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Business Advisor
9 Career Mistakes to Avoid
Laura Wisniewski
Publish Date: November 17, 2007

It's easy to neglect your career when you're busy juggling budgets and board meetings, regulatory requirements and reimbursement issues. But don't lose sight of your place on the organizational ladder. Yours is not a job (Just Over Broke), but a career. Here are nine pitfalls to avoid.

1. Not maintaining work-life balance
"Most people struggle with life balance simply because they haven't paid the price to decide what is really important to them." — Stephen R. Covey

Healthcare workers often put other's needs before their own, but the demands of today's healthcare environment make self-care essential. Schedule time for family, friends, hobbies, exercise and spiritual renewal. Not doing so may lead to burnout or compassion fatigue. Burnout fades with time off or a change of work environment. Compassion fatigue is a state of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion that requires professional help.

2. Ignoring trends in healthcare
"Change before you have to." — Jack Welch Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate. Rapidly evolving trends in surgery are influencing every aspect of how care is delivered and paid for. Having to do more with less is reaching critical mass. Become a trendwatcher. What are strategists predicting for the ambulatory surgery industry?

3. Failing to plan
"Failing to plan is planning to fail." — Alan Lakein

Not having a career plan is like living in Florida and not planning for hurricanes. Both are potentially disastrous. Your career plan could be simple or complex. Write down your goals of where you want to be next year and in five years. Then identify the actions you need to take to achieve your goals. Evaluate your progress and adapt the plan as needed.

4. Remaining in the comfort zone
"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." — Brian Tracy

Comfort zones, if left unchallenged, shrink over time. If something feels a little scary, that's probably the best place to start. Think back over your life and career to times you stretched yourself and succeeded. Your comfort zone expands with each risk you take, as does your self-confidence.

5. Neglecting professional development
"Work harder on yourself than you do on your job." — Jim Rohn

We're living in the knowledge age. The combination of experience, skills and education equals intellectual capital. Your intellectual capital is your most marketable asset. Keep your career portable. Document all that you've accomplished in a portfolio. Regularly update your resume and practice your interviewing skills. Invest in your professional development by attending seminars, reading professional journals and books and networking at conferences.

6. Communicating ineffectively
"The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives." — Tony Robbins

Communication skills are as vital as clinical skills. Are you effectively communicating with your team? How are your presentation skills — do you capture and maintain the attention of decisionmakers?

7. Lagging behind technology
"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative." — H. G. Wells

The inability to master technology will stunt your career growth: Keep up with advances in medical and communications technology.

8. Depending on your employer for security
"He that is too secure is not safe." — Thomas Fuller

All healthcare organizations are in a state of dynamic flux. There's no guarantee that any position is stable. Adopt the philosophy of the self-employed and treat your employer as a valued customer. Create solutions where challenges exist. The ability to solve problems is a highly marketable skill. Your employer may own your job, but you own your career.

9. Underestimating yourself
"Circumstances don't make the man, they reveal him."— James Allen

Give yourself credit for surviving in this tumultuous industry. That same tenacity and creativity can be applied to designing a more resilient career. Record your successes and celebrate your accomplishments. By being aware of the dangers you'll be more prepared to seize the opportunities in today's healthcare environment. Remember that the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of the symbols for danger and opportunity.

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