You are employed. You are extremely busy. In fact, you are harried, frazzled, and oftentimes, any semblance of a good work/life balance seems a very distant, almost quaint memory.

Additionally, you have seen your colleagues downsized. You have either gone without pay raises or the ones you have received have been less than hoped for. Promotions? Much slower in coming these days! You currently are doing the work of at least one and a half people, and quite probably even more.

Based upon recent surveys, the above describes 120 million currently employed Americans, or about 75% of the U. S. workforce. Which means:

You are miserable and long for something new.


You are not necessarily miserable but still long for something more. You want career progression as well as appropriate recognition and pay for what you do.

Fatal Career Mistake #1 — Forgetting (or not realizing) that the best time to find your next opportunity is while you still have a job

Stop and think about this for a moment. When a college decides to go look for a new sports coach, whom do they want? They want the coach who is at the pinnacle of success with their current team, the coach who is winning games.

So, whether you are happy in your current job or not, if you are performing, hitting the performance objectives and doing the job, NOW is the best time to consider new opportunities. In today’s brutally competitive economic environment, you have to oftentimes make a job change in order to:

  • Receive competitive pay
  • Achieve appropriate recognition
  • Obtain that next promotion
  • Get back on an upwardly mobile career path

Fatal Career Mistake #2 — Believing that a company will be loyal to you

Company loyalty to employees is gone. They don’t care if you are on the unemployment line. They don’t care if you and your family have health insurance. They don’t care if you can feed, clothe and house your family. Your keeping an eye open for better opportunities is no different from the company keeping an eye on its bottom line and determining every month whether you are worth it to them to keep you on the payroll.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security on your present job. Don’t believe that your current position is secure; know, with absolute certainty, just how secure it is NOT!

Fatal Career Mistake #3 — Thinking there are no jobs available

In 2011, on average, there have been 4 million jobs filled each and every month; another 3 million jobs have gone unfilled each month. (Source: BLS JOLTS report).

The perception that there are “no jobs available” is driven by the news media. Each month they heavily report on the “new jobs created” data. However, that is too often translated into “jobs data.” While it is certainly true that few new jobs are being created, the number of job openings each month, as noted above, is a significant figure and one seldom touted by the news media.

Fatal Career Mistake #4 — Not effectively branding yourself as someone who can “make a company money” and/or “save a company money”

Today, you will not be hired exclusively because you have the correct technical skills, experience and/or “know how.” Additionally, you must brand yourself as someone who can a.) solve a hiring manager’s (or hiring company’s) problem(s); and/or, b.) deliver a solution (or solutions) to his/her business needs. In other words, today, it all boils down to this simple question: “Can you make a company money or save a company money?”

If you aren’t in the mindset of recognizing that everything you do must make a company money or save a company money, start today. Regardless of the position you are in, learn to translate (in dollars, numbers or percentages) how everything you do impacts the company economically.

Fatal Career Mistake #5 — Thinking that the only way to find a job is to actually look for one

You are now thinking:

  • Yes, I am good at what I do
  • Skip is right, the company won’t be loyal to me
  • I do make my company money and save them money, So why shouldn’t I be rewarded and get one of these 7 million jobs out there that could enhance my career, give me a promotion and enable me to get a pay raise? Because I don’t have time!

So don’t look for a job! Instead, let the jobs find YOU!

Create an “inbound” marketing plan. When it comes to getting a new job, the adage used to be, “It is not what you know but who you know.” Today, the appropriate adage is this: “It is not what you know or even who you know, but rather, it’s who knows you and can you be found?” So, at the very minimum, make sure you have an updated and relevant LinkedIn profile. Why? Because LinkedIn is the number one resource used by both corporate recruiters and “headhunters” to look for talent.

Fatal Career Mistake #6 — Not building a relationship with a “headhunter” NOW

Three percent of all jobs are filled by “headhunters.” We often know about the “sweetest” opportunities in the marketplace and we will first call the people we know and with whom we have a relationship.

The odds of you calling us and our having that perfect opportunity available when you call are low. Build an ongoing relationship NOW with 3-4 recruiters in your niche so that we know about you and will proactively call you. This becomes part of your “inbound” marketing plan.

Additionally, in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever” we show you how to become your own “headhunter.”  How to find the “sweetest” opportunities yourself!

Fatal Career Mistake #7 — Failing to become visibly involved within your industry or professional specialty

Now is not the time for staying “hunkered down.” It is critical today to achieve maximum visibility!

Become a “hub,” an industry expert, the “go-to” person in your professional circle. Join organizations within your professional specialty. Become an active participant in appropriate LinkedIn groups.

If a company is looking to replace its vice president, are they going to advertise? NO! If you are branding yourself as a highly visible, impactful, contributing member of your profession, YOU will be the one contacted by the hiring manager, the corporate recruiter or the “headhunter” for that “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

Fatal Career Mistake #8 — If offered a new position with another company, you even think about entertaining a “counter-offer” from your current employer

To do so usually is tantamount to “career suicide.” Why? From the moment you submit your resignation you will forever be considered to be “disloyal” to your current employer, a “traitor.” It doesn’t matter that they wouldn’t hesitate to be disloyal to you.

When made a counteroffer, you will be led to believe that the company values you. That they can’t do without you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. All the company really is doing is buying “time” until it ultimately can replace you with someone who is more “loyal” to the company.

Fatal Career Mistake #9 – Failure to entertain an exploratory conversation

Let me conclude with this example from just this past week. I received a call that went like this, “Skip, you called me three months ago about a National Sales Manager’s position. I told you at the time that I was happy in my current job and felt reasonably secure, so I was not interested. Unfortunately that just changed. I was let go yesterday and now I desperately need your help! Is that position still open?”

Unfortunately for this person, the position is no longer available. (We filled it two months ago.)

When you receive that call from someone making you aware of a potential career opportunity, unless it is totally off the mark, in today’s brutal economic environment you owe it to yourself to have a non-committal exploratory conversation.

Author: Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.