Avoid These Career Mistakes in 2011

If one of your goals for this year is to enjoy work more, here's how to do it.

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Curt Rosengren
It’s a new year, and for most people that means looking at ways to make the coming year better than the last. If one of your goals for 2011 includes loving your work more, here are six mistakes to avoid:

Don’t make today’s fear your long-term reality.

It’s stressful out there right now. People are out of work. Or they’re overworked in a job they’re afraid to quit. There’s a lot of anxiety, fear, and anger brewing, and it’s easy for that to spiral into an endless, self-perpetuating loop that blocks any positive perspectives.

I’m not suggesting the fear and anger aren’t merited, nor am I suggesting you should pretend they don’t exist. But you might want to think twice if you’re letting them color your entire picture. 

Whether you immerse yourself in fear and anger or turn some of your focus toward positive potential, the cold, hard facts of your immediate situation are still the same. Your attitude can’t change that. But it can change your experience. And it can change both the steps you’re willing to take to move toward a more positive future and your ability to notice opportunities.

Life is always in a state of flux, and that includes your career. So even if it sucks now, it won’t always suck. Keeping that in mind can prevent you from needlessly perpetuating the negative.

[See 10 Ways to Make Any Job Healthier.]

Don’t make it all or nothing.

We tend to think of career passion as all or nothing, and that’s a mindset that gets us stuck. According to that way of thinking, if we can’t have it all, we can’t have it at all.

A more helpful way to think about career passion is how much energy you get from your work. You might not be able to hit a grand slam (at least not right away), but you can gradually incorporate more of what energizes you.

Think of it like a percentage. In that grand slam career, the percentage of your work you find energizing might be eighty or ninety percent. No job is perfect, so there will always be some aspects you don’t enjoy. In your current work, on the other hand, you might be hovering around forty percent.

You can sit at forty percent, waiting indefinitely for the time to be right to pursue that grand slam, or you can start taking steps to bump that percentage up right now.

Don’t assume nothing can be changed.

On a related note, another common mistake is assuming that nothing can be changed, that you’re stuck where you are, and that’s that. But life is malleable. It might not all change in one grand and glorious swoop, but with effort and time, the actions you take and decisions you make can have a significant impact on your happiness.

[See How to Rock Your Next Job Interview.]

Don’t just guess.

Imagine being blindfolded in a room, given a dart, and told to hit the bulls-eye of a dartboard that was hung up. While hitting the bulls-eye is technically possible, it’s unlikely, right? Most people’s approach to finding a career they love is similar, involving a lot of blind guesswork and, unfortunately, a lot of misses.

To take the blindfold off, invest some time into understanding what makes you tick. What energizes you? When are you at your best? When are you in flow? The more you understand where your energy comes from, the more you can consciously direct your career along a path that fits.

Don’t ignore the rest of your life.

What’s happening in the rest of your life affects how you feel at work. If something is draining your energy in your personal life, you’re likely to feel it at work. Is your diet heavy on Twinkies and chips but low on fruits and veggies? That will affect your energy. Do you over-commit to doing things for others (friends, family, volunteering, etc.), without giving yourself any downtime? That’s going to affect your energy as well.

Take a look at your life in 360 degrees, and explore ways to seek out more of what helps you feel energized and less of your energy drains.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

Don’t wear rose-colored glasses 24/7.

I’m all for cultivating a positive outlook, but too much of a good thing can be a recipe for disaster. If you’re walking through a minefield, all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to help you avoid blowing yourself up. You need to take the time to figure out where the mines are so you can step around them.

It’s the same in your career. Being able to look for the trouble spots and danger zones is key to avoiding or overcoming them.

Creating a career you love can be challenging enough without adding unnecessary difficulties. Avoiding these mistakes will let you put more of your time, energy and effort into turning that dream into a reality.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.