Main image of article Avoid These Common Mistakes to Advance Your Career

If you’re worried about screwing up at work or in your career, here’s something to keep in mind: there are lots of ways to get over a mistake and move on. In fact, learning from your mistakes is a critical skill for great tech pros, and effectively remedying a bad situation will help you and your team members quickly move on and do their best work.

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. You might have hit send on an email before it was ready, which can be a minor or major issue depending on the email’s contents. Some mistakes are a big deal, though: for example, failing to find a solution to a project-terminating bug, or not positioning yourself vis-à-vis the market as your pursue a new job opportunity. With that in mind, here are some tips for handling mistakes at work and in your broader career.

Not Being Strategic When Networking

It’s sometimes tempting to network with everyone around you. The more the merrier, right? Except forming a wide range of connections will cost you time and effort without the guarantee of payoff. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, or searching for talent to build out your current team, you still might not have the quality contacts you want… because you spent too much time trying to build connections with everyone.

The Fix: Approach networking with a strategy. What are the next few steps in your career? What do you need to advance into those positions? Who can help you do so? Once you have a plan in mind, then you can connect with folks who can help you achieve your goals.

It’s also critical to develop great mentors who will help you with your overall career strategy. Always keep in mind, however, that finding an effective mentor is a matter of chemistry and reciprocity, as we broke down in a recent episode of Dice’s ‘Tech Connects’ podcast:

As you network, also take the time to get to know recruiters; they’ll prove invaluable when hunting down future opportunities.

Not Bothering to Learn New Skills

Sure, you’re fielding lots of job opportunities today, thanks to your mastery of a handful of programming languages, frameworks, and tools. But the tech industry is a rapidly evolving place, and if you don’t keep your skills up-to-date, you could find yourself falling behind other tech professionals—and receiving fewer offers.

The Fix: Always reserve the time and resources necessary to learn new skills. Even better, ask your manager if they’ll be willing to foot the bill for additional training. Given organizations’ need to retain their tech pros, chances are good your manager will say “yes” to that request.

Failing to Define Your ‘Personal Brand’

Where do you excel? Are you considered an expert in your field? If you strengthen your personal brand as a trusted specialist in a particular area, you can attract a plethora of fresh opportunities. But without that kind of branding, you may struggle to stand out in a crowded field of applicants when competing for jobs.

The Fix: Make sure that your resume, portfolio, repos, and other external-facing sites emphasize your unique contributions to past projects. Consider spinning up a blog, social feed, or something similar that will allow you to show off your skills, discuss your industry, and otherwise extend your opinions and expertise to a broader audience. Spend some time networking with colleagues and team members with similar interests. Building your personal brand takes time, but the results will be worth it.

Failing to Deliver a Project On Time or Within Budget

Hey, it happens: even the most dedicated and skilled tech pro can make a big mistake at work and fail to complete a project. Maybe your problem-solving skills weren’t up to snuff and you couldn’t work your way through a few critical bugs. Or maybe you felt frustrated and failed to rally your team members to accomplish everything necessary during a sprint. Whatever the reasons, a project is incomplete—and it could have devastating effects on both your job and your future career.

The Fix: The most obvious fix is to plan projects in excruciating detail well in advance to avoid any future problems. However, complications are often unavoidable. If a project is floundering, it’s important to show your superiors that you’ve made at least some progress, and you have a plan to complete the rest of it within an adjusted timeline and budget.

The key here is to be proactive: show that you recognize the errors and you’re working hard to move past them. Many bosses will understand—and ask what they can do to help.

Sending the Wrong Email or Message

Sometimes you send an email or message that’s missing information. Or maybe you’re having a bad day and accidentally send a missive in which you’ve vented a little too much about a team member or even your boss. You feel bad, and you’re potentially in deep trouble… but you can still salvage this situation. 

The Fix: Apologize and fix as best you can. If you sent an email a little too early, or forwarded the wrong file, the fix is usually pretty straightforward. If you did something that offended someone, however, making amends might take more time—for example, asking for feedback and pledging to change as much as you can.