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5 Career Mistakes Common to Both Early Career and Seasoned Professionals

Asia Bribiesca-Hedin shares five critical career mistakes to avoid in your professional engineering journey. Plus, join her free course “Creating Confidence When You Are the First or Only One in the Room” in SWE's Advance Learning Center!*
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As a woman in engineering, navigating your career can be a complex process, fraught with opportunities for missteps everywhere you look. Interestingly, some career mistakes are universal, impacting professionals at every stage of their work lives.

Here are five critical career errors that can occur at any time in your professional journey:

1. Failing to Continuously Learn and Adapt

You’ve heard that change is the only constant, and you only need a quick glance at the job market to know that resting on your laurels can be the kiss of death for your career. Early career professionals might think their recent education is enough, while seasoned professionals might rely too heavily on their years of experience.

The failure to embrace a continuous investment in learning and adapting to new technologies, methodologies, and industry trends can make your skills obsolete and limit your career growth.

2. Not Networking

Underestimating the power of networking is a mistake made by novices and veterans alike. Many professionals either neglect to build a network from the start or stop expanding their network later in their careers, thinking it’s no longer important.

Networking is vital for cultivating new opportunities, gaining industry insights, and nurturing meaningful professional relationships that can support you throughout your career and help you navigate career challenges. Don’t wait until you’re unexpectedly unemployed to notice you haven’t invested in networking.

3. Avoiding Risk-Taking

Whether it’s the fear of leaving a “stable” job to pursue one where you’ll feel more fulfilled or you’re hesitant to consider a more challenging role, the aversion to risk and the potential for failure can stifle career growth at any stage. Early in your career, taking calculated risks can set you on an accelerated path to success. Later, it can mean revitalization and new opportunities that keep your career from stagnating.

4. Not Setting Clear Career Goals

Without clear goals, it’s easy to drift aimlessly or become complacent. Early career professionals might not set ambitious enough targets, missing out on growth opportunities. In contrast, late-career professionals might stop setting goals altogether, missing the chance to redefine their careers or pursue new interests. Setting and regularly revising career goals help maintain focus and motivation over the years.

5. Ignoring a Healthy Work-Life Blend

The pursuit of career success at the expense of personal time and health is a common pitfall. Early in your career, you might want to prove yourself by overworking, risking burnout. Later in your career, you might stop seeing the rapid growth you see early on and continue to prioritize work over personal well-being hoping it will be the thing that propels you forward.

In reality, missing out on your life and relationships outside of work are more likely to limit your late career growth than accelerate it. Maintaining a healthy relationship between work and the rest of your life is crucial for long-term career satisfaction and personal happiness.

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned expert in your career — or maybe even have an eye toward retirement — avoiding these common career mistakes can lead to a more fulfilling and successful professional life. Remember, it’s never too late (or too early) to learn, network, take risks, set goals, and find your groove between your personal and professional life.

Don’t miss Asia Bribiesca-Hedin’s course in SWE’s Advance Learning Center, “Creating Confidence When You Are the First or Only One in the Room,” where she explores what it takes to rise beyond the limitations of others, as well as the limitations we place on ourselves. *This course is free for SWE members. Register today.


  • Asia Bribiesca-Hedin

    Asia Bribiesca-Hedin, MBA, MPA, CPC, CPCC (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Bridgewell Professional Services, a leadership development and strategy execution firm in Southern California.