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Avoiding One of the Biggest Career Pitfalls You Can Make While Only Doing Your Job

 Avoiding One of the Biggest Career Pitfalls You Can Make While Only Doing Your Job

Today, the average tenure in a company is 4.6 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What that means is professionals start a lot of new jobs at a lot of new companies. Also it means that such activity creates a great deal of internal movement within an organization for those that remain. At a minimum, the job you had last year doesn’t look like the job you have today. No longer are we associated with one or two companies where we have worked for several years to build our career. And if we are one of those “long tenured” employees, the set of duties we once had are no longer applicable to growing and developing us in our careers today either.

However within this new paradigm, whether you are starting that new job at another company or assuming a new or expanded role within your current organization, there are some career fundamentals that you should always remember. These fundamentals help to ensure that you continue to have a successful career beyond just doing the job at hand. Many times it becomes easy to see how the focus on immediate priorities associated with your job can dilute what is most important to you and probably why you more than likely took the new job or expanded assignment, to grow and develop in your career.

So how do you avoid having your career potentially sidetracked as you are figuring out how to navigate in your new job or manage that role in which you have been given with additional or new responsibilities? Think about the following actions you can take:

[Related: The Career Risk You Don't Know You're Taking]

Leverage your onboarding plan beyond the “meeting and greeting” aspect of it. Hopefully your manager has a basic orientation or onboarding plan waiting for you, if not ask for one. Don’t just think of it as a list of people who you should meet or talk to as a part of your new job at your new organization or the new or expanded assignment in your current company. Think of it also as an opportunity to forge strategic relationships or alliances with a set of individuals about your career. Use it as your blueprint to guide you in developing the right relationships over time. Leverage the individuals on the list for more than one conversation. Ensure your conversations are not just about the tasks at hand. Use these conversations to ask about things such as what they would do if they were you starting out in your new role or how would they deem someone in your assignment as successful. Use the meetings as an opportunity to begin building the right career relationships.

Ensure the work that you are taking on is aligned to the right competencies you need for your long-term career growth. Often when we start a new job or assignment there is no shortage of work that needs to be accomplished. Usually there is a long list waiting for us which can often get us sidetracked. Sometimes what we have to do has nothing to do with our job much less our career. We’ve all done this and there are times when such actions are required. However, the issue arises when such activities become your norm. Always ask yourself if the assignment that you are taking on aligns with helping you in developing the career skills you need. Don’t let it get to a point where you have done what the organization has asked you to do, but it doesn’t align to your career plans or prepare you for your next career move. Have the right conversations with your manager and others early on.

Build upon and leverage your current professional network. Having the right professional network is a foundational component of your career success. This is not about how well you are at networking with others, but the network that you have to help you achieve your professional career goals. As we know there are many individuals that are great networkers and do a lot of networking, but their efforts yield nothing. What their “network” is comprised of is a group of people that they know and those individuals know of them, but that’s usually it. As you go into your new position, take on that new assignment or additional responsibilities in your current role use this opportunity to build upon your professional network or create a new network. Share with those individuals that you want to attract to your network what you are doing from a career perspective. Communicate the skills and experiences that you bring and offer to help them. Then obtain their support to guide and/or assist you. It is no better time for you to engage others about your career aspirations then when doing something different career-wise or new in your job.

[Related: Networking at Work: How to Accelerate Your Professional Growth and Build Your Career]

Starting a new or expanded position can be time consuming. The first days are often just spent in a myriad of meetings not to mention being assigned work that needs a quick turnaround. And let’s not forget that you are also trying to impress your boss assuring him/her that you are the right person for the job. But if your career is important to you and one of the major reasons you took the position, then you need to make it a part of how you get things done in your daily work. To do this, your career success is will need to be built on regular practices and actions that you already have in place.

So take the time before you take on that new job opportunity to position yourself and decide on the career outcomes you want. Avoid being mistakenly disappointed with the organization you work for. More importantly regretting the assignment you took because it did not help you develop or successfully position you to achieve your next career milestone. Ensure you strategically manage your career every day that you come to work. Go beyond only doing your job if your career is important to you.

Originally published in LinkedIn on July 2, 2015 

Francine Parham speaks publicly about topics in the area of professional and leadership development. She discusses the value of professional networks and networking as one of the most important factors to your career success. She also speaks about how you as a professional can successfully navigate through company cultures. She helps individuals in the development of the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful in achieving their professional goals. Connect with Francine at

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