Having left the traditional workforce to work for myself (which remains the case for almost five years now), I haven’t had to deal with the kinds of dynamics many people do in a typical office environment for a while. While being a self-employed entrepreneur comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles, I still remember what it was like to navigate the confusing career world of job interviews, promotions, and org charts. For this Career Week, we wanted to supplement our internal perspective with a little help from Lauren McGoodwin, the founder of L.A-based website “Career Contessa” and former corporate recruiter—who knows a thing or two about how to get ahead at your job. We tapped her for the most common mistakes even savvy women make—keep reading for her take! - Emily
I have to admit I’m a bit starstruck to be on Cupcakes and Cashmere right now—I first fell in love with C&C when I was working a dead-end job in 2009. I had some (read: lots!) of free time, so internet surfing was a given. That’s what brought me to the site for the first time, where I was inspired by Emily’s story of leaving her unfulfilling day job to pursue her passion. (As a quick aside, I’m even writing this while wearing a C&C top—do I get extra credit?)
After discovering a passion for recruiting, I landed a gig at Hulu where I loved every minute of my role, company, and colleagues, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people I knew who woke up each Monday dreading the office. So in 2013 I launched Career Contessa to fill the gap in career resources for women. Through expert career advice, in-depth interviews with successful women, one-on-one career counseling, and more, we’re here to help you find a job you love—and be successful in it, with a hefty dose of "real talk" vibes, of course, which brings me to career mistakes. We’ve all made them, we’ll all continue to make them, but still—some can stick with you throughout your career. These are seven cringe-worthy mistakes that you can avoid by creating some good professional habits. Skip them and head straight to the corner office:
1. Oversharing. Ever heard of TMI? For those of you who have been living in cultural isolation, it means “too much information.” You’ve probably fallen victim to it or been guilty of oversharing yourself. Remember that work is a professional setting and making your boss and coworkers feel awkward because you overshare personal info isn’t what you want to be known for. When in doubt, err on the side of sharing too little, not the other way around.
2. Not Taking Responsibility. One of the biggest pet peeves amongst coworkers and managers is dealing with people that don’t take responsibility for their mistakes. As an adult in the workplace, it’s unproductive (and immature) to pretend like a mistake didn’t happen. Own your mistakes and skip the part where you explain or give excuses for them, too. No one has time for that. They’ve got their own mistakes to make and answer for. Acknowledge the mistake, take responsibility, skip the excuse, and assure your manager it won’t happen again.
3. Asking About Perks Too Early In The Interview Process. The goal of the beginning interview process is to see if 1) you can do the job/ have the right skills and 2) if you’re a good fit for the company/industry. Basically, it’s not about you—it's about what you can do for the employer. Keep the questions about benefits, salary, and other “me” oriented questions to the very end. Trust me, if they’re interested, there will be a chance to talk about them.
4. Lack of a Go-Get-Em Attitude. “I don’t know how to do that,” is no longer an acceptable answer at work. With the vast (and free!) knowledge available to you via the internet, your new internal response should be: “Everything is figure-out-able,” or at the very least, “I’m not sure, but I’ll Google it.” There’s nothing worse than saying you don’t know how to do something that could have been figured out with a quick internet search—and no manager wants to promote someone who doesn’t take the initiative to try to complete an assignment before lamenting they don’t know how.
5. Getting Caught Up In Office Gossip. Gossip Girl might have been one of your favorite shows, but it’s not the reputation you want at the office. Do your best to not participate in gossip and learn how to excuse yourself when it does pop up. Another quick tip? While a quick vent session might seem great in the moment, you’ll quickly realize that you don’t actually feel any better after one. Bond with your coworkers by celebrating successes (there’s always an excuse to toast at Happy Hour), not griping.
6. Following Someone Else's Career Path. Remember my mention of parents before? Many of us have expectations thrust upon us by family members, friends, or even mentors. All too often, we allow them to influence the track we’re taking in our lives. It would be a huge mistake, though, to enter a job or field that you have absolutely no interest in pursuing (even if it makes Mom happy). Yes, it may satisfy those around you, but you’ll never love or feel fulfilled by the work you’re doing, and you won’t be driven to reach for the kind of success you would if you loved your job.
7. Not Creating a Budget. Congrats on landing a job with a salary. Now, don’t squander all your hard work by letting your finances just happen. Create and manage a budget. Educate yourself on things like a 401K and IRA. Taking control of your financial future is one of the most empowering things you can do. It’s also how you successfully negotiate for a better salary or more perks in the future. Oh and if you get that raise? Try putting that increase into savings, not a spending spree at Zara. One pro tip to help you increase your savings is working with Ellevest. It’s a financial website built to help women invest and even the most novice investor can figure it out!