You show up to the office on time, you’ve never missed a project deadline, and you always refill the coffee pot when you’re done.
What could you possibly be doing wrong?
Maybe nothing. After all, we don’t want to make you paranoid. But, just for peace of mind, check out this list to see if you’re unwittingly doing anything that could be derailing your full career potential. We spoke with career experts to find out the five biggest mistakes that employees make, as well as suggestions on how to fix them.
1. Handling Upsets Poorly
If you’re an overly motivated worker, dealing with setbacks at the office—like losing an important account or having your (surely awesome) ideas passed over in an important meeting—can be daunting. “Most ambitious, well-educated folks are very hard on themselves; they’re overly perfectionistic,” says Glo Harris, an executive coach and organizational consultant. “So, when they feel they have made a mistake, or ‘failed’ in their self opinion, it’s both disheartening and paralyzing.”
Disappointments at work can stop you from asking crucial questions or taking on responsibilities that could potentially move you ahead in your job. It’s unrealistic to believe you’ll never make mistakes in a long career, though, and the ability to recover quickly is what can set you apart from the pack.
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What to do instead: Change your mind-set, suggests Harris. “Tell yourself that taking the risk, whatever the outcome, is success enough,” she says. Instead of being scared to put yourself out there at work for fear of failure, set an objective to attempt at least one undertaking a month that is outside your comfort zone.
For example, suggesting a new avenue of advertising for your company could turn out to be a flop, or offering to take the lead on pitching a new client might go awry if the client just won’t budge. But, over time, you’ll learn how to move on from your mistakes, whether that means asking for feedback on a presentation or planning for a better one next time.
2. Failing to Self-Promote
In most work environments, it’s up to you to toot your own horn from time to time when it comes to a job well done. This is especially important when you’ve completed a task worthy of praise and your bosses don’t even seem to notice. “Sometimes [a lack of self-praise] is explained by an employee’s belief that self-promotion is somehow unprofessional,” says Todd Dewett, a leadership development coach and author of “The Little Black Book of Leadership.” “Other times it’s because a person has wrongly assumed the boss or others are aware of their good work.”
What to do instead: Unless your boss comes out and tells you you’ve done a good job, don’t just assume that she’s taken notice. “Most workplaces are highly competitive,” says Dewett. “The more you rise in the ranks, the more intelligence and experience becomes similar across people.” In other words, leaving your hard work unmentioned allows other similarly qualified coworkers to swoop in and reap the benefits of a boss who’s forced to take notice.
The next time you ask to take on a particularly demanding task at work, assure your boss that you are up to the job by reminding her of past performances that went off without a hitch. Dewett suggests saying something like, “Jan, let me throw my hat in the ring for the Acme account. I’m wrapping the Johnson account about that time, and those two have a very similar industry focus. I’d love to make another win with Acme if the team needs me.” Keep your self-promotion targeted and low-key to make it the most effective.