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12 Things You’re Doing Wrong At Work – And How To Fix Them Instantly

12 Things You’re Doing Wrong At Work – And How To Fix Them Instantly

Does one of these sound familiar: You’re recently out of school, in your first few years in an office gig and trying to learn the ropes. Or, you’ve been a professional for a while–but aren’t learning or advancing as fast as you’d like.

No matter where you went to school, there are things no one teaches. We assume the best performers are on call 24/7, do what the boss says, and fit in seamlessly with team members–right? Not! Here are some things we often assume starting out in the workplace that might be hurting your career more than helping it.

1. You respond immediately to all emails.

This shows you’re on the ball, ready to act, an email machine… right? Well, yes and no. Responsiveness can be a plus, especially if you’re responsive to your boss. But if your hastily-dashed-off-response means you forgot to include an attachment, or creates an extra email–like when you respond to a request with a clarifying question–you look disorganized and can actually slow things down. A speedy response is only helpful if it’s correct and appropriate. Sometimes, it’s better to wait and think things through until you can reply with all the info requested.

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2. You’re online 24/7.

Sending emails at all hours can make you seem committed. But it also gives you a false feeling of efficiency. What you’re likely overlooking as you congratulate yourself for your dedication (you ARE the job!) – your colleagues will quickly come to expect that you’re online 24/7, which results in a vicious cycle. Your boss or team may send emails requiring an overnight response simply because, hey, they assume you’ll be there. Work will expand to fit whatever time you give it. Being on call 24/7 is bad for your health and dangerous long-term–so don’t do it! If you’re in a new job, or a role in which 60-80 hour weeks are the norm, then you likely won’t be punching out at 5. But, if your job constantly takes 12 or more hours a day, it’s a good sign that there’s a better way to do it.

3. You spend your time with a core group.

It’s great to have a team with which you work and socialize. But in a larger company, it’s important to branch out. If you’re in marketing, make friends and find sponsors (more senior staff who take an interest in your career) in HR, or operations. This will expand your perspective and let you find out about new opportunities for projects, development and promotion across the firm. So get out of your comfort zone and meet new friends next time you’re in the corporate cafe or are assigned to a cross-functional project!

4. You avoid difficult people.

We learn early on to steer clear of those who give us grief. This works well on the playground–but not in the office. We all love spending time with people we get on with. But, we can learn the most from those with divergent opinions (even when they’re hard to hear) and distinct personalities. Don’t be afraid to engage with people who may seem a bit abrasive or who hold different perspectives. It’s the people who challenge us that make us better–not the ones who think exactly like we do. And, as you advance in your career, you’ll have to work with more and more kinds of people, so it’s great practice.

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5. You dress like everyone else.

Ever hear the phrase dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Clothes aren’t everything. But if you’re aspiring to move up, or take a public-facing role, it’s easier for senior people to picture you there if you already look the part. It’s also a great way to set yourself apart from other contenders–the small things matter and it shows you’re committed to the details. It’s also worth trying to stand out from the masses, but do so in a way that’s appropriate for your work place. If you’re at a law firm, you’ll likely be making more conservative choices than your friend who works at a design agency.

6. You never ask for help.

Going it alone is a sign of strength… right? Sometimes it’s good to invite others’ input. This can not only provide new perspective but help others feel invested in your project. Going to individuals other than your boss is a great way to do this. If one of your colleagues has a great eye, ask her for input on your latest PowerPoint or Prezi. Most people like being asked to contribute, so long as it’s easy for them to say yes. Note: be cautious of inviting input if you don’t expect to take it! Colleagues will quickly catch on and be less inclined to weigh in next time.

7. You let perfection be the enemy of good.

The 80/20 rule says that 20% of the efforts produce 80% of the results. Know which part of your effort is the 20%, and which part of the results are the 80%! Economists call this diminishing marginal returns, which basically means that you can put lots more effort into something and get only modest benefits. Sometimes it’s better to get something done fast and well than spending three times as long to make it perfect. Understanding what, of your portfolio, can be done faster and what needs your full attention is a critical skill to mastering your job and moving up.

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8. You try to be good at everything.

Guess what–everyone has weaknesses! And if you’re one of those superhuman types that’s good at nearly everything, here’s an important lesson: just because you’re able to do something doesn’t mean you should. Instead of trying to love what you’re good at, get good at what you love. Show competence at navigating tricky administrative issues and people will come to you as a fixer. If you love being a fixer, great; if you don’t want to be tagged a fixer, then be cautious about displaying those talents to the world! Instead, showcase your writing skills (because you love to write) or your people skills (because you dream of being in recruitment).

9. You live for your to-do list.

Having a to-do list is ok–if it’s a certain kind of to-do list. First, it should not just be urgent but important items. Focus on fighting fires and you’ll always be in damage control mode. Include tasks (usually project or strategy work) that won’t burn if you don’t get to them today – the paradox is, because they’re never urgent you may never get to them. And almost always, it’s those projects that will make or break your company’s, and your, success. Second, know yourself. Everyone has best times of day for writing, or mindless tasks; times when they’re focused and distracted; times when they’re patient and impatient. Schedule your to-dos to take advantage of that! If you’re most creative in the morning, do your writing or big idea work then.

10. You’re afraid to fail.

All of us like to succeed. We can get tempted to stay in a safe zone where we know we’re performing well and can do a great job. But the real wins happen when we stretch ourselves and take risks. The best managers and executives know this, and will support you in setting stretch goals and trying new things–hitting up that new market or trying a new process might be the next big break for the company (and for you)! And when you fail (which we all do from time to time), be ready to pick yourself back up. We learn more from losses than from wins, so treat each setback as a rich source of learning.

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11. You don’t know your value proposition.

Know how you create value at work. It may be through helping groups of diverse people get to common ground, or writing killer proposals, or keeping morale up through tough periods of work. If you’re not sure what you bring to the table, write down the things you do better than anyone else at work. Then think about which of those contribute most to the company’s business–if you weren’t there to do those things, how would it affect the organization? This can do two very important things: 1. it helps you understand what, from a company perspective, you’re worth (very helpful when negotiating that promotion or raise), and 2. it can help you see where you fit long term and how to market yourself to a prospective employer.

12. You wait to be told what to do.

Take initiative. Companies are built on creativity and strategic thinking. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If you’re listening to a project update in a meeting and have an idea that could help, speak up–but do pick your time. It might be best to say it then and there, or it might be better to follow up after. It depends on the culture and formality of meetings and roles.

Try some of these tips to get ‘unstuck’ at work–and maybe even give you the energy, perspective, or confidence needed to move up the ladder or take on new challenges. It’s amazing how a few changes help you see yourself and your career in a new light!

Featured photo credit: Alexander Stein via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 22, 2019

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

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2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

3. Address the reader directly if you can

It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

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5. Tell the company what you can do for them

As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

7. Numbers are important — show proof

It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

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8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

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What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

Bonus Advice

When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

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Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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