Skip to content

This Is the Biggest Career Mistake You'll Ever Make, Experts Say

What you're not doing is as important as what you are doing at work—and here's why.

We've all had a lot of time to ask ourselves big questions about our lives these days, including what we wish had gone differently, whether it's in regards to our relationships, our health, our families, or our careers. But when thinking about why our professional lives may have gone awry, we tend to focus on things we actively did wrong—like the deadlines we missed or the bridges we burned. However, experts agree that when it comes to career missteps, we should be thinking about what we didn't do instead. So, what's the biggest career mistake you'll ever make? Giving up on learning something new. Read on to find out why, and for another regret you don't want to live with, check out The One Thing Experts Say You're Doing Every Day That You'll Regret.

The career experts at Monster note that in order "to continue to advance in your field and attract new potential employers, you need to stay current. Unfortunately, it's easy to let your skills development lapse." And that, they say, is one of the biggest career mistakes a person can make. To combat this, they suggest that you "take an online class, attend seminars, research available certificates in your industry—just don't let your brain gather dust."

Similarly, in her article for The Muse on the biggest career mistakes a professional can make, career acceleration expert Olivia Gamber explains that after a decade or two in the work force, people tend to "stop hustling and stop gunning for future promotions and breakthroughs."

If you don't want to fall into that rut, Gamber, author of The Career Upgrade Roadmap, suggests that you "take proactive steps that would qualify you for advancement like taking classes [or] learning new skills."

The results speak for themselves. When Coursera conducted a survey of 52,000 learners across a wide range of subjects, they found that 72 percent of participants reported career benefits from taking online classes, including increased efficiency, success at finding a new job, or receiving a raise.

That's why, in Fast Company's report of what makes people the most proactive professionals, "Never stand still" tops the list. "People who do the things the way they have always been done will in the best case get the same results all over again," writes leadership and coaching professional Anush Kostanyan. "You should constantly search for new solutions and more effective approaches."

Seeing through the learning process itself, nixing some old bad habits, and forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone mentally is what will give you the edge in your career. For more mistakes you may be making, according to the experts, read on. And for another facet of life you may very well be butchering, here are 20 Social Media Mistakes You Need To Stop Making.

Not negotiating your salary and benefits

Two men meeting at conference room table

In a survey by of nearly 2,000 workers, they found that one-fifth of respondents never negotiate their salaries. "Many job seekers don't negotiate salary or benefits because they're fearful of rejection or don't want to appear too aggressive," the experts at Monster explain. "But you risk leaving a ton of money on the table if you don't negotiate—especially when you factor in compound interest." And for more on how work life has changed lately, here's The Chilling Side Effect of Working From Home You Didn't Know About.

Not networking once you have a job

group of people networking

"Many people get into a routine of working really hard at their job and don't spend enough time pausing to network or thinking ahead," Gamber explains. And the experts at Monster agree, noting that "a number of workers stop networking after they find a full-time job." But, they point out, "if you don't network on a regular basis, you could be missing out on job opportunities, since your contacts may not think of you if they hear of job openings at their company." And for more on how we communicate with colleagues and other professionals, here are The White Lies We Tell Our Coworkers Every Day.

Being good at a lot of things, but not great at anything

Employees discussing how to improve on an idea.

By the time people reach their 50s, the biggest career mistake they tend to make is failing to leverage their greatest strength—experience. "They tend to attempt to detail everything they've accomplished and in the process they dilute their message," Gamber says. "Highlight your highly specialized set of accomplishments. It'll allow you to stand out from the competition and get the opportunity to do work you're excited about." And for more guidance on standing out for the wrong reasons, avoid The Biggest Résumé Writing Mistakes, According to HR Managers 

Thinking it's too late to do something else

mature and young women colleagues sitting at desk talking about project startup ideas, sharing thoughts, solve currents issues, make research, discuss growth strategy, think how generate more revenue (Mature and young women colleagues sitting at desk

A 2019 survey from the job site Indeed found that many people are changing careers right now. Of the 662 full-time U.S. workers surveyed, 49 percent had already made a dramatic career shift and 90 percent were happy with their decision. "Many careers can be compared to journeys—there are the adventurous patches, boring patches, downright scary patches, and the hills and valleys, too," career development author Vicky Oliver writes for Life Hack. "The trick is to try to have a little fun while you're charting out your various careers. Don't panic if you find you need to change your career. It may take some work as you sort through job posts, write cover letters, and pursue your dream job, but you're up for it." Not sure if you're ready to take the plunge? Here are The Tell-Tale Signs You're Ready for a Career Change.


John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
Filed Under