Three Major Career Mistakes: Learn from a Senior Job Applicant’s Errors to Protect Your Own Career Path

Three Major Career Mistakes: Learn from a Senior Job Applicant’s Errors to Protect Your Own Career Path

This is what got my attention today: very unusual people apply to our Invention Harvesting job post, here

This is the outline of our job posting:

We are seeking a highly motivated and detail-oriented individual to join our team as an invention harvester trainee. This role is ideal for someone with a passion for technology and innovation, looking to develop a career in intellectual property and invention management. As an invention harvester trainee, you will receive comprehensive training to equip you with the skills necessary to identify, document, and assist in the protection of innovative ideas and inventions.

And we keep receiving job applications that surprise me very much. The applicants are ex-government persons.

I have compiled a mock CV below from a number of unusual CVs that we have received. I have done this to protect the real persons behind the present story. The purpose of this article is not to create heat but to create insight into the subject matter at hand. The mock candidate, Mr. Z, holds a B.Sc. degree from Q-country and an M.Sc. degree from Y-country and has excelled in all roles that he has held in his life. At a young age, he even received a scholarship from X-country to study overseas in Y-country:

Work Experience:

  1. Associate Director at ElectraTech Innovations Ltd, X-country (Feb 2020 – Jul 2023):
    • Led IP matters in the Electronics Division.
    • Managed patents related to semiconductor technologies.
    • Handled trademark portfolios and patent challenges.
  2. Assistant Director at Health-Tech Solutions Corp, X-country (Feb 2017 – Mar 2020):
    • Oversaw IP for electronic devices and systems.
    • Managed a large portfolio of patent applications.
  3. Senior Manager at Health-Tech Solutions Corp, X-country (Jul 2007 – Jan 2017):
    • Commercialized a broad range of electronics patents.
    • Conducted IP awareness seminars.
  4. Part-Time Lecturer at Zeta Polytechnic, X-country (Feb 2006 – Jul 2010):
    • Taught electronics and mentored engineering students.
  5. Developer at InnoTech Ventures, X-country (Aug 2005 – Jun 2007 / Feb 2003 – Jul 2005):
    • R&D engineer in electronic and semiconductor technologies.


  • Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of R, Y-country (2002).
  • Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering from University of W, Q-country (1997).
  • Associate’s Diploma in Intellectual Property Law from University of V, X-country (2004).


  • Zeta Technology Scholarship Y-country (2002).
  • National Electronics Foundation Scholarship, X-country (2002).
  • Advanced Research Scholarship in Electronics, X-country (1997).


  • Specialized in electronic device development, IP management in electronics, patent landscaping for semiconductor technologies, and commercialization of electronic innovations.

On a plain view, are you not impressed by this CV? I was deeply impressed.

The CV portrays a professional with extensive experience in IP management, patent handling, and legal aspects in the electronics sectors, complemented by a solid educational background and various scholarships. Mr. Z has a strong track record in both academic and corporate environments, demonstrating a blend of technical expertise and leadership skills.

What the Company Needs

The next step was to check whether this applicant meets our needs.

Please remember this important point: our clients are mostly in the business sector, and our clients are NOT non-profit organizations or government agencies. This means they focus on making money. They keep track of their profits and losses and depend on sales to stay afloat. Nowadays, finding investors is very difficult because interest rates are high. It is almost as rare as finding a unicorn or seeing a Blue Moon. So, these companies usually rely on their founders’ money, expensive bank loans, on earlier accumulated profits, and – of course – on sales to succeed.

From that statement follow a lot of consequences, and I will explain what that means. If you apply for a new job, ask yourself the same questions.


This is what We Are Looking For

First, do this exercise yourself: read our job offer (click here). With that job offer in mind, decide in which quadrant of my 4×4 Job Diagram below falls this job:

You find several recorded talks about my 4×4 Job diagram on my blog, either under “Personality Building” or under “Public Talks“.

The result is that we are looking for someone to fill a job in the lower right quadrant, and better with a “Level 4” behaviour than with a “Level 3” behaviour. What we do NOT need is another manager. Manager roles are located in the upper right quadrant. And Mr. Z was a manager for the past 7 years. Would you expect a manager to go back to a full operative role and deliver “Class A” performance in this role? That is unlikely.


Sort Out Who Is Probably Useless for Your Job

That heading may sound harsh but it is the truth. You don’t want useless people. And “useless” includes the idea of “not being Class A” in our firm. I have many discussions about “Class A or Not” on my blog. These are in the sections “Personality Building” or “Public Talks.”

To summarize the concept of “Class A or Not,” it is best to refer to the following image:


This picture shows three cartoon characters, labeled “A,” “B,” and “C,” in a desert setting with cacti and a wooden structure, making it look like the Wild West.

Character A is on the left. He is pulling a draw-bar attached to a wooden cart with wheels. A is not struggling with the weight of the cart and its contents. He is smiling and seems to be enjoying himself, even though he is sweating. A is clean-shaven.

Character B is in the middle. He is walking next to the draw-bar, holding a piece of rope that extends between A and the cart with one hand. He is carrying a briefcase on his back. He is moving forward easily, and he looks well-groomed.

Character C is on the right, sitting on the cart filled with items. C is holding a newspaper and wearing a bathrobe. He has not shaved.

The image humorously shows different approaches to efficiency and technology. Character A is actively working in the business, while B just walks along, only carrying a briefcase. C is not helping at all. He is just taking advantage of A’s efforts and B’s lack of complaints. This contrast shows how C manages to live comfortably with little effort. What the picture does not show is how frustrated A is, because of C not contributing at all and because of B not delivering full support all the time.


How To Spot These Characters

Class C people are easy to spot. But it is harder to identify Class B people. This is because they have often learned to seem like Class A people, even though they are not.

You should always try to find Class A people. There are many ways to recognize them. Sometimes, Class A people have mentally given up on their current job. They are looking for a new chance while they continue to work in the job they no longer care about.

And even if they are happy with their current job, Class A people are also always open for new opportunities.

The Class A candidates are the people that we are looking for. Ideally, someone who applies with us is in ongoing employment. Or they have just recently resigned, and for those candidates that just have resigned, the clock is ticking from my perspective. Class A people easily find a new job, that is why they can immediately resign when they realize that they have enough. That is the reason why my firm’s recruitment process is streamlined. We make sure that the final HR interview of three HR interviews is held within only 3 weeks after receiving a new job application.


Class A in Government Organisations and NGOs vs. Class A in a Private Company

When choosing job candidates for companies with a P&L sheet, one important factor is to avoid people who have spent a significant part of their careers in leading roles at government agencies or NGOs. These roles usually fall in the upper right area of my 4×4 Job diagram.

People who thrive in government agencies or NGOs work under conditions very different from those in a commercial company. I do not believe that adults can quickly and easily shift their mindset from the style needed in government agencies or NGOs to that needed in a “company of today.”

I found a Facebook post by Joe Tan (click here) that explains this in closer detail:

Transiting from Public to the Private Sector.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to speak to several civil servants (both uniformed and non-uniformed) looking to transit into the private sector.

They asked me what’s the difference in leadership and working style when dealing with private sector teams.
In my limited experience, I share with them the following:

1) It’s All About the Bottomline.

In civil service, bottlomline is delivering public service whilst being funded by taxpayers’ money. In the private sector, bottomline is profit, generated from work on the ground. So job security and progress are fed by actions that can generate revenue. It doesn’t matter how nice or principled you are as a person. If you don’t generate outcomes that bring profits, your time will naturally be up. Which brings me to my next point.

2) Nice Guy Finishes Last.

Care for employee is not about protecting them or helping them find excuses to stay employed. Care for employees in the private sector is about driving the team together on a common mission to deliver outcomes so as to keep everyone’s livelihoods in tact. So I’m sorry to burst your civil service bubble my friends. When you leave public service, jettison your leave no man/woman behind mentality please. Because, unlike public sector when everyone still gets paid every month whether or not your man/woman is helping to deliver outcomes, private sector doesn’t. So in order to help others, you must then help him/her by letting him/her go. It’s nothing personal, but purely professional.

3) Cut the Meetings Please.

One thing habitual of civil servants, hold meetings. Meetings till the death. And then even in your grave, you get dug up to meet again, and the process just repeats itself again, and again and again. In the private sector, decisions are key, so the more meetings you hold, means the more time you waste in staying current and above the game. In private sectors, meetings are short, sharp with the aim of making decisions, so stay focus and recalibrate your expectations and make each meeting count.

And oh, please, don’t think that just because you hold regular meetings or have leadership retreats means you are a competent leader/steward. In the private sector, it’s about getting things done, not always asking people to come together often to share your vision or talk about how you want things to get done.

Stay focused, keep it short, and sharp.

If you cant minimally do the above,

I suggest you stay in the public sector, for life.

My 2 cents worth!

Hope this gives an alternate perspective to my public sector friends out there!”

If you are interested in learning about how governments or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work, I recommend these two books:

  • “Bureaucracy” (Ludwig v. Mises, 1944, free download here:
  • “Parkinson’s Law and other Studies in Administration” (C. Northcote Parkinson, Raffles Professor of History, University of Malaya, 1957, click here)

These books are essential if you plan to work in a government-related organization. I have written a book review about them (click here). The principles in these books will guide your career and once you work in a government job, switching to a non-government job is almost impossible.

Simply put, if you are doing well and are happy in a government or NGO job, you should stay in that sector.

Moving people from government or NGOs to regular companies is not good for the company’s success. People think in government agencies or NGOs differently from how they think in a regular business. For more details, see my “Entrepreneur Assessment” book project (click here). In short, what works well in government organizations and NGOs does not always work well in private companies.

Therefore, if someone has had a leading role in a government-related organization, they should not be the first choice for a job in a profit-driven company.


Example: Mr. Z from X-Land

Let’s come back to our Mr. Z from above.

I do my analysis in a three-step approach, and I illustrate this with the mock example above, Mr. Z from X-Land. When doing so, it came out the CV above was shortened and also did not perfectly match Mr. Z’s real data.

Step 1: Analysis of Each Employer and Role

  1. ElectraTech Innovations Ltd, X-Country (Feb 2020 – Jul 2023)
    • Nature of Employer: With a significant government-owned investment company as a major shareholder, ElectraTech Innovations Ltd is considered indirectly government-affiliated.
    • Role Analysis: As Associate Director, the role entailed significant decision-making and strategic management in intellectual property matters within the electronics industry.
  2. X-Country HealthTech Solutions Ltd (Feb 2017 – Mar 2020; May 2007 – Dec 2016)
    • Nature of Employer: A government-linked company in X-country’s public healthcare technology sector.
    • Role Analysis: In both roles (Assistant Director and Senior Manager), the individual was involved in decision-making, strategic management, and leadership in intellectual property and technology commercialization.
  3. X-Country Polytechnic (Feb 2006 – Jul 2010)
    • Nature of Employer: A public educational institution in X-country, a government organization.
    • Role Analysis: Part-Time Lecturer role focusing on intellectual property education in the electronics field.
  4. InnoTech X-Country Ltd (Aug 2005 – May 2007; Jan 2003 – Aug 2005)
    • Nature of Employer: Part of a government statutory board in X-country focusing on technology and research.
    • Role Analysis: Management roles involving decision-making and strategic planning in patent portfolios and technology licensing.
  5. X-Country Institute of Electronic Research (Mar 1999 – Sep 2001)
    • Nature of Employer: A research institute under a government organization in X-country.
    • Role Analysis: Research-focused role with less emphasis on decision-making or strategic management.
  6. X-Country General Technology Hospital (Oct 1997 – Mar 1999)
    • Nature of Employer: A public, government-operated technology hospital in X-country.
    • Role Analysis: The role involved research activities in the electronics field.
  7. TechAnalytic Labs Ltd (Jan 1993 – Mar 1994)
    • Nature of Employer: Appears to be a private company, not government-affiliated.
    • Role Analysis: Technical role focused on analysis in the electronics sector.

Step 2: CV Summary and Gap Analysis

  • Timeline Summary:
    • Career progression from technical roles to strategic and managerial positions, primarily in the electronics sector, with a focus on intellectual property and technology commercialization.
    • Most of the career spent in environments with government affiliation or influence, especially in X-country’s public healthcare technology and research sectors.
  • Gaps in CV:
    • No apparent employment gaps as per the provided information.

Step 3: Job Switches

  • In the Past 10 Years (2015-2025):
    • 1 switch: From X-Country HealthTech Solutions Ltd to ElectraTech Innovations Ltd (2020).
  • In the Past 5 Years (2020-2025):
    • No job switches; the individual has been with ElectraTech Innovations Ltd since 2020.

Summary of Mr. Z’s CV

Mr. Z’s career has mostly been in the government sector or in organizations linked to the government. He focuses on public sector interests and strategies in electronics. He has always held decision-making roles, led teams, and used his knowledge strategically. This experience shows he is good at handling complex situations influenced by government bodies.

Mr. Z is probably unsuitable for a job in the lower right quadrant of my 4×4 Job diagram. He would likely try to change our company culture to resemble that of a government organization, which has many disadvantages when doing business where Profit & Loss counts. This would be his second attempt at such a change, as he tried this previously with ElectraTech Innovations Ltd. This company went bankrupt in June 2023, six months before he applied to our client. Mr. Z’s CV says he was “… responsible for significant decisions and strategic management in intellectual property within the electronics industry”. Letting him be part of the management of our company may result in the same fate for us.

I also think Mr. Z would quickly become frustrated working in our business environment. This is due to our inherent lack of structure and our open company culture, without any politics. He might even negatively affect our work environment. He would not resign, knowing it would be hard to find another job, as he experienced in the second half of 2023 after his company went bankrupt. Mr. Z could be very detrimental to our business, and his favorite saying would be: “I told you from the beginning that this will not work.”

Mr. Z is also not formally qualified as a patent attorney or a lawyer, so he cannot even offer valuable freelance services to us. We have a job post for this kind of person (click here).

Taken all together, this is why Mr. Z cannot work for us.



You have seen how I use the 4×4 Job diagram and the ABC Job strategy. Use these methods for yourself and others.

About Mr. Z, he has made three big mistakes in his career:

Mistake 1: He did not get a permanent job in the government. This kind of job in a government organization gives a lot of job security. Once someone has a permanent position, it is hard for them to be fired without a good reason and a proper process.

Mistake 2: He left a stable job at HealthTech Solutions Ltd for a risky job at a government-backed startup, ElectraTech Innovations Ltd. He did not have the option to go back to his old job if the startup failed. Now, in his late 40s, it will be hard for Mr. Z to find a new job in his previous field.

Mistake 3: He did not become a lawyer or patent attorney, even though he works in Intellectual Property.

Do not make the same mistakes as Mr. Z. Be cautious. If you work for the government, make sure you can get a permanent position. If there is no chance of getting a permanent position, be ready to start your own business right after you leave your government job.


Martin “Class A” Schweiger




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