mistakes that can sabotage the future.

    Reply to this comment

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