Top 5 Ways to Derail Your Career & Life

A recent Harvard Business Review stated that star performers moving to a new company can experience drops in performance that last up to 5 years! Reflecting on recent conversations and experiences I was inspired to share the Top 5 ways people generally screw up their lives as a consequence of a bad job change.

The article went on to say there is evidence that “the worker as a free agent” is a reality regardless of the economical conditions. While job moves are inevitable, they seldom are easy and nearly always emotionally fraught. Too often they lead to a noticeable decline in performance, both in the short & long term. Any change in your life, be it professional or personal significantly affects you on various levels, presenting you with both internal and external challenges and subsequent transformation costs.

Both professionally & personally, how were you affected by the following aspects of your last “move”?

  • Upheaval in your home & social life
  • Additional expenses
  • New cultural & political standards
  • Unclear expectations
  • New skill set & “jargon”

The most significant mistake can be summarized by one single common denominator;  moving “from” rather than “to” something! It’s the most common denominator because it’s an emotionally driven mistake, and thus the hardest to admit. The other common mistakes are not doing enough research, leaving purely for money, thinking short term & overestimating yourself.

The next most short sighted mistake is overestimating yourself! Too often people walk out the door who “believe they contribute more than they actually do, whilst undervaluing the strengths of their organization in helping them achieve their objectives“.

People have a tendency to have an unrealistic view of their skills, their prospects, and occasionally their culpability. They often can’t identify or don’t want to recognize the sources of success and failure at their existing jobs. As one colleague once stated: candidates are often “looking at the current company as being the problem and not acknowledging that they themselves may be a part of the problem”.

Another put it this way: “People fail to be realistic sometimes (to be self-critical enough), and they therefore think that external circumstances and environments have more to do with their frustrations or failures than their own issues.” Psychologists call this selective attention “confirmation bias” and it can play havoc with a strategic life impacting decision! They went on to say: we are all motivated to maintain a sense of psychological safety by nurturing a positive self-image, by looking at the world as a knowable and predictable place, and by avoiding risk. This can lead to an overestimation of the self and to a habit of attending only to information that bolsters your existing beliefs.

Here’s a tale of a short sighted decision turning out for the best… but it didn’t come easy! My friend Joe once moved into a role where it was soon obvious he had bitten off more than he could chew. Having turned his life upside-down he was banking on this career change to be part of an over-all transformation. Eager to salvage the situation Joe raised his hand, took a salary cut, demotion & entered a new area where his background could better facilitate his integration. Joe recognized that this fast growing start-up had allot to offer him in “a space” where he had no previous experience, however, he did have the raw underlying skills and background. Over the course of the next 18 months he not only significantly contributed to the success of his new company, but also walked away with a brilliant new concept his company didn’t want to pursue and started a  company of his own.

Consider your next “change” carefully & please make sure you’re moving “to” instead of away “from”. Whether a professional or personal relationship, I think there’s allot to learn from that “golden nugget”.

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