These days, it’s not enough to do the tasks outlined in the job description. If you want to climb the corporate ladder, you’re going to have to stand out from the crowd.
You’ve been at the same company for a while now. You think you’re doing a good job — your performance reviews are always positive and you’re dedicated to your work — yet you’re still stuck on the ground floor. Meanwhile, people who were hired on later than you have already started moving up the ranks.
Even if you think you’re doing well, you may be unknowingly sabotaging yourself by committing certain mistakes that are keeping you from that raise or promotion you believe you deserve.
Here are eight things that may be limiting your growth potential at work, and how to fix them to work your way up the corporate ladder. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Not speaking up
Just because you’re not high on the food chain doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable insights and ideas to contribute. Keeping them to yourself for fear of sounding impertinent doesn’t do you or your company any favors. If you see something that can be improved or have an idea for taking your business to the next level, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Just make sure you go about volunteering ideas in the right way. Calling your boss out in the middle of a meeting will not boost his opinion of you; asking for a private meeting in his office afterwards to present some suggestions you have will go over much better.
Always frame your ideas in terms of how they help the company. Remember, you want to show people you’re looking out for the greater good — not trying to impress them with how smart you are (even though that’s secretly also what you’re doing).
2. Not advocating for yourself
One of the biggest reasons people don’t get raises or promotions? They simply don’t ask for them. Bosses aren’t mind readers; if you don’t let them know you need or want something, they probably won’t guess it themselves.
And it’s not just raises and promotions. Advocating for yourself can include things like letting your boss know you’d like to try a flexible schedule, requesting a desk change to get away from a noisy coworker who’s been distracting you, or asking to take on higher-level work to demonstrate your abilities.
Again, frame your request respectfully and present it as a win-win situation — “If I can move to a different cubicle, I estimate I’ll get twice as much work done” — and the worst that can happen is your boss says “no.”
You may be surprised what you can get if you just ask, and ask nicely.
3. Downplaying your role in wins
Team spirit is an admirable trait, and one that’s crucial to succeeding in any organization. But there’s a difference between giving everyone credit where credit’s due and minimizing the importance of your own personal role in team successes. Your boss is busy dealing with big-picture issues and day-to-day fires; the best way to make sure he notices the amazing work you’re doing is to point it out.
Performance reviews are a great place to highlight the value you bring to your company. Keep track throughout the year of any big wins (or small-but-critical wins) you helped bring about, and when your boss asks you how you think you did this year, have your material ready. Keep your tone professional and respectful rather than boastful; you want to inform him of your contributions, not pat yourself on the back for them.
4. Sticking to your job description
You show up on time and take the allotted amount of minutes for lunch breaks. You attend every meeting you’re summoned to. You fulfill your daily quotas, dot each I and cross each T. You’ve never gone over your sick day allowance.
While doing your job as expected is an essential foundation for getting ahead, it’s hardly the stuff rising stars are made of. If you really want to get noticed and be fast-tracked, you have to go above and beyond your job description. This could mean going the extra mile to please a tough customer, volunteering for a project that’s outside your usual scope or putting in extra hours to make sure a client presentation isn’t just good, but great. Exceed expectations on a regular basis, and you’re sure to start getting noticed more.
6. Being a “yes” man (or woman)
If you’re loathe to say “no” to a request — whether it’s to help plan the holiday party or take over a slacking coworker’s project — you’ll never go very far. You’ll be too busy multitasking to focus on rocking the heck out of your own workload.
You may think you’re earning brownie points by showing how helpful and accommodating you are, but all you’re doing is showing people you’re a pushover and setting yourself up for burnout. To do your own job well, you need to learn to set boundaries and politely and respectfully say “no” when you don’t have the bandwidth to take on extra tasks.
You’ve been hired to get your work done. It isn’t mean or selfish to turn people down when saying “yes” will interfere with your ability to get your own work done.
7. Neglecting office relationships
No one works in a vacuum. You don’t have to be BFFs with everybody, but you should get to know your coworkers on more than a “Hey, how’s it going?” level.
Developing positive relationships with your colleagues can be as simple as asking questions about their kids, hobbies or plans for the weekend. Networking isn’t just something you do outside the office; it can help you build trust and cooperation with the people who could help propel you to the next level — and those who might be working underneath you when you get there.
Also take the time to learn your coworker’s individual working styles so you can better understand team dynamics and know who to turn to in certain situations. Maybe Debbie doesn’t handle deadline changes well, but she’s amazing at navigating tricky client problems. Maybe Dave operates at half-speed before he’s had his morning coffee, but he’s clutch in an eleventh-hour crisis. The more you know the people you work with, the better you can work with them.
8. Making dumb mistakes
Everyone commits the occasional silly mistake — “replying all” on an email thread, missing a typo in a PowerPoint presentation, transposing a number on a quarterly report. But if you’re making these mistakes regularly, you need to slow your roll and take the time to do things right.
Stop multitasking. Give yourself plenty of padding on project deadlines so you’re not forced to rush. When things get hectic, pause and take three deep breaths before acting, speaking or typing.
Little errors aren’t a big deal if you make them once in a while, but when they start to add up, they paint a picture of someone who’s careless, sloppy and uninvested in their work — not the sort of person the top brass tends to earmark for higher positions.
Are you wondering what’s keeping you from climbing the corporate ladder? Are you guilty of any of the above mistakes?
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.