Three Big Career Mistakes Holding You Back & it's not your experience or education.

In over a decade as an executive recruiter and another ten years consulting with Fortune and Inc. 500 organizations about recruiting and mentoring thousands of professionals about their career, I’ve seen a lot of what works and what doesn't.

In that time, I've found there to be several consistent mistakes and mindsets that hold people back... regardless of their experience, background, or what level they are at. 

Too often people think the reason they aren’t succeeding, getting called back or even advancing in their current position or career because of things like experience, skill set or even how their resume looks.

Yeah, those are important but they are what I call the “hard” items. They are tangible and binary. These are the things you can point to and easily say “Yes or no”, “good or bad” or “you have it or you don’t” Those are easy to identify and understand, but that's not what I'm talking about. 

What if you have experience, skills and even a decent looking resume and are still spinning your wheels?

The “real” reasons many qualified and experienced people don’t move ahead, make the cut or aren’t selected are because of one of the following three (3) things. Addressing them can change the game in your career.

Three Biggest Mistakes Holding You Back




Here is how they show up and how you can prevent from occurring. 


Nothing is a bigger turnoff to a recruiter or employer than someone who is a “waffler” or even worse, “rudderless.”

Have a plan. Have a direction. Know who you are, what you do and where you want to go. I’m not saying be rigid and inflexible. Remain open to opportunity, but know what your short and long-term priorities are. 

I’ve talked to so many candidates at all levels who are simply aimless. They are “A little bit of this and a little bit of that.” A common phrase among these types is, “I’m a quick learner, I’m sure I can pick that up.” I’m sure you can, but you will never get a chance.  

Last year I coached one young man who had no less than three vastly different areas he was pursuing. Total tire kicker. Why would anyone hire this guy or take him seriously when he doesn’t even know where his heart and passion lie and his answers sound like when you ask your friend where they want to go for dinner? "I don't know, maybe this or that." Frustrating. 

There is nothing wrong with discovering what you want to do or even being good at many things. However, it depends on how you communicate it.

You may think that presenting yourself as a generalist or utility player is appealing to an employer, when in reality more often than not it is hard to stand out and comes across as “jack of all trades, master of none”


Your problem isn’t your background, your experience or your education… it’s obscurity.

Here is the hard truth. People don’t know who you are. They don’t know that you exist, let alone what you do or why they should hire you or do business with you.

Nobody what you do, what you want to do, what value you bring, and they aren't going to come find you or your business... YOU HAVE TO GO FIND THEM AND MAKE THEM NOTICE YOU. 

That applies internally in your current position AND externally in looking for a new job, making a change or as an entrepreneur growing your business. 

A common mistake people make is that they feel that they are supposed to play by the rules and be vanilla or worse “beige.” Blending in like “white noise” is a common and deadly mistake.

The days of keeping your head down and relying on someone to notice your resume, your application, your degree, experience, leadership skills and your hard work and dedication are gone.

Don’t be afraid to go outside of the system or norms. Don’t be afraid to go to the source. (Within reason) If the answer is going to be “no”, wouldn’t you rather it be not because YOU did everything possible rather than leave it to chance, obscurity or someone else.

No one will manage or promote your career like you will. No one will be as big a cheerleader like you will for yourself.

Like it or not, occasionally you have to think and act like a marketer and sometimes a flat out salesperson.

Don’t be shy. Make a name for yourself. Sadly, you aren’t always dealing with a meritocracy. It is cliché but true, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

If you’re thinking, that it is obnoxious, bad taste or cocky, get over it. You’re smart and hopefully, you know the difference between promoting yourself and your value versus being an arrogant jerk. Remember in the words of baseball great Dizzy Dean, “If you've done it, it ain’t bragging”



Here is another hard truth. Just reciting a laundry list of your skills and experience is nothing special and doesn’t demonstrate value.

So you have experience? Awesome. Big Deal. So do most of the other people you are competing against. That is often the “cover charge ” or your price of admission to get the interview or noticed.

I spent a number of years placing senior healthcare executives, mostly Chief Financial Officers. They would often talk about their experience “closing” the books, or in dealing with “revenue cycle.” Guess what? So do the other four CFO candidates I’m presenting to the client because that’s what all hospital CFOs do.

On paper, all of them look the same because they had similar experience or performed the same tasks. Instead, I would tell the candidate, “Knowing that you are up against four other CFO’s with similar tenure, experience, and background… WHY YOU? What makes YOU special when you are lined up side by side?” That changes their perspective dramatically.

Stand out by communicating how well you’ve done something; what results and value you’ve achieved. Understand the person or organization you’re talking to.

Communicating value means demonstrating how what you bring will solve their problem, ease their pain, help them grow, advance or make more money.

Everything else is just a description.


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