9 Career Mistakes Women at Work Make a Lot (but Don’t Have to)

Woman talking to co-worker

How women at work are holding themselves back – and what to do about it.

There are oodles of women at work who feel stuck: Either they feel like they’re spinning their tires, or their hard work is forever being ignored (“Hello? Is this thing on?”). A good chunk of us have habits that are holding us back from greatness. What’s worse, they’re burrowed in our subconscious, so we’re sabotaging ourselves without even knowing it!

Here are 9 career mistakes women at work make without even realizing it (and how you can get your sh*t together):

1. Lacking a clear focus

When we go after the work/home/life trifecta, many of us try to perfect each area of our life simultaneously, which leads to less than stellar results. When women at work do this, it’s easy to end up overlooked for projects and promotions, since you’re not carving out a specific place for yourself. Decide what you want to be known for: This will help you prioritize and stand out.

2. Mistaking “busy” for productive

Women are more prone to multitasking, making it easy for us to stretch ourselves too thin. We’re also detail-oriented – a skill that can just as easily work against us. While you’re making sure to attend every meeting, reply to your e-mails in a timely manner and maintain a dust-free desk, your co-worker just landed a new account from a desk covered in discolored post-its and chocolate bar wrappers. Ask yourself what you need to do each day to accomplish your big-picture goals, then use the time leftover to deal with the minor details.

3. Avoiding conflict

It’s true: Conflict is distracting, and for the most part unnecessary. However, avoiding it altogether means no professional or personal growth. Who wants to feel like they’re on a hamster wheel? Know the difference between good and bad conflict. Good conflict is having a respectful disagreement with a coworker or expressing an opinion (even if it’s unpopular) – you’re expressing your individuality, which is always a good thing. Bad conflict is participating in catty gossip, backstabbing, and passive aggressive manipulation. Don’t get sucked in.

4. Neglecting other areas of life

I’ve spent most of my life having no other identity outside of being a writer, so trust me when I say neglecting other areas of your life for the sake of your career is bad news. Not only do you end up feeling like a drone, there’s no way for you to offer unique contributions at work or in your relationships (oh wait, that’s right, you don’t have any). When you maintain other interests outside of work, you become someone other people want to know and do great things with.

5. Using wishy-washy words

When you talk to your boss or co-workers, you sound too much like the Goofy Gophers (“Indubitably!”). Being easy to get along with is one thing, but go overboard and you’ll make it seem like you’re apologizing for your entire existence and have no confidence whatsoever. Nix the following out of your vocabulary, stat:

  • Kind of/Sort of
  • Might/Maybe
  • Actually
  • Just
  • I’m sorry, but…

Seriously, give it a try. Your sentences will sound a lot stronger (you know, like the Terminator).

6. Sidestepping decisions

Everyone loves a good pro/con list, but when asked for your opinion, don’t sit on the fence. When you want to make a move, go with your gut, don’t ask for 10,000 opinions before making a choice. The same goes for saying yes too fast: When you’re asked to help out (even if you’re only grabbing coffee for everyone before a meeting), make sure your decision is based on sincerity, not obligation. Asking yourself, “Does doing this improve my bottom line?” isn’t selfish – it’s strategy.

7. Being impatient

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was bulldozing my way into the lifestyle I wanted instead of letting it happen naturally. By the time I reached my goals, not only was I severely burnt out, but I wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle all of the responsibilities I had created. No matter how lofty your goals, trust in the fact that you’ll reach them. Pushing to make your goals happen as fast as possible sucks the enjoyment out of literally everything. Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

8. Trying to fit in

It’s good to have tight bonds with other women at work, but not at the expense of your career. In other words, just because you want to go for that promotion or take up other interests outside of work doesn’t mean you’re being deceitful or catty. You, just like the other women you work with, are there to get ahead and leave a mark (or several). If they’re your “real” friends, they’ll support your career moves 100 percent.

9. Acting like “one of the boys”

You don’t need to be anyone but yourself to become successful. Period.

What tips would you add to help women at work thrive?

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Image: Victor1558

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).