You are responsible for your career, and now is a great time to take control of your career and steer it towards achieving your goals. Take the time and effort to nurture your career, or run the risk of someone else using you to advance theirs. Here are five career traps to avoid:
1. Managing interns from afar.
Some do not want to be bothered by managing interns. Instead of giving them busy work, give them meaningful work and be part of their experience. Interns provide you an opportunity to show the higher ups that you have management skills. Get to know what interests and motivates your interns and have them engage in projects that inspire and stretch them.
Younger or less experienced individuals can be effective advocates for you and help you to achieve your professional goals. Interns can share with your manager the experience they had and respect they gained from your leadership, helping your boss to see that you are ready for advancement and increased management responsibilities.
2. Organizing the company picnic.
Do not volunteer to organize a picnic (or whatever your company’s version of a picnic is) for your organization, department or team. This is not time spent investing in your career. Invest in things that will help your manager see a direct connection between your work and how it advances the manager’s goals. Picnics can boost team morale but are only tenuously connected to organizational goals. Coordinating these kinds of events can help you look like a team player, but your coworkers may see you as a helper rather than a leader.
Organizing company events is particularly harmful to women as it reinforces the party planner role that many women are relegated to in the workplace. Advocate for yourself, and suggest a different project that showcases your organizational skills, efficiency, innovative mindset and budget management. In other words, pursue a project focused on business goals.
3. Completing boss’s pet projects.
In the summer months, bosses may assign pet projects that they want completed before fall. Do not run the risk of spending all your time writing papers and developing presentations for someone else. Propose projects of your own that both further the priorities of your organization and highlight your talents. For example, when your boss tells you that her/she wants you to write a blog post, suggest to them topics that align or intersect with your interests. If your boss asks you to put together a presentation and you are unsure how it relates to your work, tell your boss you are trying to prioritize your workload and ask if you can collaborate with a colleague on the project. This will ensure that you still have time to devote to things that further your career and not just the career of others.
4. Eating at your desk.
Author and relationship development professional Keith Ferrazzi is right: Never eat alone. Every interaction you have increases your opportunity for advancement. Every person you talk to has a network of his or her own. The bigger the network you have, the greater the access to people and information that may help you move forward in your career.
Ask someone if he or she will join you for lunch in a conference room, on an outside bench or nearby restaurant. Ask people who you know and do not know and individuals in your department or another department or from another company.
5. Engaging in small talk.
Be casual in conversations with others, but do not share information that is inappropriate or too personal. Do take the opportunity to open up about yourself and be vulnerable, sharing with others outside hobbies, family stories and your professional goals and aspirations.
Being casual and personal humanizes and helps others to understand you, which will make others feel more comfortable opening up to you. A stronger connection between individuals is the foundation for which trust is built, and trust is critical to others seeing and respecting you as a leader. So start getting real with colleagues in and outside your organization.
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