You know all the right things to say when asking for a raise. Your work emails are things of concise beauty. You’re a consummate follower of career advice and you’re reasonably confident that you’re making all the studied choices that will boost you up the ladder. But not all advice is created equal. What looks like a smart career move on the surface can turn out to be a trap when you consider it more closely. Here are four of those so-called smart moves that actually hurt you more than they help.
Coming in early or staying late.
There are industries in which working crazy hours are the expected norm, but, for the majority of us not in entry-level Wall Street finance or consulting with one of the Big Four, being at your desk at the crack of dawn and/or still there when the office cleaning crew makes their rounds can often look less like dedication and more like a profound lack of time management skills. A little overtime is inevitable, but when it becomes habitual, you appear to be someone who has either allowed yourself to be overburdened with more tasks than can fit into the 9-5 or a person who wastes those hours and has to make up for them when everyone else is already at home.
Volunteering for unappealing assignments.
Think you’re winning brownie points when the boss asks for someone to take notes during a three-hour meeting or tackle a thankless data entry project and you eagerly raise your hand? Think again. What you see as taking one for the team can also decrease the value of your time in the eyes of others. Tedious tasks are the inevitable reality when you’re at the bottom of the career ladder, but once you’ve risen a few rungs, you should be managing your time and energy more closely and carefully. Volunteering for low-status assignments sends the opposite message. Say yes one too many times and it will become second nature for colleagues to assume you’re the go-to for grunt work no one else wants to touch.
Being hyper-focused on your work.
You eschew workplace gossip and skip water cooler small talk. You eat at your desk while finishing up paperwork. You’re always the guy to bring the meeting conversation back to the topic at hand when everyone is shooting the breeze about college sports. While your work output may be stellar, you’re probably failing miserably at the social aspect of your job, which counts as much if not more in terms of your success than simply acing the contents of your your job description. Routinely ducking office happy hour comes with consequences that may not be as direct as missing a deadline, but ultimately tend to prove more dire to your advancement.
Never giving up or admitting a project failed.
Common career advice tells you that when you screw up on the job, the best course of action is to own up to mistakes and present a plan for how to fix the situation. Sometimes, that’s just throwing good energy after bad, especially when you refuse to give up on an idea or project that just isn’t working, convinced with just a little more ingenuity or effort, it will pay off. Take a breath, Captain Ahab. There’s a fine line between laudable tenacity and beating a dead horse. The latter doesn’t make you look resourceful, but rather stubborn and myopic. Sometimes, knowing what not to salvage is smarter than trying to make lemonades out of the lemons you’ve been handed.