“O, how full of briers is this working-day world!” is the famous Shakespearian quote from ‘As You Like It’. External pressures, thorns, obstacles and difficulties aside, how many of us are responsible for unwittingly hampering our chances of career success through our own misplaced and misguided attitudes and behaviours. Below are ten common faux-pas that can ruin a career and should be avoided at all costs.
1. Poor Time Management
Missing deadlines, failing to abide by agreed timelines, arriving to meetings late and generally disrespecting approved schedules is a surefire way to lose credibility and professional respect. Try to value each and every minute on the job and recognize the inefficiencies that arise from procrastination and slovenly time management and the impact these have on the organisation as a whole.
2. Failure to Deliver on Promises
A promise made should be a promise kept if your professional credibility is to remain intact. Avoid making promises you cannot deliver on. Unless you are known as someone who can be strictly depended on to follow through and deliver on time you are likely to be passed over for promotions and key assignments. When you do need more time or resources for an assignment communicate the requirement formally and professionally and manage the situation to show you are in control and will not be sacrificing on quality of delivery.
3. Poor Accountability
Accountability, a close reactive of honesty is an essential character trait in today’s workplace. Avoid becoming known as the sour apple who usurps all credit and circumvents all blame. If you have made an error, admitting to it in a timely manner avoids an unnecessary escalation, earns you the confidence and respect of those around you, and indicates professionalism, honesty and maturity.
4. Poor interpersonal skills
All research indicates that emotional intelligence and people skills are an essential ingredients for success in life and at work. Whether it is suppliers, clients, superiors, colleagues or subordinates you are dealing with the quality and success of that relationship will be largely predicated by how personable you are and how pleasant you are to interact with. If you have a reputation as someone who is difficult to work or interact with chances are people will start to avoid you and your success at mobilizing people or resources to further your goals will be severely diminished.
5. Poor team skills
A good team-player is able to work cohesively within a team framework and contribute, collaborate, communicate and challenge to meet specific goals within that framework. Inability to see beyond one’s self, work well with everyone, find the good qualities of others in the team, communicate persuasively and effectively, listen actively and attentively, give and welcome input, offer encouragement and assistance where needed and show respect, patience and courtesy inevitably leads to marginalisation and failure to meet personal and professional goals.
6. Lack of ethics or professionalism
Conducting personal business on the job and any other activities that show flagrant disrespect for company time, resources and property are both unethical and unprofessional. Chatting endlessly on the job, office gossip, wasting office supplies, laying about important work-related matters, back-biting the boss, spreading office secrets, routinely bringing personal matters to the workplace all fall under this category.
7. Lack of initiative
Complacency is a surefire road to professional mediocrity. To succeed it is essential that you continue to show enthusiasm, stretch the limits, be proactive and test the boundaries in the interest of innovation. Take responsibility for your personal and professional growth and continue to build momentum in your training and profession development activities. If you chose to simply lie low and casually bide your time while others race ahead in their careers you will most probably be overlooked for promotions and plum assignments and your skills may well eventually become redundant.
8. Inability to Handle Pressure
Every job entails a certain amount of stress and pressure and failure to recognize and handle the strain may lead to a pronounced and sustained decline in performance. Learn to recognize stress and cope with it professionally and effectively. Take breaks and holidays when needed, learn to manage stress and cope with pressure so that it is not an ongoing problem for you. It may be that the pressures mounting on you are due to poor time management or delegation skills or weakness in a certain area in which case developing your skills in these areas is highly advisable.
9. Lone Ranger Syndrome
Team skills are essential in today’s marketplace as is getting along with others and communicating your accomplishments regularly and professionally. Do not try to isolate yourself and excel quietly in private as chances are your performance will not get the exposure and credit it deserves. Personal marketing and effective relationship management are key to career success. Aim to regularly and professionally communicate your private coups to your manager and others in a position to help your career advancement and do not assume your great work and personal victories will automatically get noticed and given the credit they deserve.
You may well be in your comfort zone and doing very well there but if you don’t challenge yourself in pursuit of further growth and development and continuously move forward and upward you may lose your equilibrium sooner than you expected. Have a vision in mind as pertains to your career and formulate a clear strategy and timeline for getting there which you can regularly benchmark and measure yourself against. Continuous learning, development and self-improvement is a necessity not a luxury for today’s ambitious professional and it is imperative that you keep abreast of the latest trends, tools and technologies in your field and not risk losing ground to the star performers who take personal growth more seriously.