As far as water metaphors are concerned, bestselling author and career expert Rick Smith prefers oceans to ponds. When we think about our careers, he says, we need to imagine we’re paddling across the Atlantic and not get caught up in short-sighted thinking. In a terrific Forbes post called “5 Career Mistakes You Will Regret in 10 Years,” Smith warns of five ways that failing to take a long-term view can muck up your professional pursuits.
“We focus on completing the task at hand, fighting for the next promotion, outperforming a colleague,” Smith writes. “But there are many seemingly minor actions that can have a major impact on your career’s trajectory.” According to Smith, you should avoid the following:
1. Limiting Networking to Your Company — Everyone knows the importance of networking, but what you might not know is that it’s most effective when you connect with people outside of your firm. Company cultures are different, Smith writes, and you can learn a lot from people with experiences different from your own. “Exposing yourself to truly new ideas and perspectives requires getting outside of your culture and the circle of colleagues you find most convenient to interact with,” he says. “Sail more than one sea!”
2. Letting Money Guide Your Decisions — Money is important, but it’s not everything, and as Smith points out, studies show that we always want more. It’s great to strive for promotions and better titles — but do it because you enjoy the work, or because it’s helping you grow as an employee. “Choose the path that provides you the most valuable experiences, develops the most significant relationships, and allows you to learn at the fastest rate, regardless of income,” Smith writes.
3. Fearing Failure and Avoiding Risk — Throughout your career, you’ll be forced to choose between tackling risky projects and taking the easy way out. The latter is tempting, since no one likes to fall flat on their face, but as Smith writes, the best employees are those that challenge themselves. “Difficult situations lead to accelerated growth—not just in learning about business and leadership, but in learning about yourself,” he writes.
4. Putting Down Roots — Buying a home is “the American dream,” but Smith says it might not always be the smartest move. The reason? Companies value employees willing to relocate, and if you’re locked into a property, you might lack the flexibility to take advantage of big opportunities.
5. Not Helping Others — In his book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers, Smith found that highly successful professionals are over four times more likely than other folks to focus on the success of their coworkers. In business, no man or woman is an island, and by being a team player and helping those around you, you’ll build a base of support that can only help you down the line. “If you see an opportunity where your actions can truly benefit another, take the time to make it happen, without any expectation of return benefit,” Smith writes.