The 8 Deadly Career Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making and How to Stop

Developing your career is one of the most important things you can do in your life.

Choosing a particular career and knowing how to be successful in it is not a one-time decision, it’s a series of decisions, that you need to correctly make as you go through different stages of your life, experience and responsibility.

Each and every job you take is a step on the career ladder, which means that each one can have a significant impact on your future career prospects.

Why is it then, that many people get stuck in their careers, chronically bogged down in jobs they either hate or that provide them with no advancement (let alone opportunities for travel), despite their best efforts?

Because knowing what not to do in developing your career is just as important as knowing what to do.

And while making mistakes is part of how we master new skills, there are eight career mistakes you should avoid at all costs.

Mistakes so harmful I like to call them the “Travel Career Destroyers.”

Unfortunately, these eight mistakes aren’t common knowledge but rather commonly made, but once you learn to identify and stop doing them, you’ll be able to stop sabotaging your own job search efforts and start focusing on how to really fast track your career.

After all, sometimes the best way to start doing something right is to stop doing something wrong.

Mistake #1: Underestimating the negative side effects of settling.

In today’s economy most of us are conditioned to just “take what I can get.” We either stay at a job where we’re not happy because we think that’s the best we can do, or worse, we leave our current jobs where we’re unhappy for another job.

This new job may pay more but is nowhere near what we really want to do. In the end, we eventually become unhappy at the new job and this vicious cycle starts all over again.

How to Stop: Deep dive into the industry where your dream job lives.

Find your best career path by learning all you can about the current status of the travel industry from a broad level. The winning formula in developing a career strategy is to research before you engage in a job search.  

Go online to recognize what trends are happening in the overall travel industry, what the major issues or challenges are the industry faces and look for pockets of opportunities where a problem could be solved or a need could be addressed.

Based on what you find, identify those companies that match your interests then formulate a strategy that’ll enable you to learn all about those companies, their advertised and hidden job opportunities, how to get your foot in the door to get an interview and eventually get hired.

Not only will you become and stay excited about your work, you’ll also be in a position to enhance your current skill set along with developing new skills, versus them stagnating over time.

Mistake #2: Disqualifying yourself.

Have you been guilty of making assumptions about how you are or will be perceived by potential hiring managers in the travel industry?

For example you think to yourself:

“I’ve found companies and positions that match the career path I want to follow but it’s a waste of time because…”

“I don’t have the skills needed.”

Or

“I don’t have a degree.”

Or

“I don’t have relevant experience.”

How to Stop: Don’t shortchange yourself.

Prove to yourself that you can be successful in the travel industry by challenging yourself to contact an industry executive who you admire and ask for their opinion. Or be bold enough to apply for that position you saw.

You can sell yourself on other criteria to get the job once you get your foot in the door and then acquire those core skills once you’re on the job.

While qualifications and experience are ranked high as far as hiring criteria, employers hire people for all kinds of reasons.

More importantly, employers seek people who are basically likable and that can fit in and get along with their superiors, co-workers and clients.

You must be able to communicate and prove to employers that you're such a person and more. And you must overcome employers’ objections to any lack of experience or qualifications.

The best-qualified person is the one who knows how to get the job and convinces employers that they’re the one who can solve their problems.

If you can determine what transferable skill set you’ll bring to the table that’ll add value and tailor them to meet employers’ needs, what happens next may pleasantly surprise you.

Mistake #3: Relying on personality tests to be the magic pill.

When it comes to pursuing a career, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that if we just take a personality test or self-assessment, it’ll reveal employment leads worth pursuing.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn about yourself but the problem is that these tests or assessments rarely provide the results you seek because they’re completely general and broad, oftentimes not even accurate in the description of you and worse of all not actionable.

I view personality tests or self-assessments as just another form of procrastination. Just ask yourself, has all these tests done anything for you as far as actually landing your dream job where you get paid to travel?

How to Stop: Do your homework.

You’ll have to do the work of knowing what type of position you specifically want, then researching what positions exists, reviewing and learning companies and then evaluating if they’re the right fit for you to proceed before approaching or applying.

One way to do this is by seeking out people who did or are currently doing the type of job you’re interested in. These people can provide tremendous insight into the pros and cons of a particular position that you may not have considered.

Mistake #4: Wasting time being a master of study.

You spend countless hours reading general career advice books. You obsess over your LinkedIn profile and getting it just right. You revise your resume for the thousandth time and send it out to yet another job website.

But everything you’re doing is not working. So you become overwhelmed and frustrated. Because you’re not investing your time in doing the right things and doing useless activities that aren’t getting you a job, you fall victim to being paralyzed by over analyzing and just give up.

How to Stop: Fine-tune your strategy.

Instead of wondering why you’re not getting interviews or job offers, stop looking everywhere and anywhere for the answer. Don’t be afraid to seek help from people in the position to help you.

Once you’ve determined your career goals and researched and identified positions and respective companies, and still find yourself stuck on how to proceed next, find the appropriate people who can give you advice and answer questions.

Successful executives love to talk about their background, career path and how they overcame pitfalls in developing their travel career. 

Mistake #5: Not being specific.

Ever have trouble talking to companies about what you want to do and why they should hire you? Employers will not hire someone who will "take anything."

They want someone who is qualified, but also they want someone who truly wants the particular position they’re trying to fill, not someone who lacks a clear career goal.

Remember, if you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get it.

How to Stop: Develop laser focus.

Choosing a niche or a sector of the overall travel industry where you want to work is one of the simplest ways to establish and grow your career where you can get paid to travel while doing work you love.

It’s easier to know how to market yourself, where to look and how to use what you’ve found when you know what you specifically want to do.

Do you want to work in travel? Or, do you want to work in tourism? Is a career in hospitality better suited to your interests and goals?

Furthermore, you must be able to also choose a target function to find a job.

For example, are you interested in marketing, accounting or product development? The job function is what you’ll be doing all day long on the job so it’s important to determine what it is.

You must then discover the job title or the type of job you want. In the travel industry, titles do matter and are important.

For instance, there’s a big difference between a sales manager and a regional sales manager. If you don’t learn and know the various job titles that are prevalent in the travel industry then you’re an outsider. And if you’re an outsider you won’t get hired.

As you become more familiar with the industry as you look for jobs you’ll learn more about your target niche, job function and job title with every contact made.

You can start out with a naïve and vague idea such as “I’d like to work in hotel sales“ and by the end of your research you know perfectly well that a sales manager is responsible for selling one property in one location and a regional sales manager is responsible for selling multiple properties across multiple cities and states.

Mistake #6: Not having the right resume.

Virtually all general career experts have taught you that you need to have a chronological resume that lists your entire life’s work history, and that you should update it every time you change jobs or do something new.

This is a waste of your time because this type of resume gets thrown in the trash by hiring managers in the travel industry 99% of the time.

Just think about it, why should a hiring manager for a hotel care about the work you did five years ago at some random unrelated company? How does that prove valuable to the hiring manager?

How to Stop: Tailor your resume for each opportunity.

Instead of sending out a blanket chronological resume to companies you know nothing about, change your resume to be functional instead of chronological.

Create a resume that’s based on your specified skill set or range of skills that tells a story that’s catered to targeted positions based on your specified career path and respective researched companies. Be sure to quantify everything you have done.

No resume is sent out in response to any open position until you’ve thoroughly researched the companies, are familiar with their websites and social media presence and you know what their biggest organizational problems are and their associated hiring goals.

Based on this, you then can use key words from the company’s website and from their job descriptions for the position you’re interested in applying to, in your functional resume to further tie together your overall story and make it easy for hiring managers to see your value.

Mistake #7: Thinking it’s all about you.

Contrary to general career development experts and books, it’s not all about you as the job seeker.

Hiring managers don’t care that you want a position where you can work from home or make enough money to travel or that you want to be fulfilled or stimulated in your work environment and responsibilities.

What they do care about is exactly how you can add value to their company on a daily basis and quickly.

How to Stop: Invade the hiring managers’ mind.

Discover what you can offer a company and how you can add quantifiable value. Ask yourself, how can I contribute? What problems can I solve? How can I either make money or save the company time, money or resources?

Get into the mind of the hiring manager or executive you’ll be working with. What keeps them up at night? What’s the hardest part of their job? What would impress them about you?

Based on your company research, using what I like to call the MAD Method, show them how you would make a difference and what you would do if hired in a 30 day, 60 day and 90 day time period.

Show and prove that you’re the best candidate for the position. Most skills are transferable and you just have to learn how to sell them. When discussing your last role, specify how you improved the business and how taking advantage of your skill set would help the prospective company meet its goals.

For example, if you’re looking to work at a public relations firm specializing in hotel development, you show that you’re a desired and valuable potential employee not by communicating that you have great organizational skills or attention to detail and are able to work under pressure (which are overused general terms that everyone says).

Instead, you communicate that through your past roles, regardless of where they were, you have an extensive database of contacts and a demonstrated, proven ability to get press coverage.

Basically what you’re doing here is using the respective words and terminology the hiring managers use. So talk about the issues that are important to them.

Mistake #8: Not being flexible within your specified career path.

Now I’m sure you’ll say, “Kimberly, you just told me to be specific and choose a career niche, job function and job title within the travel industry.”

Yes, I want you to be as specific as possible but at the same time do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Do not have your heart set on ONE position in ONE company in ONE area of focus within the overall industry.

The travel industry is the type of industry where there’s a high degree of mutual dependence and cooperation. Individuals working in this industry can advance their careers by moving from one organization to another with relative ease.

Don’t think that advancing upward in your career through salary increases is the only prize. Look for those positions where you’re able to gain new wisdom and new experience and where you’re not only learning about the company, but also about this great industry through travel opportunities.

How To Stop: Think long-term.

Spread your interests across multiple areas in the travel industry based on your skill set. For example, someone with a marketing skill set can develop a successful travel career across various positions within museums, retail, attractions and destination marketing organizations, versus just in museums.

Gone are the days where you’re guaranteed long-term employment and career enhancement by joining and remaining employed at one company. The key is to remain flexible with the type of company but still be focused on the particular niche or sector of the larger industry where you want to work.

This is important because it allows you to think about what success looks like and means to you long-term and develop your career accordingly that’ll thrive on a long-term basis, instead of just thinking about your next job.

Mobility among different companies within sectors of the overall travel industry leads to interesting and challenging position changes and work environments. It can enable you to advance your career in ways that you never thought possible.

Navigating your career can be tricky. We all make mistakes, but while some are just mild hiccups we can learn from, others can lead to a devastating drop back down the career ladder. Think of each job as a step toward your bigger career goals and aim to get it right. It only gets better from here.

Leave a comment below and let me know which mistakes do you realize you’ve made as you develop your career? What will you do today to get yourself back on track?