Career Success: Damage Control vs. Smart Choices

How can you damage your career? Let me count the ways! (Apologies to poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning!)

It’s not hard to imagine a number of actions you might take (or not take) that could interfere with your ongoing career success. For example, you might say something you shouldn’t or to someone you shouldn’t, do something non-verbal that aggravates someone you don’t want to aggravate, miss a critical deadline without letting your boss know there’s trouble until too late…. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Two Approaches You Can Take

What it boils down to is that you have two approaches to consider: (1) Figure out how you can try to do damage control after-the-fact. (2) Make smart choices before the situation blows up in your face.

Of course, you could run into a situation you honestly couldn’t have anticipated. However, I suspect that scenario is relatively rare. In most cases, if you find yourself struggling to handle an unfortunate and possibly career-destroying challenge, it’s because you selected approach #1 to dealing with potential issues. I don’t recommend that!

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Career

Alison Green has written an article titled “5 Things You Didn’t Know Could Hurt Your Career.” In it she talks about several not too obvious ways in which you could damage your career success:

  1. Staying too long at one job. (She says something between 8 years and 20 years is the zone you might want to be careful about).
  2. Being too good at something you don’t like. (Focus on getting great at something you really like.)
  3. Not speaking up when you disagree with the boss. (Strive to work for someone who’s not looking for “yes-men.”)
  4. Recommending someone for a job as a favor to them. (Remember, if they’re not really well qualified, it’s your reputation and career that could be on the line.)
  5. Not going to workplace social events, ever. (That doesn’t mean you dance with a lampshade on your head at the office Christmas party!)

What Alison is basically saying–and what the main point of this post is–is that most of the time, you hold the keys to your career success and have the power to maintain a positive path. It’s up to you as to how you choose to manage your career; however, damage control versus smart choices isn’t really an option in my book. As has been said before, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

If you get hit by something you couldn’t have anticipated, you will at least know that you’ve done your best all along to maintain a healthy career. No shame in that. On the other hand, if you get run over by a train you should have seen coming and avoided, too bad. You probably won’t get much sympathy in that case!

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