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You could be a career criminal if...

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Are you a career criminal? No, not the felon spending life behind bars, but the person who experiences more than their share of career fails. Everyone experiences a career stumble every now and then, but when you don’t learn from your mistakes and continue to make decisions that sabotage your career, you might be a career criminal. Career criminality comes in various forms. One form, perhaps most recognized, is the on-the-job fail--those performance mistakes everyone makes every now and then. Then there are the decision fails—those decisions that affect your career navigation.

In the old days (my time) when such terms as “career ladder” were in vogue, such fails might have been called “career limiting moves” which meant you would probably not climb any higher on your way to the imaginary top than you were when you committed the career crime. Not every fail, however, results in ending your career, but there are situations that can put your character and credibility in doubt. For instance dressing inappropriately. If you don’t understand your organization’s dress code—ask! If your company is conservative, showing up at the manager’s meeting in shorts and flip flops is probably inappropriate.

Making the same mistakes again and again and chronic aberrant behavior will probably limit upward movement. Early in my career during an interview when the interviewer asked me what I thought about the position…I said bluntly and without smiling “I want your position.” In the silence that followed I knew I had definitely committed a fail…not necessarily a precursor to a career fail, but a fail nonetheless. Needless to say the interview ended abruptly and I went away vowing to keep my mouth shut from that point on.

Then there are the navigation fails—when career decisions limit your career journey. Forbes contributor Rick Smith suggests that too many people limit their networking activities to within their own company. “Many of the most influential professional relationships you will have will be with those outside of your company – especially when times get tough. It may not be easy, but investing in these external relationships will pay off.”

I have yet to meet someone who believes that they are being paid for what they are worth and Smith also says that making decisions solely based on money can be limiting. “While we all might find it tough to ignore a promotion, raise or even a change in company that will feed our hungry bank accounts,” according to Smith, you should “choose the path that provides you the most valuable experiences, develops the most significant relationships, and allows you to learn at the fastest rate, regardless of income.”

The list of career fails could go on and on, but here are some common ones

  • Chronic absence or tardiness
  • Refusal to admit you made a mistake
  • Inappropriate computer use
  • Missing commitments
  • Not improving yours skills and knowledge
  • Inappropriate or distracting office romance
  • Getting skunk drunk at an office function
  • Social media rants

Everybody makes career mistakes or missteps, but when you fail to turn things around, you might be a career criminal.

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