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How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Tags:  Career advice, Difficult co-worker, Job stress


Synopsis: Sometimes we say or do the wrong things and wind up damaging our reputation and our career. Learn how not to shoot yourself in the foot.


Early on in Sharon's career her job for a small land development company required her to travel to their various locations, one of which was remote and difficult to reach even though it was in a beautiful and scenic area. Sharon would quip about trekking to no-man's land and falling off the face of the earth.


When her boss started assigning a co-worker to visits at this remote location, Sharon was crushed and felt as if she were being punished. What she soon found out was that by making wisecracks about this particular location she was sending a message to her boss: don't send me there. And so he didn't.


Do you know what kind of message you're sending to your boss? If you're unsure, here are six things you should consider to ensure you don't sabotage your career.


Overconfidence. There's nothing more irritating than someone believing that they are indispensable or irreplaceable. People who are the first to arrive or the last to leave the office or who feel they cannot take a vacation without constantly checking in with their staff are just fooling themselves. They either have an inflated belief about their value or they've done a terrible job of training their team. You don't have all the answers; you are not always right. And if that's not true, then you're not doing your job.


Lack of Confidence. Just as problematic as someone who is overconfident, is the individual who requires constant reassurance about their abilities and performance. Yes, it is important to know your shortcomings. However, once you do than it is equally important to correct them. Self promotion may seem selfish but it is a part of the package (see Twenty Ways to Gain Visibility by Becoming a Relentless Self Promoter).


Negative Thinking. Like Sharon's early experience, negativity – even in jest – can be damaging to your career. Being the naysayer, predicting that it can't be done or something won't happen establishes you as a glass-half-empty kind of person. Even if a negative thought comes to mind, bite your tongue and don't say anything. Unless, of course, it is to avert a catastrophe.


Deteriorating Skills. Things constantly change and so should you. Stay up to date on current events (see Staying Current on Current Events: Why Savvy Employees are ""In the Know""), trends, and technology. Always be willing to learn, whether that means returning to school, finding a mentor or asking for more on-the-job training.


Missing Deadlines. Responsibility and accountability are key. Results are as important as effort. You need to plan your time and projects in order to meet goals and deadlines; otherwise, any hope of career success will be short lived as you lose credibility in the eyes of your boss and team mates.


Lack of Teamwork. How many times have you been told the importance of being a team player? Probably too many to remember. One of the quickest ways to kill off a career is by trying to fly solo. Being able to work well with others is always a required skill. That means not basking in someone else's glory. Be sure to give credit where credit is due.

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