Career Killers You Might Not Know Are Killing You
Posted by Becky Lake on March 15, 2012 at 1:58 PM
The first few years you start your career, it’s hard to know if you’re always doing the right thing or how you stack up with the rest of the workforce. And with the economy the way it is, we all need to stand out as much as possible – for the right reasons of course. We all do stupid things from time to time, but are you committing “career killers” you just don’t know about? Here are some mistakes smart people might actually make, not horror stories about idiots who b*tch about their bosses on Facebook and get themselves conveniently fired in the comments below their own posts.
I was once in someone’s office and came across a list lying out in the open on his desk. It contained candidates’ names and phone numbers, with comments next to each. To wit:
older job was in present tense versus past tense
cover letter weak
cover letter wordy
not much experience but nice cover letter
researched the company
generic cover letter
It seemed clear that the list had been prepared by a junior-level employee to help a more senior-level employee weed out applicants. While most of this list deals with grammatical dealbreakers and cover letters, “seems juvenile” is a subjective issue…one of judgement.
I also noted that “seems juvenile” was, I’m pretty sure, written by a person in his or her early- to mid-twenties. Did the applicant sound like a like a sullen, whiny teenager, or was the applicant perhaps trying to be personable by, like, you know, chatting and stuff with the person they spoke to on the phone since, you know, we’re like, girls and stuff? So, don’t do that. The person you’re talking to might be a 23-year-old woman just like you, but her reputation rests on who she recommends in the hiring process. Even for an entry-level position, she’s very possibly looking for miniature replicas of the boss rather than replicas of herself.
Lack of Confidence
Not going into an interview assertively is a big no-no. In some offices, everyone works in one large layout. Or there are windows for people to see you walk in. Don’t just walk in the door and then stand there like an idiot. No one will be impressed when you stand around for 15 minutes hoping someone will come talk to you. It indicates you are a child (see career killer “seeming juvenile”) or don’t know how to talk to people at all. Simply say, “I am here to see [person’s name].” Just be bold. No one’s going to bite.
Dressing Like a College Student
I can see a (mistaken) college student or recent grad sort of thinking, “Well, they know I’m in college, so I should just be myself….”
If you’re young and somehow feel silly or fake or stuffy in real interview clothes, wear the clothes out to a few errands and dinners before you go on an interview and notice how nice everyone treats you (and/or whether your hair and shoes and such need to also be updated to go with the interview clothes).
Many young women assume that as long as what they’re wearing isn’t sexy, it must be okay for work. After all, nothing’s showing!
That’s the standard your dad uses to let you out of the house, not the standard for going to work. People over a certain age think you look insane when you wear colored tights that are cut off at the ankles by enormous clomping wedge booties.
“Modesty” is a necessary but not sufficient condition for appropriate officewear. Keeping up with the latest trends is great in your free time…just stick with the classics at the office.
Being Too Blunt
As a young person, it’s easy to assume that the way office environments worked is that, surely, all the people under the boss would band together and say how freaking stupid all the stupid people are.
This is not the case. Instead of, “Your idea is stupid,” you can’t even say, “That idea will never work.” In WASP office culture, you have to say something like, “I think we might need to question our shared assumptions.”
Sometimes, being straightforward can be a strength. But if you are catching some looks from your co-workers, your barometer for “straightforward” is way off. What you think of as “toning it down” is probably still too blunt for anywhere where neckties are worn. Read the social cues.
Oh My God, There Are So Many Other Things to Avoid
From Human Resource employees from around the country, who have interviewed so many hundreds of people that at various points, people have definitely thrown up during their interviews, crocheted, and arrived dressed as ninjas, here are some dumb interview mistakes smart people make:
Lack of eye contact
Blabbering on about family and personal stories
Playing victim in regards to what happened in their last job
Weak handshake or greeting
Getting on a religious or lifestyle soapbox
Relying on tokenism
Picking your hair, eyes, ears, teeth or nose (eww!)
Placing your hands anywhere near your groin
Self-destructive behaviors such as shame over family members, harping on financial failures, etc.
Not asking any questions, or too passive
Lack of knowledge of company
Any form of hysterics
Answering calls, or having your cellphone ON during an interview. (Turn it off. Seriously, you won’t die.)
Serious dark circles under the eye, or a presentation of exhaustion.
Forgetting people’s names right after you have been introduced (If you do, rely on “Sir”, “Ma’am,” or ask again).
Holes in your clothes
Shouting, yodeling, singing, or humming (inside voice please).
Applying for positions well above your qualifications
Ask for a restroom before the interview starts or excuse yourself, please. Squirming is distracting.
Very unorganized purse or man bag.
Your purse is sloppy and you show a presentation of exhaustion! Also, sitting all ladylike with your hands in your lap? TOO CLOSE TO YOUR GROIN. Who knew?
Hopefully something in this article served as a wakeup to avoid some silly little behavior that could cost you a job. If you are aiming for corporate success, don’t do it half-assed. Conform, in exchange for money. Don’t press your individuality in areas where it doesn’t matter (like footwear). You can only play maverick so much before it starts to become a problem, so play maverick on things that matter – ideas, projects.
Have you seen any other “career killers” out there?