Table of Content
  1. 1. Not Doing Enough Research
  2. 2. Going Mainly for the Money
  3. 3. Ignoring Who You Are
  4. 4. Not Planning for the Future
  5. 5. Focusing Too Much On What Others Say or Do
  6. Conclusion

Top Common Mistakes When Selecting a Career

Selecting a career is one of the most impactful decisions that you will make in your life. You want to make the best choice that will allow you to be successful and feel fulfilled in your career. While you can change careers in the future, doing so often costs time, effort, and money. So whether you’re preparing for your next career move or just starting out, try to avoid these top common mistakes when selecting a career:

1. Not Doing Enough Research

With so many career options to choose from, it can be difficult to know if you’re making the right choice. This is where research is important in understanding the requirements and responsibilities of the position. Those who fail to do enough investigating may find themselves in a position or industry that doesn’t fit their needs or expectations.

Knowing the job description and average salary is a good start, but you will need to look deeper into the details to gain a better understanding of the role. Start by considering the potential of the role: How’s the job outlook? How will this role further my career?

When researching for careers, it is important to factor in the appropriate elements required for success in order to know how to take the next steps. One such element is the required skills for the field. While the technical skills and education requirements are important, only meeting the minimum level isn’t enough. By developing skills and knowledge that can complement the required ones, you can stand out from your competition whenever you are making the next career move. Be sure to keep your long-term goals in mind to ensure the skills you are learning are a good fit for where you want to be in the future, and that this is a wise investment of your time.

Finally, don’t forget to research the companies you would like to work for. What is their reputation? What’s their employee turnover rate? Consider companies whose culture, management, team dynamics, work-life-balance, and office politics fit you well.

2. Going Mainly for the Money

A hefty paycheck can be a great lure for selecting a career, and while choosing based on how much you can earn seems reasonable, it may not always pay off in the long-run. There are other important factors that you need to take into account to make sure it is the best career decision you can make.

You should look into other forms of compensation or benefits that may be offered, since they can be as or more important than salary. If the salary is low, check if the position offers good bonuses or equity, which can add up to be a good compensation package.

There are also other factors to consider that aren’t as easily quantifiable. For example, it isn’t always easy to relocate, so location may be a deciding factor for you. Another factor may be stability; working for a startup can have great benefits, but it carries the risk that you may need to find new work in a few years. While larger and more established companies can provide better job security, they may have other drawbacks such as more organizational red tape.

Decide what is important to you by creating a spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, list all the factors that impact your decision. Rate each one based on its importance and priority, and use it to evaluate the suitability of each job opportunity.

3. Ignoring Who You Are

Not everyone is a good fit for a given position. Your personality, interest, abilities, and skills will factor in whether you will flourish or struggle in a role. If you love interacting with people, then a career where you are working in front of a computer all day may not be the right position for you. On the other hand, if you have strong analytical skills, then a career where you’re researching and drawing conclusions from data may be a better match.

Consider your soft skills, personality, interest, and values when searching for a suitable career. Your core competencies can guide you to lines of work where you have the natural aptitude to succeed.

Another important factor to consider is how the role fits with your values. If the career path requires frequent 80-hour weeks and you value family time, this lifestyle may not be sustainable for you. By considering what you value, you can find a career that you truly enjoy and balance out with the type of lifestyle you want, preventing you from burning out and wanting to quit.

4. Not Planning for the Future

The success of your career choice can be highly influenced by the amount of planning for the future that you’ve done. That job opportunity may seem great now, but the employment outlook may not be so great. A good idea is to create a short-term plan and long-term plan.

A short-term plan focuses on the next few years with clear, measurable goals. This could include goals in developing your skillset, achieving a certain position, or working in a desired company.

A long-term plan moves the focus from the current job to the next steps after. This is where you consider what your definition of success is and where you want your career to culminate in.

With your short-term and long-term plans as the guiding principles, pay attention to the core skills and experience that can get you where you want. Always think about how each job opportunity gets you closer to your end goal.

5. Focusing Too Much On What Others Say or Do

Seeking feedback from those we love and respect is something many of us do and the advice can be valuable. Nevertheless, sometimes that comment of “you can’t do that” or “you should do this instead”, however well-intentioned, can derail you from a career path that would have worked well for you.

As people don’t always know what’s best for you, think about the motives of the person offering advice. For example, a parent may give advice that is more risk-averse if they do not want to see their child fail. A work colleague or boss may feel threatened, and so will purposely try to steer you from advancing yourself. Recognizing where the advice is coming from can help you evaluate if you should follow it or continue down the career path you have set for yourself.


As we’ve seen, there are several potential challenges you may encounter when selecting a career. But by understanding what you want, coupled with research and planning, you can avoid the mistake of picking a career that’s not best suited for you. Once you’ve found what you want to pursue, you can also give referrals a try as they are a great way of separating yourself from your competition to land that opportunity.

James Free
James has a background in marketing and international business. With experience in working in international relations and connecting with stakeholders globally, James has helped organise various business development and career seminars for industry professionals to learn more about target overseas markets. He has also coordinated events in networking and foreign investment for other countries.