Not so many years ago, it was a safe bet that if you showed up, worked hard, and were willing to learn, you could expect a long and fruitful career. All bets are off now. Going to work, keeping your head down, and “just doing your job” guarantees that you’re backing yourself into a professional corner.
No matter what field you’re in, you must think of yourself as a business of one. And you must manage your business accordingly. If you’re making any of the mistakes below, it’s time to reframe the way you view your relationship with your work, and take different action. Don’t let these work mistakes hurt your career!
1. Tying your career to your company
If you’ve been with your employer for a long time, it may be tough to recognize where your career ends and the organization begins. Imagine that you showed up for work tomorrow only to find a grassy meadow in the spot where your office used to stand.
Would you be able to quickly and easily transport all your talents to a new environment? Or is your expertise and credibility so intimately tied to your employer that you’re in big trouble without them? If it’s the latter, it’s time to start broadening your horizons and making sure you can add value on your own.
2. Staying plugged in, even when you’re not working
It’s incredibly tempting to respond to internal and external customers at all hours of the day or night. Sometimes emergencies and deadlines necessitate this behavior, but when we do it all the time, we undermine our professionalism.
Staying plugged in non-stop sends the message that it’s acceptable practice. It shows that we don’t have healthy boundaries, that we allow our work to take precedence over everything else. We teach people that we don’t respect our own time, so they don’t have to either.
3. Being a slave to your e-mail
In addition to unplugging outside of work, it’s important to unplug during your work day. There’s nothing so critical in your inbox that it needs a response in the next hour. Instead, turn off e-mail alerts and give your full attention to that big project. Or be completely present in your team meeting. You’ll perform better if you’re focused and your colleagues will appreciate you more.
4. Writing instead of talking
Sending e-mails and text messages is easy. You get to craft your message to your satisfaction and have a permanent record of it. But it’s one of the worst ways to actually communicate.
If you care about building relationships (and you should!), step away from the keyboard and go have an authentic human interaction. Walk the 50 feet down the hall. Pick up the phone. Leave someone a voicemail. That’s how relationships are built. Your ongoing success hinges much more on your relationships than your ability to draft an e-mail.
5. Expecting your supervisor to take responsibility for your development
If you’ve got a great manager, she’s an active participant in your professional growth – and not just when it’s time for your annual review. But even if you’re one of the lucky ones whose manager is also a mentor, you must take responsibility for your own development.
Want a promotion in the next 12 months? Figure out what you need to do to make it happen. Considering a certification to enhance your credentials? Research programs and put together a proposal to pitch it to your boss and HR. Get comfortable with advocating on your own behalf. Don’t expect anyone else to do your heavy lifting.
6. Not keeping track of your accomplishments
Also in the “take personal responsibility” category is keeping track of everything you’ve accomplished. Whether it’s a portfolio of your work, hard numbers from your projects, or client testimonials, spend the time in the present to record or catalog this type of information. You’ll need it when it’s time to negotiate your next raise, pursue that new job, or land your first consulting client.
7. Passing over opportunities to be on cross-functional teams
You’re busy. Overwhelmed. There’s more work to do than hours in which to do it, and you’ve got competing priorities in your personal life. So, you pass over the chance to volunteer for an internal project or to serve on a committee. Who has time? Leaders do. They make the time.
Whether it’s inside your organization or outside in your community, seek out and select ways you can contribute, stretch, and meet new people. It’s these relationships and experiences that help expand your sphere of influence and make you more versatile.
8. Overlooking relationships
You can produce beautiful work and put out fires like no other, but if people don’t like you, or worse – they don’t know you – your career is going to stall. Having talent is essential, but we’re not exactly suffering from a talent shortage right now.
Talent is a prerequisite for getting a seat at the table, but if you want to keep that seat, you must focus on cultivating relationships. When it comes time to part ways with your employer, your ability to smoothly transition to your next opportunity hinges on two things: the value you add and your relationships. People with strong relationships fare far better in job searches, transitioning to entrepreneurship, and tackling any of life’s challenges.
About the author
Kim Eisenberg, MSW, has been helping people create rewarding career paths for the past 10+ years. She blends her expertise in corporate career services and organizational leadership to deliver business savvy, strengths-based coaching with an emphasis on transitioning fields or making the leap to entrepreneurship. Schedule a free consultation with Kim here.
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