by Erin Burt, Contributing Editor, Kiplinger.com
1. Procrastinating. Remember the first time you put off studying for a test then crammed at the last minute and still got a decent grade?
Many of us have been procrastinating since grade school and have done just fine, but that’s a habit you have to break. “There’s no grade inflation in the workplace,” says Marty Nemko, a job coach in Oakland, Cal., and columnist for Kiplinger.com.. If you pull together a report or presentation at the last minute, your shoddy preparation is going to show. ‘
2. Having a sense of entitlement. Our generation was raised on instant gratification — we’re used to getting what we want, and getting it now. Yet when it comes to our careers, no matter how hard we work, we cannot get five years’ worth of experience in one year. Younger employees tend to feel entitled to quick promotions, says Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers and associate professor of marketing at Stetson University in Deland, Fla. Falling into that trap can hinder a climb up the career ladder.
3. Settling into your job description. You may have your set responsibilities, but you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to shine. Going above and beyond your mundane entry-level tasks can demonstrate your untapped talents and show your boss you’re not afraid to take initiative. Settle into your job description for too long and your reputation may be cast as a low-level lackey.
4. Avoiding office politics. When it comes to playing office politics, there is naughty and nice. Naturally, you shouldn’t engage in backstabbing and gossiping. But avoiding politics altogether can be deadly for your career. Like it or not, every workplace has an intricate system of power, and you can — and should — work it ethically to your best advantage. To get a promotion, avoid downsizing or get a project approved, you need co-worker support. Get that backing by building relationships, asking others for advice, offering your help and showing sincere interest in others, advises Nemko. (Learn more about how to make yourself fire-resistant in the workplace.)
5. Not being a team player. Getting stuck with this label is one of the fastest career killers, says Hansen. But young workers face a delicate balance. “You can’t be so much a member of the team that your individual efforts are not recognized and rewarded,” Hansen says. You still need to demonstrate your skills and abilities to successfully build your career without giving the appearance that you’re interested only in looking out for yourself.
6. Not dressing the part. In an ideal world, you would be judged by your merits alone. However, we live in a visual society. How you present yourself can play a crucial role in the progress of your career. You want to look professional and in control, not sloppy and indifferent. Keep your hair and nails trimmed, your clothes ironed and your breath smelling nice.
7. Failing to network. You’ve heard that networking can be a good tool to help you find a job, but maintaining your contacts after you’re hired is critical to the continuing success of your career. Keeping in touch helps you stay atop the latest issues in your field and gives you people to call on when you need advice. And a contact just may help you land your next job.