As a top-billing headhunter for professionals at CEO to Analyst-level, I’ve been part of thousands of career decisions.
From my observations and personal experience, here’s the full list of the TOP Mistakes I’ve seen top performers make.
#1. Being a know-it-all.
Most professionals especially the top-performing ones, some of whom obtained advanced degrees from well-regarded institutes, can be extremely arrogant.
Most top performers are extremely competitive which worked well during the pursuit of academic excellence.
They are bred to fight for their spot at the best labs, schools, and programs. When faced with any conflict, suddenly they shift into auto-drive, determined to prove you wrong with a variety of hypotheses, processes, rational thoughts, and one-sided arguments.
See how that could be a big problem in the real world???
Those positive attributes you acquired as an academic fly in the face to how to succeed in a corporate environment. Instead of singular self-righteousness, the real world admires traits centered around diplomacy, sensitivity, inclusion, likability, social finesse, and political aptitude.
When you graduate into the workforce, that constant need to prove your point may overshadow attempts to build rapport with colleagues and management. Not many bosses like to be told they’re wrong, especially by some uppity graduate with a fancy degree that makes him/her feel superior!
The trick to succeeding in your career as a TOP performing professionals is to understand this core tenant:
Don’t let your intelligence get in your way!
Be smart but don’t shove it in peoples’ faces! There’s a certain art to getting your way without slamming your fists on the table or putting others down. Even if they deserve it, you must learn to refrain from calling them out. You’ll be painted as the bad apple and you never want to be “that guy/gal” at the office…
#2. Not making the right career moves.
Similar to the above point, because top performers are used to charting out their own territory and career story, you’re less apt to take others’ word for it or ask for help! Although a career is very different than your academic pursuits/job function, somehow many people think they can just figure it out! What results is that they take the long way and usually learn things the hard way.
I felt the brunt of this the most because most candidates by default are very suspicious of headhunters in general. This is a cross-industry phenomenon. Rightfully so! I don’t blame society for reacting this way. Most headhunters are woefully under-equipped to do a good job for their clients and candidates; worse yet, some are actually utterly incompetent and unethical to boot!
Therefore, I get that! But EVEN when I’m able to prove my expertise to candidates, they often prefer to do things on their own terms, which has very REAL consequences. Their expertise DOES NOT transcend into a capability for successful career management. You may be the best doctor/scientist/technologist, etc. BUT YOU’RE NOT A CAREER EXPERT.
You think you know the answer to everything, because it can’t be that hard right?
Oh, but it is…
Most people have no idea what actually happens in the real world of recruitment and HOW you’re regarded. We bring you the objective 3rd party birds-eye view of who you are to a perspective hiring manager/company. If you choose to ignore or skip this crucial part of understanding how you’re regarded by strangers, you’re ignoring reality past your own self-perception.
#3. This mentality of “I know best, I don’t need you to tell me what to do” carries through to various decision-making processes.
Whether to buy a house, a stock, make a career move, satisfy your client needs, convince your manager to give you a raise, persuade team members to agree with you, what-else-have-you, most top performers like to make decisions in a vacuum without considering others’ expertise or feelings.
Instead of presenting an argument of why it’s beneficial to others, many top performers argue why it’ll be the best for themselves. “I want a promotion because I worked hard, I’ve done XYZ, and it’s time for me to take that challenge.”
Alternatively, they should consider saying something along the lines of:
“My promotion would enable our team to work more cohesively, benefit those under my mentorship while simultaneously alleviate upper management’s time-consuming involvement with training that I would be eager to lead.”
#4. Most TOP performers don’t know how to SELL well.
This goes for ALL industries and most people across most career verticals. Even career salespeople are HORRIBLE at sales. There are 10 horrible salespeople for every 1 decent salesperson. Out of 5 who are halfway decent, there is 1 excellent salesperson (and that’s being generous!).
As a top-billing headhunter, this is my ultimate career advantage. I am a genuinely caring, passionate, and sincere person; it’s easy for me to “make a sale” because people can feel how much I care. Luckily I’m also decently competent technically on the mechanisms of how headhunting works, so it was inevitable that I succeeded in my career. This sales prowess has helped me across all facets of life and helps me everyday run and grow my business, Dandan Global.
Professionals across all divisions, roles, and levels, NEED to improve your communication/sales game. Not just improve, COMPLETE overhaul and re-program. In fact, like many STEM/right-brained people (and society in general), you may even think sales is below you. What you may not realize is that EVERYONE’s job depends on sales aptitude to sustain. How can you get a project done when you can’t sell your idea, process, or thinking process? How can you stay employed if you can’t convincingly sell on why you’re worth the promotion or the new job?
DG TIP: Read To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. He breaks down strategies, ideas, and statistics on why learning to sell is your lifeline in any corporate environment.