Common Career-Ending Mistakes

Avoid these messy missteps

Mistakes happen. We’ve all been there. Some are minor and easy to correct while others may send you unexpectedly packing with a cardboard box under your arm. But don’t worry. We’re here to help you steer clear all of that. We spoke to Kayla Buell, author of Corporate Survival Guide for Your Twenties, about common career-ending mistakes and how to avoid them. So, grab a pen or pencil. You may want to take some notes. 😉


Not proofreading your e-mails is a no-no. “You get about ten seconds to make an impression when you’re sending someone an e-mail, and one of the quickest ways to appear unprofessional is to have a bunch of typos in the correspondence you’re trying to send. Sure, no one’s perfect, but take an extra minute before you hit the ‘send’ button to actually read what you’ve written,” says Buell. And remember, it’s the 21st century; take advantage of editing and proofreading apps like Grammarly to help eliminate embarrassing errors.


Pay attention to meeting invites and sync with your calendar on a daily basis. “Most meetings are scheduled in advance giving you plenty of time to do your research—you never want to show up to a meeting unprepared. If there are documents you need to review ahead of time, be sure to read them, and if there are deliverables you’re expected to bring with you, don’t show up empty-handed.” reminds Buell. People will notice. “Once a meeting has started, it’s super rude to interrupt everyone by getting there late. Regardless of how quiet you try to make your entrance, the meeting attendees will still shift their attention from whatever was going on in the meeting to now, you. Not only is it not fair to anyone, but it’s also really awkward, so plan accordingly and arrive a few minutes before your meeting starts,” says Buell.

Rule of thumb: if you don’t want your boss to know about it, don’t talk about it at work


Offices can feel like hermetically sealed jars. When you’re trapped with the same people all the time, it’s tempting to engage in office gossip. Resist this urge. Just because there is office drama, doesn’t mean you need to be a part of it. “Gossip can consume so much of your energy and lead to negative feelings about the workplace, so if you can, try to avoid it as much as possible,” advises Buell. Put your attention and focus on your work instead of distracting office gossip and drama. Besides, it’s likely the more you get entangled in the drama web, the more likely you are to stray from your responsibilities and begin making mistakes. It’s also important to know that “There are certain stories that are better left outside the office. Things like getting super drunk on the weekend and engaging in inappropriate behavior are not the kinds of stories you want to share at work because you never know who will end up hearing them. Rule of thumb: if you don’t want your boss to know about it, don’t talk about it at work,” says Buell. If you’re just starting out in the workforce, read our article on office etiquette to get ahead of the curve.


You’re a professional. You work with professional people. So do yourself and your coworkers a favor and dress accordingly. Dress like the young professional you are. Of course, every office has its own dress code. Some workplaces are more casual than others, but Buell stresses that there are still universal standards: “See through clothing, anything that shows your undergarments, the lack of undergarments, and crop tops are definitely not appropriate in the workplace.” If you want people to treat you professionally, you must conduct and carry yourself in a professional manner. Interested in dressing for success? Our Fundamentals of Fashion in the workplace isn’t a bad place to start. Appearances are everything unfortunately, and it’s hard to shake perceptions once they’re formed. Try and avoid being typecast.


If you happen to find yourself bored at work, speak up. You shouldn’t be wasting time scrolling through your News Feed and mindlessly trolling Instagram. Instead, ask for more work. Take some initiative and be assertive. “It shows your boss that you take your job seriously and lets them know you’re ready for more responsibility,” says Buell. Don’t be satisfied just putting in the minimum amount of work required for your paycheck. If you want to move up in your career, you need to take on more responsibility and go above and beyond. That will earn you more respect and eventually, more money. And not speaking up can be a mistake. People, whether rightly or wrongly make assumptions. Avoid this by taking initiative to let people know you’re invested in your work and not coasting through the day. An easy way to tackle this is by sharing your career goals with your boss. “If your boss sees that you’re a hard worker and takes an interest in you, chances are, they’ll want to help you achieve your career goals. But as much as they may want to help you, they’re not mind readers, so the more they know about your goals and aspirations, the more they’ll be able to help you,” Buell says.

There are countless small mistakes you’re going to make in your career no matter how hard you work. It’s unavoidable, but get ahead of the game and become aware of some that you put the brakes on before they start. If nothing else, remember these words: “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” -Tony Robbins


Proofread your emails

Never show up to a meeting unprepared

Stay far away from office drama

Take initiative, ask for more responsibility

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