30 Ways to Wreck Your Career

Broken Pencil

Broken PencilOriginally a slide show on BusinessWeek, I’ve had these fatal career mistakes saved on my computer for a while. Already having sent it to a few people there was something about this particular list that caught my attention, and knew they needed to be shared.

It may have been some of the truly entertaining photos,or the fact that I’ve been guilty of close to 50% of these at some point.

Although… I’d be surprised if there’s someone out there who hasn’t committed any of these no-no’s!

I’ve left the original number as they appeared in the slide show, but reorganized them by severity.


  • Have No Plan (#3): Plans can change, but as the classic goes: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. **That’s why I’ve been quiet than usual on the blog, been working on my own plan!
  • Don’t Answer the Tough Questions (#4): This goes hand-in-hand with the above.
  • Don’t Develop Self (#7) & Fail to Adapt (#23): You become stale if you don’t, and stale stuff gets thrown out.
  • Dwell on the Past (#11): Let it go, move on. Too much wasted energy.
  • Never Step Up (#16) & Never Challenge Yourself (#17): Great quote: “Doing what’s average keeps the average down”. You should always strive for being better and doing more.
  • Don’t Communicate with Superiors (#24) & Don’t Hang with the Right People (#28): They hold the key to everything. They’ve been there done that, can affect your projects & pay, have a larger network to lean on… I just don’t understand this one… should be common sense.
  • Lack Self-Awareness (#29): Being cognizant of yourself and your surroundings is a crucial skill to develop. “Many times, you are unaware of what you’re signaling”. Anyone watch Lie To Me?


  • Put Things Off (#2): This is inevitable, some things will take precedence while others fall by the wayside. The important takeaway from their write was “You avoid making choices, and that’s the worst choice of all”.
  • Make Yourself Invisible (#6): “like a shy teen at the dance”… you want to dance, you’ve got to get out there.
  • Lack a Filter (#8): Depends…Too broad of description.
  • Do It Your Way (#13) & Always Are Afraid (#15): Need a healthy combination of both. Risk/Caution and Following Directions/Going at it Alone. Don’t want to lose that creativity and get stuck within the rigid confines of the company’s “system” or always be on the extreme of the risk-taking/risk-aversion spectrum.
  • Are Self-Absorbed (#14): It comes down to strategic alliances. You can’t only look out for yourself, but you can’t look out for everyone and let yourself get run-over. You are your own best defense.
  • Don’t Look Out for Yourself (#20): Oh wait, what did I just say. :)
  • Stay for the Wrong Reasons (#22) & Grow Negative (#25): Right now, the wrong reasons may be the right reasons and it’s hard not to grow negative. The job sucks, but it pays. Hopefully this will turn out and people will again have the option to leave for the right reasons.
  • Are Unwilling to Start at the Bottom (#26): Unwilling to start at the bottom is significantly different from unwilling to work hard and learn. We do things like get degrees, take extra training, acquire certifications specifically so we can skip a few bottom rungs.
  • Break the Rules (#27): Engineers go through ethics classes and take oaths to provide unwavering service to the public good. But if you’re at the top, it’s a lot easier to change the rules than break them. If my directive only affects my superior’s bonus, why not break the rules?
  • Miss the Big Picture (#30): While its good to have “situational awareness”, Custard had a big picture and it was wrong for his men. Mostly what this slide tries to capture was covered in developing and adapting your self.


  • Don’t Live in the Moment (#1) & Lack Vision (#5): These two go together given the blatant contradiction: “You spend hours imagining the next job” and “You think small, unable to visualize your possibilities in a different job”. Which one is it BW?
  • Don’t Keep Your Composure (#9): You should act like your job is on the line everyday, you just shouldn’t let your emotions show.
  • Lose Your Passion (#10): Why all this concern with passion? Most people I know have jobs so they can afford their passions. Plus, if you’re a top performing employee why would I care if it was your passion or not?
  • Never Commit (#12): That’s because those are BIG decisions! Americans are good at committing then breaking those commitments – what’s the divorce rate now?
  • Are Afraid of the Extra Work (#18): Oh classic…. you should always be hustling, yet only pursue extracurriculars that will boost your resume. You could be working from 10pm – 6am, but instead you’ve chosen to sleep… come on BW.
  • Listen to Naysayers (#19): What about those naysayers of the Iraq war? Thank goodness we didn’t listen to them! Worthwhile takeaway: you follow the herd and don’t act yourself.
  • Never Realize It’s a Competition (#20): It doesn’t matter what you do with your career, just make sure to crush your peers. If I follow this, how could I not be self-absorbed (#14)?

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5 Responses
  1. I’ve committed and will likely keep committing a load of them. Living in the moment is a weakness when it comes to short sighted decisions…. But hey life is going ok and I do enough rights to balance most of the wrongs out these days!

    1. Fin Engr

      Yeah I couldn’t see how anyone would NOT have committed at least one…almost seems like they “covered their bases” which is why I added the don’t worry about it category.

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