So you got your dream job? Congrats! Now don’t screw it up! ;) So many times, I’ve seen people’s career prospects go down the drain thanks to seemingly irrelevant things. You probably will say these aren’t ‘fair’ and that they shouldn’t impact your progress. I know! I get it! But it happens whether we like it or not – we only get to choose how we respond. So here are what I see as the top faux-pas that will send your personal stock value tumbling.
“I’d like to cancel my magazine subscription, please”
Until you have your own office (one can dream, right?), save the personal errands for home, or at least hide out in a conference room where people can’t hear you! Tackling your own admin stuff at work is a real no-no. For one, it says that you’re not busy and people may think you don’t have enough to do. Not true? Well then they’ll see you as not prioritizing work. Yes, it may be your lunch ‘break’, but your colleagues may not know that. They might just see it as you doing personal stuff at work. This also means not browsing for the cheapest flights for your upcoming trip to Costa Rica, checking eBay to see if your bid for the Homeland series won, or monitoring football scores via TSN. If what I said wasn’t enough reason already, big corporations also monitor your internet usage… so at most, use it in moderation (and when no one is watching!).
“Sure, I’ll do that as soon as I’m back from my lunch break”
At most companies, taking scheduled ‘breaks’, including your one hour lunch (even if it’s in your contract) is like wearing overalls, or white wash denim, or Crocs. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Now not every company will have this unwritten rule, so most important is to watch what others do (not other interns or entry-level staff, but managers and your boss).
No, I didn’t RSVP for that talk…”
At bigger companies, there are a lot of opportunities to hear senior managers speak – results presentations, updates on performance, networking events. So go, provided the events related to serious topics (that sounds obvious but… I once attended a work event that turned out to be on raw food diets – super interesting it turns out). Go a few minutes early, bring a notebook and business cards, take notes, and ask a *good* question every once and a while. It shows you’re engaged and invested in the companies’ success. It’s also obviously a great way to meet people you might not otherwise come across.
“What did I do on the weekend? Oh, I was out at that new bar around the corner and then went to a few parties.”
You might think that weekend chit chat doesn’t matter, especially if it’s with junior employees, but be careful about what kind of ‘brand’ you’re creating. Do you want to be the guy who’s always partying, hung over, going out with different girls? Sure, maybe you’re only telling friends who aren’t senior managers, but say a role comes up with a lot of responsibility for important, conservative, older clients. Someone’s assistant might mention to their boss that they don’t think you quite fit the profile*. And that’s all it takes to lose a job opportunity that you never even realized was on the cards.
Outside of his very serious, investment brokerage job, my brother in law used to co-organize an annual slip-and-slide party (this was a serious slip-and-slide if you’ve ever seen one). After an injury that must have been hard to explain the next day at work(!), the event is now under new management… A smart move for someone who is trusted to manage people’s life savings!
* Side note: Be very careful about what you tell assistants. With some, you might as well be telling their boss. They might think they’re doing you a favor even by passing on a concern you have, for example, so think twice about what you share unless you’re totally confident it won’t go further.
One final topic deserving of a post of its own is clothing. Click here for ‘Dress Code Decoded’.
Fess up! Have you made any of these mistakes? What else have you seen that gets people into trouble? Add your story in the comments below and I’ll give you my take on it.