Career self-sabotage: it’s in your hands

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell said that “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately”. Indeed, the job for life culture has long gone and today people are losing their jobs in banking, sales and the public sector service following re-structuring or budgetary cuts in public spending. In fact, more than half a million British workers will be ‘let go’ from their jobs every year. But, despite this air of uncertainty in the job market, many people are continuing to put their jobs in jeopardy without realising it. So, what are the things that you need to avoid in order to disaster-proof your career?

Lack of clear goals
We are told that if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail. If you don’t have a clear goal for where you want to be, then you could end up anywhere. You will simply drift along and be reliant on the tide (your employer) to carry you to where it pleases. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania interviewed 350,000 executives and discovered that the top 10 per cent performers worked to a plan and as a result, were also the happiest workers.

Saying ‘no’
If the to-do pile of work on your desk doesn’t show any signs of abating and your boss walks into your office and asks you to a ‘little’ job, do you bemoan his request and complain that you already have too much work to do? If you are overloaded with work, there are different ways of saying ‘no’. Try to remember that the person making the request probably has no real understanding of what your existing workload might be or even appreciate the time involved for you to carry out their request. As psychologist Bryan Carroll points out that: “In circumstances such as these, a key is patience and communication. A blunt refusal to help will simply burn bridges and damage goodwill. Instead, simply explain your existing commitments – and perhaps propose another way or another time that you could offer assistance.”

Surrounding yourself with the office ‘neg-heads’
Most of the time you don’t get to choose the type of people you work with and your colleagues come as part of the package deal when you take a job. In a recent study, three-quarters (73 per cent) of workers claimed that a good working relationship with their colleagues was the primary reason for enjoying work. The whingers and moaners are as familiar a feature in the office as the water cooler but there is very little refreshing about them. Instead, their constant complaining and negativity can sap your personal resolve and, if you are not careful, you can easily become just like them. So, you need to keep your own attitude in check and focus on the things that make you happiest instead of dwelling on the bad elements at work – the neg-heads will soon tire of coming to you for a whinge when they see that they are not affecting you.

Don’t be a brown-nose
It’s OK to let your boss know who you are and what you do and expand your current role and take on extra responsibility. But, be mindful that volunteering for a big task may arouse the suspicion of your colleagues especially if you proposition yourself as the boss’s new lapdog. You certainly won’t get any respect from your colleagues and your boss will not want to be seen as having his ‘favourites’. Which means that it could be you who is first to go when the redundancies come.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are not irreplaceable. You are. Of course, you want to be seen as a valuable asset but be mindful not to pretend that you are an expert on things when you are not or that you, and only you, can perform your job effectively. Be honest and admit if you don’t have the answer being asked of you and say “I will find out for you” or “I suggest that you ask so and so” – you will earn respect and be viewed as someone who isn’t simply a ‘yes’ man.

Technologically un-savvy
In the 1990s, PowerPoint, Excel and the Internet were applications at the forefront of business. But are you still struggling to get to grips with them? If so then get some training, fast!

Failing to attend staff development courses
Zoe Tizzard, Human Resources Manager at Ystrad Mynach College near Cardiff, says: “As an employer, we have a responsibility to provide all of our employees with the opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge. Some training courses are mandatory to fall in line with new governmental legislation. Others are voluntary,” she says. “Failing to attend these courses can and does affect their careers in the long term – if an employee applies for another internal position, their loyalty and commitment to the College will be questioned because they refused to undergo the previous training that they were offered,” she adds. Ultimately, employers are running a business and they want to get the maximum return on their investment i.e. you.

You hate your boss
If that’s the case then you may as well dust off your CV and start looking for a new job because your days are numbered. Career coach and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want you To Know – And What To Do About Them, suggests: “You don’t have to love your boss, but you’d better figure out a way to get along with him.”

If redundancies come knocking on your organisation’s door, who do you think will lose their job first – you or your boss? Remember, this is your career that you are saving and if it came down to a choice between you and one of your colleagues employers will save the one who has the competitive edge. Will that be you?

About yourcareermatters
CareerMatters was founded as part of MacKenzie-Cummins Communications in 2006 by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins MICG (Member Institute of Careers Guidance), regarded as one of the UK's leading career's advice and guidance writers and specialist PR consultant for the UK recruitment industry. Since 2006 Paul has been the leading advice writer for and - the two biggest careers website in the world -tackling all aspects of workplace and management issues, job seeking, career change and hiring trends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 his writing contributed to Monster winning the Best Employment Advice on the Internet Award for an unprecedented three times beating the likes of The Guardian, Learn Direct and Personnel Today on each occasion. And his work was a runner-up for the same award in 2009. In 2009 Paul was a nominee in the prestigious HR Journalist of the Year Award and Recruitment, Retention & Motivation Journalist of the Year Award. Paul has been commissioned to write more than 500 careers advice and guidance articles for a number of lpublications, from regional and national newspapers to industry publications and various career-specific websites in the UK and USA. Recently, Paul was the Technical Editor for career psychologist Dr Rob Yeung's Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies (John Wiley & Son, 2007). Dr Yeung is better known as the TV psychologist for Channel 4's Big Brother and the BBC's Who Would Hire You? series. Clients include: MSN Careers (Europe) TheLadders TotalJobs IntaPeople Recruitment Lifetracks/YouthNET MediaSalesJobs The Press Gazette

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