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Everyone Should Avoid Making These 10 Career Mistakes

Everyone Should Avoid Making These 10 Career Mistakes

You have decided you are going to make your mark and you will have a stellar career. That’s great, but let’s hope you avoid making these career mistakes which could shatter your dream in the long term. In order to make it to the top, here are 10 mistakes you should never make.

1. You limit your networking to inside the company.

Some employees cannot be bothered to start networking outside their company. They may be pretty friendly and helpful inside the company, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just think what would happen if you were not in the loop when a new acquisition was proposed. You are the production manager and because you neglected networking, you were just not on the ball. You failed to exploit your contacts outside the company to gain valuable feedback, support and knowledge of market trends and innovation. That is the value of networking, yet many managers underestimate its importance. A lot of this needs to be done offline because it is the real social contact and human interaction that counts. It will give you a chance to seize an opportunity because you have your ear to the ground.

Larry Page failed to spot the opportunity of developing a Google social network in time. When they did eventually launch Google Buzz (later Google +), they failed to take off because of Facebook’s dominance.

“I clearly knew that I had to do something and I failed to do it.” —Larry Page.

2. You place too much importance on salary and benefits.

How does a temporary salary cut appeal to you? If you are considering a move, think of the experience rather than the money. In the long term, this will pay handsome dividends as the new job will be a challenge for you to achieve new goals. Aim to widen your skills set, broaden your responsibilities and manage teams. Think of the job satisfaction that it will give you and also how impressive it will be on your resume. Nobody will notice your salary increases.

3. You are afraid of failure.

If you are afraid of failure, it is doubtful whether you will be able to learn from mistakes. The successful manager has to factor failure in for every project. One good piece of advice is to look at a project before it becomes operational and ask your team to list what could go wrong. This is a great way of identifying possible problems and obstacles and it can help you make adjustments if necessary.

When failure does happen, you have to be ready to react without playing the blame game. Wise tactics include listening, getting feedback and analysing what went wrong. There is some excellent advice along these lines in the book, Managing Yourself: Can You Handle Failure? by Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan.

Success will not teach you; failure will. This is the bitter lesson that Bill Gates learned when he failed to develop a Microsoft search engine. When he did develop Bing, it was already too late. It had little success and it cost Microsoft more than $2.5 million than it earned in 2011.

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“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” —Bill Gates

4. You buy property.

Maybe you have always wanted to buy a house in your favorite area, near your workplace. The problem about doing this early on in your career is that you are tied in many ways to one location. You are less mobile which may be a factor against you when you want to move up the ladder. Of course, you can always rent it but there are extra hassles which you could do well without. Many companies will be reluctant to pay expensive moving costs.

5. You avoid challenges.

Taking the easy way out is a short term policy which will not stand you in good stead. It is when you encounter difficulties that you begin to understand how you react to stress. You also realize what your strengths and weaknesses are and you can avoid any situations which are totally negative and sap your energy. Aim for challenges where you feel that you can grow and use your skills and passions to greater effect. It is only when meeting difficulties along the way that you can understand that.

“My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had – everyday I’m learning something new.” —Richard Branson

 6. You ignore customer feedback.

Some successful businessmen have made very foolish decisions about launching a product or service, simply because they did not take customers’ needs or wishes into consideration. A example not to follow is that of Hiten Shah (founder of KISSMetrics) who spent $1m on developing a hosting company that never even launched. They realized too late that customer delight must be top priority. A similar example is that of Robin Chase co-founder of Zipcar.

“We built the website first and asked our customers about it later.” —Robin Chase

 7. You are too self-absorbed.

Basically you do not help coworkers or colleagues as you are too focused on your own success. This is a big mistake as research shows that when you help your peers, you are building a broad base of support which will pay off handsomely down the road. Research done by James Citrin and Richard Smith shows that the most successful entrepreneurs were four times more likely to help their peers than those who had not made it to the top. This is mentioned in their book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction.

8. You avoid hard work.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” —Vince Lombardi

Almost all successful entrepreneurs are convinced that the real secret to their success was hard work, self-discipline and self-confidence.

9. You are afraid to make a job change.

You may feel that your present working environment is far too restrictive and that you are not able to develop your leadership skills sufficiently. There may be other restrictions such as a lack of training to widen your skills set. Examine carefully how a job change could put you on the next step of the ladder. If you wallow in self-pity and boredom you will never have the courage to make a job change which could help your career to take off.

10. You undervalue emotional intelligence.

Nowadays, successful leaders have learned that emotional intelligence is really crucial in managing a team and also leading a company forward to success. Some studies are suggesting that a person’s success may depend only 25% on qualifications and intelligence while the remainder is made up of people skills and empathy, which make up the core of emotional intelligence.

If you cannot relate to the thoughts, experience and feelings of your peers or your team members, then you will be unable to manage them successfully. Whether you are a team member or you are in a managerial role, emotional intelligence should be high on your list of skills to acquire.

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Let us know in the comments what mistakes you made in your career and what were the lessons you learned.

Featured photo credit: Crosshairs- success/Flazingo Photos via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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