Interview with Peter Milligan - How to avoid the seven geatest career mistakes

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Interview with Peter Milligan - How to avoid the seven geatest career mistakes

Posted By admin |05 Aug 2011
Interview with Peter Milligan - How to avoid the seven geatest career mistakes

Peter Milligan spoke at an event in London in March the topic was "Career Success for Emerging Leaders". I had the opportunity to interview him this week. Blog » Peter Milligan.jpg

Peter you are an organisational psychologist and career coach, can you in the simplest way explain what you do?

Let me answer that in two parts.

Firstly, my work as an organisational psychologist is about helping individuals and teams to become more effective.  Essentially, that means achieving more with less stress, time and energy. 

It all starts with having a better understanding of yourself, other people and interpersonal dynamics. In my experience, there is a lot of "noise" (i.e. counterproductive stories/beliefs) in our heads and our organisations that soak up valuable time and energy.  I help to reduce this by helping people see, and approach, things differently.

I work a lot with emerging leaders to accelerate their journey towards greater confidence, maturity and wisdom. These qualities are essential if you are going to succeed in bigger jobs and keep progressing in your career.

Secondly, my work in career coaching helps people ensure that their direction aligns with who they really are (e.g. their talents, personality, values and what they're passionate about).

It is hard to stay excited when pursuing somebody else's dream! Helping people to be more effective is fine, but they also need to ensure that they are doing what is right for them.   It's been said that we can find ourselves climbing the ladder of success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall!  

I also draw upon my background in recruitment and outplacement (plus my own experience in changing jobs and careers) to help people position and sell themselves effectively for their next great career move.

Which are the most common career mistakes that young professionals do?
The biggest mistake made by many young professionals is not evolving into mature professionals.

Early in our career we get noticed and promoted for things like:

  • Excelling  as a functional specialist
  • Focusing upon short-term results
  • Being independent and even contentious at times
  • Working hard to prove ourselves 

As we progress, we are expected to evolve towards:

  • Becoming more of a general manager
  • Adopting a longer term, strategic mindset
  • Being more team orientated, working to build unity and cohesion
  • Feeling more relaxed and deeply confident with who we are and our ability to contribute.

A global study of 8000 leaders revealed that "high potential" people who plateau or derail in the careers make the mistake of:

  • Failing to adapt and further develop themselves; and/or
  • Failing to develop good working relationships.

These are reflected in some of the issues highlighted in my 7 Greatest Career Mistakes report. 

One of the most important areas I work on with clients is Stakeholder Relationship Management. I've yet to meet anyone who couldn't do better with this. That's why I'm going to run a master-class for a limited number of JCI London members. Paying conscious attention to this and putting it into action will make a HUGE difference to your career success.

In the seminar you said: Don't let fear become your jailer? What does that mean?
In my talk, I showed how the emotions of fear and excitement are great servants and terrible masters.  
Excitement helps us see and pursue opportunities, but if it takes over completely, we can ignore the associated dangers.

Fear on the other hand, alerts us to dangers, but if it takes over, we become "paralysed"; too afraid to do anything.   This can mean passing up great opportunities in life. This is best summed up in the Tony Robbins quote "Let fear be your counselor, not your jailer."

If anyone is really unhappy with her/his career, what do you recommend them to do? Maybe the only single reason they go to work is because it "pays the bills"...

When you are unhappy with your career, you have just 3 options:

  • Stay in the career, keep complaining and perpetuate the suffering for yourself (and all the people who have to listen to you!)
  • Stay in the career and adopt a change in attitude (which can also lead to you making some changes - big or small - over time)
  • Make a firm decision to start working towards a completely different career that will be more fulfilling. 

This may mean staying for the time being, or leaving immediately. You have to weigh up all the factors.

Ideally you need to seek out support and challenge from someone who can help you view your situation and options more objectively. In my experience, people who feel stuck and fearful lose the ability to see possibilities and options for themselves. Having the right help enables you to regain this perspective and take practical steps to move things forward.

Finally, do you have any other career advice you would like to share with our JCI UK members?

See your career as an exciting adventure! Be open to change and opportunities.  Keep learning and growing. Truly appreciate the talents and skills you have developed so far because that builds your confidence.  Most people take them for granted and only see what is missing. Most of all follow your passion.

It's hard to stay motivated following someone else's dream or expectations.  It is much easier to find the time and energy to do the things you love doing. Combining passion with deep knowledge and expertise makes you more attractive and valuable to other people.  

Remember that security doesn't exist in a job. It resides in you and keeps increasing as your passion, skills, knowledge and experience all expand.

If you would like to read more about Peter Milligan and download the report "The seven greatest career mistakes - are you making any of them?"

Visit Peter's website: