If you want to get ahead at work, never do these 10 things

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Career advancement isn’t just about qualifications.

A lot of factors contribute to professional growth, from your mindset to your communication skills to having a strong work ethic.

In other words, being good at your job isn’t enough. It’s just the beginning.

You need to conduct yourself in a manner that inspires trust and showcases your wide range of qualities.

This also involves avoiding certain behaviors and actions that put you in a bad light.

So, if you want to get ahead at work, never do these 10 things.

You’ll thank me later.

1) Fail to set clear career goals

Granted, I may not be the ideal person to advise on this topic since my career has been haphazard at best.

I started as a journalist and eventually pivoted to content writing, which I now do on a freelance basis.

There wasn’t much planning involved at any stage. I relied on hard work and wishful thinking.

I’m still not 100% sure what I want to do for the rest of my life, so it’s tricky to “get ahead” in the traditional sense.  

That said, I worked in all kinds of environments as I tried to find my way, so I crossed paths with people who had a much clearer idea of what they wanted.

And the most dedicated of them all had one thing in common: a plan to reach their professional goals.

Without objectives, it’s easy to lose direction and purpose in your career.

You may find yourself drifting from one job to the next rather than seeking out roles that enable you to become a thought leader in your field.

While there’s nothing wrong with working to live rather than living to work, building a lucrative career takes determination. 

Failing to think strategically about the offers you accept can cost you opportunities in the long run.

Start by mapping out your ideal career. From there, figure out what you need to do to move forward.

Are there any other skills you need to acquire? Courses you can take? Promotions you can ask for?

A career plan helps you focus your efforts and make better professional decisions.

2) Have a negative attitude

Employers like problem solvers. People who are excited about coming to work.

Team players.

A negative attitude won’t get you far professionally, even if you’re excellent at what you do.

You might not think of your company as family (and you shouldn’t), but it’s crucial to at least give the impression that you’re enthusiastic.

In other words, never:

  • Complain excessively about tasks, colleagues, or company policies
  • Dismiss requests for help from managers or co-workers
  • Undermine team efforts by refusing to collaborate
  • Openly criticize the company or your supervisors
  • Arrive late or leave early too frequently

As cliché as it sounds, bosses value employees who approach challenges with a positive and proactive outlook.

Make sure that’s you.

3) Blame others for your mistakes

No one is perfect, and you will mess up at your job at one point.

But you know what’s worse than making a mistake?

Blaming others for it.

In contrast, taking responsibility for your actions shows that you’re willing to learn from your errors.

Not only that, but you set a good example for everyone else.

Accountability is scarce. Your supervisors won’t take yours for granted.

4) Lack initiative

We’re all tired. 

Hustle culture is toxic, and it took us longer than it should have to figure this out.

However, advancing your career requires more than just showing up at work and going through the motions.  

You can’t grow if you’re always waiting to be told what to do.

Instead, demonstrate initiative by thinking beyond the job description:

  • Volunteer for projects that align with your abilities and interests
  • Share ideas during meetings and brainstorming sessions
  • Seek out training, workshops, and courses to develop new skills
  • Offer to mentor someone who just joined the team
  • Stay updated on industry trends to identify potential areas for growth
  • Develop templates or tools that can streamline the company workflow

Going the extra mile ensures you’ll be first in line when it’s time for a promotion.

Plus, all these extracurriculars will instantly make your resume stand out.

5) Manage your time poorly

Consistently missing deadlines is a big no-no.

My philosophy as a freelancer?

Under-promise and overdeliver.

It ensures that the client is pleasantly surprised and allows me to make a good impression.

If you have poor time management, work on it.

Keep your calendar and to-do list updated to avoid dropping the ball.

If you fall behind, ask for help or delegate.

While this can sound counterintuitive, it’s also important to take regular breaks and vacation days.

If you’re continually stressed and on the verge of burnout, your time management skills will become even worse.

6) Ignore feedback

You know what I hated most when I had a steady job?

(Besides having to go into the office every day.)

Performance reviews.

There’s nothing more painful than sitting there awkwardly and waiting for a supervisor to doll out praise and/or criticism.  

Even so, managers or colleagues often provide feedback that can be invaluable for someone looking to get ahead.

You may think that you can objectively assess your job conduct, but we all have blind spots.

Implementing this advice can be key to leveling up within the company. Ignoring it, on the other hand, implies that you couldn’t care less.

That doesn’t bode well for your chances of advancement.

7) Gossip

Engaging in office politics and spreading rumors damages your reputation and creates a toxic work environment.

The next time you feel the need to inquire about the office receptionist’s impending divorce, don’t.

While gossip can seem like a fun distraction during a break, it can also erode trust among colleagues and escalate into exclusionary behavior.

Being known as the office busybody may win you an invite to after-work drinks, but it will do you zero professional favors.

8) Isolate yourself

While gossiping with co-workers isn’t advisable, neither is isolating yourself.

Networking within your organization is essential for career advancement. It increases your visibility and opens you up to more opportunities.

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”?

It still applies, especially if you work in a competitive field.

As much as it pains me to say, competence only takes you so far.

9) Ignore company culture

Every company has a set of values they expect employees to align with.

If you don’t comply, you’re labeled as a bad culture fit, hindering your ability to fit in and excel.

Moreover, not adhering to the established culture can result in a negative perception of your commitment.

For instance, let’s say you prefer to work independently, but your company puts a strong emphasis on teamwork and open communication.

If you don’t share your ideas and ask for input on projects, your behavior will be perceived as disengagement.

And if you actively avoid team-building activities or work-related social events, you’ll be marginalized even further.

Your employers may keep you around if you’re very good. 

However, they are unlikely to support your professional advancement goals within the company.  

They won’t see you as someone compatible with the environment they’re trying to establish.

10) Fail to ask for what you want

You won’t get ahead at work without asking for what you want.

Waiting around for a manager to notice your hard work may seem like a painless way to go, but let’s be honest – this passive approach isn’t particularly effective.

If you want to fast-track growth, start advocating for yourself.

Keep track of all the positive feedback you get, start a list of your accomplishments, and highlight how much you bring to the table every chance you get.

As Cal Newport eloquently puts it, be so good they can’t ignore you.

New challenges will soon fall into your lap.

Final thoughts

Remember that advancing your career is a marathon, not a sprint.

It will take time and a whole lot of effort to reach your professional goals.

But nothing worth having in life comes easy.

As long as you’re diligent about avoiding the mistakes above, success is right around the corner.

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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