Stop Doing These 3 Things That Sabotage Your Career

I’ve had the opportunity to experience sitting on both sides of the interview table in the course of my career and there is one major takeaway I’ve learned from my experiences with successful interviews and interviewees; and that is that a successful interview is a bit like a wedding.  People often spend too much time stressing over the pageantry of that one (or multiple) day event and not enough time making the commitment to keep the relationship moving forward and evolving over the years that follow.

With that in mind, here are three things that I’ve encountered in myself and others that I think we’re all guilty of falling victim to, at one time or another.  If left unchecked, these three attitudes can sabotage both our own success and the success of our team, and while they might not get you fired, they certainly won’t get you ahead.

Saying, “That’s not my job.”

No one likes to hear “that’s not my job” when there’s a deadline ticking closer or the team is trying to rally around a common goal.  Getting asked to take over something that’s outside our job description isn’t always fun, but there’s usually a good reason we’re being asked to assume the extra responsibility.  Your boss might recognize something in you that you hadn’t seen in yourself or a colleague might really need an assist, and being there in their moment of need could pay huge dividends down the road via the new skills you’ll acquire or having the opportunity to shine in front of your boss, which could lead to a promotion.

But more importantly, getting into the habit of saying no can become just that – a habit… which are notoriously hard to break.  Rather than saying no to something and risk leaving a lasting impression as someone who is unhelpful, take it as an opportunity for growth and the chance to demonstrate or develop your leadership ability and, potentially, other skills.  That being said, if you find yourself becoming the defacto workhorse for the office, with everyone dumping their work on you as an easy out of their own responsibilities, you should obviously draw a line in the sand and stand up for yourself.  Just be careful not to let yourself miss out on the moments where you’ll be able to really shine, and learn a lot in the process.  The learning you can gain in these situations will stick with and benefit you for the rest of your career.

Not Seeing the Whole Picture and Where You Fit In

The truth is that working with teammates and colleagues can often be frustrating.  Why can’t those developers just make your widget flash on the screen where you want it to? Why does it take the designers 1.5 days to tweak a layout?  Why aren’t the sales guys and girls moving the contract along with the client so we can just get started? If these frustrations sound familiar, you’re not alone. We can all too easily get totally enveloped in our own perspective on things and since we (necessarily) don’t have the particular depth of domain experience that our colleagues do,  our limited understanding of what it is that “they” do all day long versus the value we see ourselves as adding, can quickly become a source of strife within a company.

Adding to the mix is that we usually aren’t in a position to see the whole picture.  Are the investors breathing down management’s neck? Is a vendor holding up a key piece of the product design? Is a prospective client looking to back out of a deal and all efforts are being made to appease them lest that big check not come in? Any number of things could be in play, and usually there are only one or two people within an organization who have a sense of what the entire playing field looks like at any given moment.

When this sort of stress hits, there are two things you can do that I’ve found to have been invaluable for me.  First, take a step back and realize that everyone is likely working just as hard as you – just on different things and in different ways.  And secondly, you can try and learn more about what it is that your colleagues do and how they do it, so that instead of getting frustrated you can begin to offer useful solutions or at least act as a helpful sounding board when they start spewing technobabble at you.

Getting Too Comfortable

Going back to our original analogy of a successful interview being like your wedding day and the work that comes after it being the marriage itself, perhaps the biggest trap I see people repeating over and over again is getting too comfortable in their positions.  How easy is it to get into a routine where you come in to work day after day, hit your goals and pack it up for the day?  Clearly this is the bare minimum we should all strive for and some days will undoubtedly be more successful that others.  But I’ve found that the difference between those who excel and grow in their careers versus those that don’t is the presence of an unquenchable, burning desire for self-improvement.

While Alec Baldwin famously told us to “Always Be Closing,” in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, I would argue that in today’s world, which is becoming more and more automated and our ability to leverage both our time and our efforts is increasing all the time, success will come to those who practice the motto of “Always Be Learning.”  By continually working to improve ourselves and increase the value we can offer to our teams and our companies, we can ensure that regardless of what happens we’ll always come out the winners, able to leverage our skills and achievements in our current position or the next.

Have you experienced anything that you feel is standing in the way of your success? Let me know in the comments and maybe I or someone reading the same will be able to help you through it!

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