How to Avoid 7 Common On-the-Job Mistakes


By       Heather Huhman, US News and World Report, June 27, 2011


Everyone makes mistakes--but some of those mistakes are more avoidable than others.  When it comes to your job, even just one mistake could result in major consequences for your career.

Impress your employer by avoiding the following mistakes:

Mistake #1: Being unavailable

It's inevitable that, at some point, your supervisor or co-workers will approach you and ask for your help on an outside project or assignment.  Although it might be tempting ignore those emails or say no to additional work, don't.  You might think that no one will notice if you don't help with extra work, but they will.  And, although it's not technically in your job description, more companies today must do more with less--meaning each employee needs to be flexible and multi-skilled.  Make yourself indispensible by pitching in on other assignments when possible.  (Of course, don't overextend yourself to the point where you can't get your normal work done.)

Mistake #2: Failing to dress to impress

Some of the best job advice I've heard is to to always dress at least one step above your current position.  It helps others picture you working above your current position and makes you look extremely professional. You're not just an intern/entry-level professional, you have the potential to be so much more--so act like it.

Mistake #3: Trying to complete every task to perfection

No one is perfect.  And while doing projects to the best of your ability is something you should strive to do, it doesn't mean you'll never make a mistake or do something incorrectly.  If you make a mistake, own up to it and correct it.  Remember to not lose sight of the overall goal by focusing too much on the little details.  You could potentially miss deadlines and quality of your work--not to mention drive your co-workers (and boss) crazy.

Mistake #4: Waiting for feedback

Many workplaces still don't give employees feedback more than a few times per year.  If you wait around for feedback for several months, you're doing yourself (and your organization) a disservice.  Instead of waiting for your supervisor to come to you, ask to set up a quick meeting to discuss your progress thus far and any improvements you could make.  Bring up specific projects you've completed and ask for feedback on things you were unsure about.  This way, you know where you stand in your position and at the company--before a formal performance review comes across your desk.

Mistake #5: Hiding out at your desk

Even if you're doing spectacular work, you could be overlooked if you sit at your desk each day and avoid interactions with co-workers and upper management. When you need a break, head over to the break room or cafeteria and interact with other workers in your office.  Not only will this help reduce stress on the job, but you'll have the potential to make some great professional relationships, too.

Mistake #6: Not asking questions

Some people think asking questions is a sign of weakness.  But when you're unsure how to complete a task, it can be hard to do it the right way the first time without clarification.  When assigned a new project, ask any questions that might come up right then and there.  You might also want to inquire about how your success will be measured and how often you should update your boss on the progress.  Your supervisor would much rather that you ask questions now in order to avoid potential problems later.

Mistake #7: Ignoring the corporate culture

When you first start on a new job, it's important to take note of cultural differences from previous workplaces.  What does everyone wear on a daily basis?  How much socialization goes on during the workday?  Do employees tend to come in early or stay late?  What is the typical mode of communication for the office?  Assimilating to the culture is a great way to fit in quickly at the organization and get along with other employees.



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