Little Things That Can Break, or Make, Your Career

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<p><strong>Boston &mdash; April 30</strong><br />Whether you are in management or a nonmanagement employee, sometimes it&rsquo;s the little things that can break &ndash; or make &ndash; your career, according to ClearRock, an outplacement and executive coaching firm headquartered in Boston.<br /> <br />&ldquo;People continually underestimate the negative, as well as the positive, impact that seemingly little occurrences or actions can have on their careers,&rdquo; said Annie Stevens, managing partner with ClearRock. &ldquo;A bad &#39;little thing,&#39; especially, may seem so inconsequential to someone who has done it, particularly at the time, but then he or she later learns that it had a big effect on a raise, promotion or even being able to keep the job.&rdquo;<br /> <br />These little things shouldn&#39;t be confused with potentially big career problems, however. &ldquo;If you have been unable to achieve the one, most important goal that you were hired to do &mdash; such as increase profits, cut costs or reduce turnover, for example &mdash; you may regard it as a single failure, but it is actually a big one,&rdquo; said Greg Gostanian, managing partner with ClearRock.<br /> <br />Among the potentially bad little things that can have a negative effect on your career are:</p><ul><li><strong>A blunder or gaffe about a manager&rsquo;s family member who you have met before and are presumed to know by now. </strong>&ldquo;If you call your manager&rsquo;s spouse the wrong name after only one meeting, that&#39;s forgivable. But if you continually get his or her name wrong after several meetings, especially following informal get-togethers such as holiday parties, that sends a signal that you don&#39;t regard this person important enough to try to even remember his or her name. That can be interpreted as uncaring, or even as deliberate,&rdquo; said Stevens.</li><li><strong>Behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. Displaying emotions at work such as crying and anger can set off alarms, particularly if done in front of several co-workers.</strong> &ldquo;Crying after getting some unexpected, tragic news is different than crying after receiving negative feedback or a minor setback on the job. Also, you are expected to always control your anger, and yelling and screaming are unacceptable. Managers and co-workers who have negative comments about someone&rsquo;s performance should always say these in private, and never in front of others,&rdquo; said Gostanian. </li><li><strong>The tone of e-mails.</strong> It&#39;s difficult to know for certain how your e-mails are going to be received by others. &ldquo;We sometimes respond to e-mails when we&#39;re busy, or a lot of e-mails at once, and don&#39;t take the time to read them over again to see how they will be interpreted by recipients, checking for any possible misunderstandings. We&#39;re usually more concerned about the content of the e-mail, and not as much about the tone. Closely examine your e-mails and watch out for those that may seem flippant, arrogant, angry, sarcastic or use humor that misses the mark,&rdquo; said Stevens.</li><li><strong>The tone of a conversation or facial expression and body language in spoken communication.</strong> &ldquo;The meaning derived from a spoken conversation can be quite different than the meaning of the actual words that are used,&rdquo; said Stevens. She cites research by Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus in psychology of UCLA, who developed the "7 percent words, 38 percent tone of voice, 55 percent body language&rdquo; rule. According to the rule, only 7 percent of meaning is obtained from the words that are spoken. Thirty-eight percent of meaning comes from the way the words are said, and 55 percent from body language. &ldquo;The nonverbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude,&rdquo; said Stevens.</li></ul><p> <br />Among the potentially good little things that can have a positive effect on your career are:<br /> </p><ul><li><strong>Volunteering to lead a charity drive, special project or task force, especially if there is little interest from others. </strong>&ldquo;Certain tasks need to be done, even if there is some unwillingness on the part of employees to do them. Volunteering for tasks like this, particularly those you&#39;re comfortable with and know you can perform well, is a way to showcase your willingness to take responsibility and earn gratitude and recognition from your managers,&rdquo; said Gostanian.</li><li><strong>Serving as a mentor or guide to newly hired or promoted employees. </strong>&ldquo;Managers and colleagues will remember those who went out of their way to make sure they are comfortable with their new situations, know where things are and the way they work. This is an opportunity to make a lasting good impression on someone who may be important to your own career advancement,&rdquo; said Stevens.</li><li><strong>Readiness to credit and recognize others for their contributions and to share praise.</strong> &ldquo;Selfless people are quick to credit others, recognize their contributions and share praise. This not only fosters a spirit of teamwork, but speaks volumes about the kind of person you are,&rdquo; said Gostanian. </li><li><strong>Sharing your relevant experience with managers and colleagues when the need arises.</strong> &ldquo;Not everyone in the workplace is aware of all your experiences in your career. When a situation arises where there is little relevant experience on your team or in your department, volunteer what experience you have had without embellishing it. Your knowledge may help land a new piece of business or keep a current client happy, and sharing this with others can help enhance your career,&rdquo; said Gostanian. </li></ul><p> </p>

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