Three Common Mistakes to Avoid for Career Success

Written by Sofia Mayer
Graphic Design by Gregory Erbs

Two workers having an argument over their performance-related pay

Mistakes are part of human nature. They are not limited to the career world. In any job, there are many choices to choose from the screw-up buffet. While some rules are blatantly obvious, others are subtle. And if your motto is “do it now, think about it later,” you’ve probably tripped over many of those subtle unspokens. There are many sources to help you avoid mistakes during the interview. However, this article will help you avoid mistakes once you are on the job. While I cannot save you from every little mishap, I can highlight common ones that people hear about, but forget when under pressure. Sometimes all it takes to avoid a corporate mess is to think twice. Or, you could ask yourself, “what would HR tell me to do?”
Confession—I am not a professional advisor, nor do I get frequent calls from Human Resources. But after working in multiple customer service jobs, I have learned in very real and quick ways what not to say and do on the job. So put your feet up, grab some popcorn and pickle chips and get ready to (hopefully not) relate. Avoid the following to increase your chances for career success:

Don't Alter the Dress Code

You may work at a venue where only the company shirt and tacky khaki pants are allowed. If this is the case, Do. Not. Alter. It. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done laundry in over a week. It is far better to smell like a goat in aisle seven than to break the rules. Perhaps the dress code is business casual or even a few steps up. Do not go in wearing socks and sandals. You are not a samurai—or maybe you are. In that case, no one is going to criticize your wardrobe choices. If there is anything else about the company that remains constant, like the uniform, do not change it without speaking to your boss. One hot afternoon, I strolled into work wearing my “Sorry for what I said before I had my coffee” t-shirt. I only had two pairs of plain black t-shirts, plus a million taunting and funny ones. If you run out of the two plain black ones, what else can you do? According to my manager, this would not be a hit with the customers. There was no casual Thursday. Even if it’s the same color, people still care about uniformity.

Don't Complain Without a Solution

If someone wants your opinion, you never want to shrug and stare blankly at them. However, you also don’t want to tarnish the company’s image. If you make a critique about anything, offer a solution and leave room for feedback. By doing so, others will see you as a problem solver, not a curmudgeon. Any time you offer an opinion, think about the way it sounds before your lips start moving. Deliver your suggestions tactfully and with a purpose. If someone mentions they don’t want bleu cheese crumbles on top, don’t chime in with “I know, it’s so disgusting.” It’s comments like this that get you jabbed in the side by an eavesdropping co-worker. This is not to say you have to be a hardcore sellout either. Customers know pretty quickly if you’re overselling something. Consider the following phrases:
“The quality of these Ticonderoga pencils is just life-giving!”
“I have no idea what this tastes like, but I highly recommend it!”
“I would buy 35 of these crocs just for me.”
Sometimes, silence is the best option. We know that last one was a lie.

Don't Play the Blame Game

It’s okay to be unsure of something. Mistakes happen and they are necessary for growth. More emphasis is placed on how you handled the mistake afterward. What will not save you is blaming external forces. Let’s not forget, you’re here to learn and do the best you can. Doing your best means being honest and asking for help if needed. This way, your boss and co-workers won’t think you’re making mistakes because you don’t care.

Never shower someone else with blame or whine about them behind their back. It’s not just annoying, but counterproductive. Not to mention, the individual in question will have no idea how you feel. If you have an issue, especially with a person, go directly to that individual and bring up your concerns with calm clarity. It is important not to fly into a rage because it does not allow room for a solution. Focusing on an issue and giving it negative emotional feedback only drains you and makes the issue more prominent.

The above actions may sound obvious but are easily forgotten when it matters most. Being present in every situation and practicing awareness of your thoughts will make the difference. It will help you change not just how you feel, but how you show up to handle circumstances.

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out our other published blogs.

Have a Super Day!

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Sofia Mayer

I am a storyteller writing to inspire through fiction, creative nonfiction and blogs.