What’s the biggest career mistake?

I’m Chris Sotomayor, an executive and career coach, and I’m responding to a question that was posed to me. The question is, “What's one of the biggest career mistakes that you see your clients make?” and I want to answer that question. The biggest mistake that I see my clients make is that they neglect to cultivate and strengthen their external network.

Don't Neglect Your Network

They may do a great job inside their employer, and their hard work is often rewarded by promotions and increasing responsibility. But the challenge is that because they didn't cultivate, they didn't strengthen and grow their external networks, they didn't work on adding value to other people outside of their current organization, when something happens, and in this day and age, when there are so many mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, oftentimes I'm working with clients who hadn't expected to be looking for a new role and now suddenly they’re in that position where they have to find a new role. But because they hadn't strengthened and cultivated their external network, it's going to take much longer, and it's going to be much more challenging.

Share Your Expertise With Others

Because we live in a world where when a company is looking for new talent or looking to add, the first thing they're going to do is go inside and ask their own people, who do you know who's good? Who can you recommend? So, it's very important that you maintain a strong external network, and that means you're going to industry conferences. You're sharing your value. You're sharing your knowledge. You are potentially making presentations. You're discussing the problems that maybe everybody in your industry might have, and you're presenting your solutions to them.

People Help Those Who Helped Them

So, the more you’re seen as somebody who's helpful to others, who is adding value to others, the more highly people are going to regard you, and the earlier your name is going to come up when there's an opportunity that might have a need for somebody with your skills. Furthermore, the more you help other people, the more you're known as a helpful person, and the greater that you have a strong external network, when you're in a position where you're looking for a new role when you want to leave your current employer, or if you have to leave your current employer, you're then able to reach out to the other people in the industry who already know you, and it's easier to have that conversation. Hey, I'm looking for a contact at XYZ company. Who do you know who might be a good person to speak with? Those people that already know you as a helpful person, they're going to be more than happy to help you because you already added value to their lives, so they're going to return the favor. 

Strengthen Your External Relationships

So again, I think one of the biggest mistakes that I often see my clients come to me with, and I work with clients in a variety of industries, from pharmaceutical and biotech, financial services, technology, IT and many other industries. But often times when my clients come to me the challenge is that they really did not strengthen or cultivate their external network. They were so busy doing a great job inside their own company that they neglected to think about their external relationships. And so, when they are in a job search, when they're looking for their next opportunity, they put themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

An Essential Part of Career Development

So, my strongest recommendation to anybody is an essential part of your career development is going to be strengthening those relationships with people outside of your employer and adding value to others. Attend conferences. Participate in alumni groups. Participate in civic groups. Show that you care, that you're a person who's going to help others, and this is going to pay dividends for you and your career over the longer haul.

What's challenging you?

So, I hope that's been helpful to you. Again, I'm Chris Sotomayor, executive and career coach. If you have another question, if something's been really giving you a challenge in terms of your career development, you could feel free to put that question in the comments below. Or you can email me at Chris at csotomayor.com, and I'll be more than happy to try to provide my perspective based on the work I do with my clients of what might make things better. So, thanks, and I'll see you the next time.

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