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Even the best employees are susceptible to common career mistakes. Walt Disney was fired early in his career for not producing creative content at the Kansas City Star newspaper. JK Rowling was constantly distracted in her position at Amnesty International because she was busy writing the now world-famous Harry Potter series.
Yet one particularly big mistake could mean the end of your career. We’ve all experienced that one coworker who drinks too much at a staff party and isn’t at the office on Monday, but the coworker who contributes nothing and hides at her desk can just as easily be replaced.
So let’s take a look at the most common career mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake No. 1: Not showing your true ambition
An absence of career ambitions can demonstrate to your employer that you lack initiative. While you may produce good results and meet your goals, it also says you’re satisfied right where you are.
Employers appreciate drive, and they recognize that an appetite for success and progress means growth for the company. That’s why it’s essential that you show you can offer more than the minimum requirements. Waiting for opportunities to arise probably won’t get you a promotion. You’re going to have to ask for them.
How to avoid it: Consider your achievements and make a plan
Develop a plan for where you want to be in the near future. Consider what you’ve accomplished in the years you’ve been at your current position. You should think about where you’re headed at least once a year, and be vocal about it (so long as you’re not planning to leave the company immediately).
Showing your employer that you’re making future plans demonstrates a desire for advancement, which is often rewarded. If a new position at your firm requires four years of experience and you only have three, should you go for it? Certainly. And doing so, even if you don’t get it, will show your employer how much you care.
Mistake No. 2: Being ignorant of your surroundings
Being rude and dismissive to the guys in the mail room can have serious consequences. Assistants, junior executives and receptionists are the eyes and ears of your boss and could even one day be on a hiring panel. Even minor things like leaving a mess in the break room, not saying thank you or simply pretending they’re not there can spell disaster.
How to avoid it: Be nice—to everyone
Be polite to everyone, regardless of their position and how much you might personally dislike them. News travels fast, and turning your nose up at the intern could cost you.
Try to develop positive, lasting relationships with people from all levels in your company. You never know where they’re going to end up. Even small gestures like offering to get coffee, holding the elevator or listening before speaking don’t go unnoticed.
And when it comes time for promotions, guess who’s more likely to get them? Employees who haven’t burned any bridges.
Mistake No. 3: Ignoring the corporate culture
Every company has their own culture and dynamics, and ignoring it could be career suicide. Failing to respect the values and reputation of the internal culture only means dissatisfaction and could lead to a lack of trust from other employees. Being judgmental is the last thing you want to do in the office. Moreover, constantly comparing your last company to your current company can come across as belittlement.
How to avoid it: Embrace it
Learning to embrace the existing culture is the first step in engaging with your coworkers. There’s a reason why that culture exists, and that’s because so far it’s worked for them, and it will mostly likely work for you—if you give it a chance.
Companies can duplicate pretty much everything another successful company is doing, but they can’t copy a corporate culture. And you never know; that culture—even if you don’t appreciate it—might turn out to offer a competitive advantage.
Meghan Tooley is a blogger, commerce student and copywriter from Canada who often writes about careers, human resources and social media. To learn more about career development, visit People First HR’s career development page.