I was recently asked to address the topic, “Mistakes Women Make in Business.” While I am happy to share common career mistakes made by executives, they are certainly not limited to women. Both men and women can benefit from reviewing the business blunders below. You may find that some of these sound familiar.
- Agreeing to work for free. Entrepreneurs, take note: It may seem logical to give away a “free sample” of your professional services in order to introduce yourself to a new group of clients. After all, aren’t people more likely to contact you once they’ve seen you in action? Yes and no…there is no doubt you will be called upon again, generally to make another free speech! There is a difference between offering your service to a special cause, or helping your community with a generous donation of your time and talent, but it is not the same as peddling your wares around town for free. Bottom line, you will be paid in direct proportion to your perceived value.
- Accepting less than you deserve. Research the market rate for the product or service you provide and don’t dip below that number. There will always be those who want to “haggle” but it’s dangerous to discount your price for one person or company, and not another.
- Not asking for what you want. Practice communicating your expectations in an assertive (not aggressive) manner, one that shows respect for yourself and the other person. “Jack, I’ve been with the department for over a year and in that time our numbers have grown significantly. I have singlehandedly increased our annual revenue by 42% and based on this number, I am requesting a 15 % pay raise.”
- Underestimating your competition. When you are riding high in your professional career, one of the common career mistakes people make is to become complacent. It’s important to continue to find ways to improve upon your product or service, communicate regularly with your clients, and strive to offer value that sets you apart from your competition.
- Dressing for comfort rather than business. Who says you can’t do both? Leaf through magazines or catalogs, go online, and visit Pinterest boards. Keep looking until you start to develop your own professional style. Even though you may work from home, or in an office with little traffic, that doesn’t mean you get a pass at looking your best during the work day. Regardless of your corporate environment, dress for success.
- Posting on your personal social media sites throughout the workday. If you are liking, friending, and commenting on social media sites multiple times a day (and they have nothing to do with your business), you are sending a message that you have a great deal of time on your hands. However, if your social media sites are part of your business, make sure they are updated regularly, and offering information that is useful, informative and entertaining. Forgetting that your online presence is an extension of yourself is one of the common career mistakes made everyday.
- Spending too much time closing a deal or booking an engagement. If you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time convincing someone you are worth the money, or a potential client continues to cancel meetings while promising to make a decision “in the next few days,” cut them loose and find a better fit. It’s always better to work with people who are interested in (and can afford) your service or product.
- Wanting everyone to like you. It’s an unrealistic goal. You’re not a cheerleader, you’re a corporate executive. You will be called upon to make difficult decisions; stand behind what you believe. Keep your client’s best interest in mind, act with integrity and build a reputation that people can count on.