4 Career Mistakes to Leave in 2021, According to a Career Expert

published Nov 29, 2021
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For many people, 2021 was a year of professional departure. Millions of workers left their jobs behind in search of more money, better benefits, and a healthier work-life balance. Industry experts have called the current job market an employee’s market, and the trends will be impacting both hiring managers and job hunters in the new year. 

If professional advancement is a top priority in 2022 for you, now is the best time to take action — but there is a catch. As with most New Year’s resolutions, success only comes with commitment, consistency, and mindfulness. In other words, it’s time to ditch bad habits for good, and professional goals are no exception. 

When I work with career coaching clients, I often think about their goals and trajectory toward success in three acts: Examining past behavior, building new systems and habits, and focusing on future goals. While each “act” is necessary for sustained change, I believe examining past behavior is the ultimate catalyst. The other two stages won’t have a good foundation if you skip that crucial first step. 

Introspection is going to look different for each person. Where some professionals struggle with enforcing healthy work boundaries because they’re seeking external validation, others may struggle with gossiping. But after working with more than 100 clients in the past year, I have noticed that there are common themes most professionals need to master if they hope to level up at work in 2022. Here are the four career mistakes you could be making today and how to correct them this year. 

Not Maximizing Your Employee Benefits

Why you should ditch it: Most professionals focus on their base salary versus their total compensation when it comes to negotiating a raise or new job, or assessing whether you’re being paid what you’re worth. Certainly, your take-home pay can directly influence living expenses, budgets, and financial goals. However, additional compensation perks such as a learning stipend or paid time-off can contribute to your work development and well-being, while others include a health savings account (HSA), wellness programs, tuition reimbursement, and family planning assistance. You should be maximizing every benefit you have because, in reality, you are trading their time and expertise for the total compensation package — regardless of if you use their perks or not.

What to do in 2022: Dust off your employee handbook, log onto your workplace intranet, or set up a 1:1 with human resources if you need a refresher on what benefits you’re entitled to by your employer. 

As a coach, I most often see employees underuse their paid sick days and paid time off. There can be some strategy to this — for example, in some states, employees must be paid their unused, eligible PTO when exiting a company, so a large pay-out could be coming your way if your didn’t take a vacation while working at a given company. But most workers don’t use their paid time-off out of fear that their reputation with the team will suffer, which is often a myth (or if it is true, you can look at that as a broader signal that something is amiss in your company’s culture). 

Thankfully, the Great Resignation and important conversations about burnout have inspired a new normal. Respecting employee wellness will be an expected baseline for companies in 2022. I would encourage you to set guardrails around your schedule and leverage the R&R time you do have for just that: Rest and relaxation. (Plan a cozy staycation for 2022!) 

Only Connecting With Professionals You Can “Get Something From” 

Why you should ditch it: If there was ever a professional tool with which I had a complicated relationship, it’s networking. At its healthiest, networking allows professionals and like-minded individuals to build community and fellowship around shared passions. At its most vile, networking can breed artificial connections and promote the idea that people are just pieces in a game of professional chess. It often toes a line of savvy versus slimy, and after surviving a global pandemic, some workers want out of the game altogether. But I don’t think fed-up or burnt-out people should ditch community cultivation; instead, try  for intentional connection. 

What to do in 2022: In the coming years, professionals will find community through authentic connection. “Transactional-focused networking was always going to find its death,” executive leader and DEI marketing consultant Tasha Jones of LV Consulting told Apartment Therapy. “The pandemic just accelerated it.” 

To foster authentic connection rather than transaction-based networking — in which a person only “connects” with people to “get ahead,” or only sees professional relationships as formalities to “level up” — Jones recommends getting comfortable with your communication style and leading with generosity for the person or team with which you’re working.

Branching out your network can help foster inspiration, creativity, and new information that lives outside your echo chambers. My friendships have inspired programming and marketing materials; my relationship with my husband has helped me shape and share unique stories. Plus, you can often find inspiration for your next big move in seemingly unlikely places:  It was my husband’s friend’s stepsister who ultimately helped me land a job at the workplace that changed my entire career. After my job search came up as a topic at a communal bonfire, I had an offer letter with a 10 percent raise from my previous position within two weeks.

Staying at a Job With No Growth Potential 

Why you should ditch it: People are tempted to stay at jobs that do not serve them for many reasons, much in the way someone might stay in a romantic relationship that has long run its course: it’s predictable, and it’s something. And isn’t something better than nothing? Not quite. 

Younger generations are more likely to switch jobs at a higher rate than previous generations, in part, because of the financial flatline when workers stay too long at the same job. The reports have been in for some time, and most employees are finding the exit door every four years and experiencing a financial gain in the process. “If your organization limits pay increases even for strong performers, you might boost your income by switching jobs,” The Balance Careers noted.

What to do in 2022: You don’t need to submit a resignation letter just yet, especially if you have nothing lined up. Instead, spend the first quarter of 2022 focusing on cultivating habits that will lead to either a new promotion or a better job within the year. If you’re eager to progress, consider keeping a career journal, exploring what growth means both professionally and personally, and asking your manager for actionable feedback.

Not Knowing Your Worth at Other Companies

Why you should ditch it: There has been a huge shift in the pay transparency discussion in recent years, and I am here for it. Regardless of where you personally fall on the debate, everyone should know what they’re worth. When someone isn’t aware of industry standards, they are much more vulnerable to being taken advantage of by an employer. 

What to do in 2022: Understanding what you could be making elsewhere is part of knowing your worth. My father, who worked in human resources and talent acquisition his whole career, taught me to “always be looking, and always take the interview.” He shared that even if I had no intention of taking a new job, it’s important to connect with the recruiter and learn what I’m worth in a competitive market. 

Two of the most empowering next steps  include updating your résumé and LinkedIn profile to reflect your accomplishments and begin to put feelers out there. Further, facilitating transparent conversations with friends on money and career advancement will be paramount to your professional success and development — and theirs as well.