Habits That Many People Think Can Make Them Excel At Work But Actually Cannot

1. Speaking up at your new job early on.

New jobs can be scary, and too many employers don’t have formal onboarding programs to properly guide new hires. While you’re finding your footing, try not to be too eager too soon, and get labeled the “office whiner.” Your boss isn’t there to take care of you so find alternative ways to help you become successful in your new role. I’m not suggesting that you don’t ask questions or follow up; I’m saying find a balance between trying to go at it alone and driving your new supervisor crazy.

8785432136_35d051e959_h-1024x701Navigating a new work landscape is like searching for those designer boots you saw at Macy’s. You browse every online shopping site to find the best price. Similarly, there are so many different ways to find the tools you need to impress your boss without flooding his inbox or knocking on his door in between conference calls. Maybe it’s the person you’re replacing, a trusted colleague, or a mentor who knows your field better than you do. Whatever it is, plan out the right approach, and you’d be amazed at how happy people will be to lend a hand.

2. Waiting for your boss to notice you.

Avoid buying into the traditional mindset – the one that consistently reminds us that the 200-year-old word “employee” means a person who is subservient to his or her master, the employer. Today, employees are considered business partners. Your boss is busy, and the more ways you can make your boss’s life easier, the better chance you have of getting noticed.

Be proactive because you owe it to your career to make the relationship work. If your boss doesn’t reach out much, don’t follow his or her lead. Make it a point to check-in regularly. Ask how your boss prefers to be contacted—in person, via phone, by email—and how often. Make sure you understand your goals and give progress reports. Volunteer your time outside of the 9-5 minimum in order to see projects through – you will thank you for it.

3. Counting on your supervisor to hold you accountable.

Unlike responsibility (the “before”) and self-empowerment (the “during”), personal accountability is (the “after”). It’s a willingness to answer for the outcomes of your choices, actions, and behaviors. When you’re personally accountable, you stop assigning blame, “should-ing” on people, and making excuses. Instead, you take the fall and learn from the mistake when your choices cause problems. It takes courage to be personally accountable and requires you to be honest with yourself, police yourself, and look at your own actions before pointing fingers at others.

As a career coach, I preach to my clients that professionals should treat themselves as independent contractors, meaning it’s up to them to enhance their background. I’ve watched people’s careers skyrocket based on principle and theory alone. So here’s some for you: it’s time to come to terms with the fact that a job isn’t just a job – it enhances your career and adds intellectual property to your metaphorical “toolbox.” Step out of your comfort zone, get new experiences under your belt, and seize every learning opportunity because at the end of the day, it all benefits YOU.

4. Putting all your energy into current hard skills.

People focus too much on technical job skills required now and ignore opportunities to learn about emerging software programs or other forms of field training and development. The average person shifts his or her mindset from a “learner” to a “knower” and misses out on serious job enhancement prospects.

And don’t forget about soft skills – the number one reason people are let go from their jobs. Whether it’s time management or improving your ability to read a person’s body language, your brain has an endless capacity to adopt new behaviors that support a long-term prosperous career. It’s also important to get into the office politics game. Pursue key relationships with team members, clients, and partners your boss respects. Ask your boss, “What is it critical for me to know and who is it critical that I get to know?” And then invite thought leaders to coffee or lunch and pick their brains. Don’t just focus “vertically” on managers above you—also create “horizontal” alliances with colleagues. You want to have support at all levels.

5. Assuming that doing your job ensures security.

Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you’re safe from termination. Too many people get complacent and lose motivation to be proactive about potential problems. They’ll blame leadership because it’s easier than mapping out all the possible issues involved in a project. These people will take notes at the meetings, then walk away with an “I’ll figure it out later” attitude.

There’s a simple antidote: ask questions. Many professionals are afraid of asking too many questions in fear of looking stupid. But the most direct route to self-empowerment is to be clear about expectations—not only what you expect, but also what’s expected of you. To do that, you need to ask questions, make agreements, and clarify everything in writing. Repeat what’s expected of you back to your supervisor as often as possible to be sure you’re both on the same page. Otherwise, you risk suffering the source of all upset: missed expectations.

6. It’s better if you’re not to blame or don’t make a mistake.

Clearly James Dyson didn’t prescribe to the habit of blaming others…or wavering on his tenacious dream. How many design prototypes of that vacuum did he try? That’s right, it was 5,127. Most people stay in the safe zone and wonder why they never make it to the end zone. It’s easy to claim responsibility when things go well, but it’s hard when they don’t. A truly responsible person, however, accepts responsibility either way. So next time you take on a project, be 100% responsible for the outcome. Not a little. Not somewhat. Not pretty much. Own it 100%—good or bad—with no wiggle room. When you make a mistake, own it, but also take the time to figure out what you learned from it.

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