Comfortable in your current career? Think you're ready for a promotion but wonder why one has not been offered to you? There are likely things you're doing (or not doing) every week that have a negative impact on your personal brand. Here are a few of the most common pitfalls:
1. The ever shortening day. If you're a full-time employee, your employer is paying you to work at least eight hours per day, every day. Departments and companies, even when they don't have formal working hours, have typical times when the most productive employees start and end their days. If you want to be viewed as someone who is ready for more, you need to work like the best employees and the managers that are above you.
Here is what a morning looks like for a high achiever: She arrives 15 to 20 minutes before the team typically starts, so she is already at the office with time to get coffee, run to the bathroom and settle in before her manager or colleagues are ready to get moving.
At lunch, make sure you're ready to work within 30 minutes or an hour, depending on your schedule. An hour lunch followed by 10 minutes of getting back to your desk is actually an hour-and-10-minute lunch.
An eight-hour workday does not include your lunch. So if you started at 9 a.m. and take an hour for lunch, then at a minimum, you should be at work until 6 p.m. By law, you have two 10-minute breaks to use during the day, but anything beyond that is not considered "on the clock."
In summary, work like you are trying to get something accomplished, quickly, for at least eight hours a day -- every day.
2. Relaxed wear. All managers are familiar with the issue of the ever relaxing image. Prospective new hires typically look great when they interview -- well-pressed clothes with their hair, makeup and accessories thoughtfully handled before leaving the house. Fast forward a few months, and you see those same employees looking like they rolled out of bed, where they must have been sleeping on the more casual clothes they chose to wear to work. Furthermore, these employees often forgo any effort to look polished.
Like it or not, image matters at work. You are not dating your boss -- OK, at least you are not dating your boss for the purpose of this article -- and are not entering the comfortable phase where you walk around in sweats at the house. You are paid to maintain a certain image at work. Every day you are paid, your image should be at or above your company's standards.
Before walking out the door in the morning, ask yourself: "Does my image command respect?" If the answer is "no," you need to address the issue ASAP.
3. No sense of urgency. As the image relaxes, the intensity at work often wanes as well. High achieving employees have a high sense of urgency. The best way to build a case for your promotion is to show how efficient and effective you are in your role. As you master a task, it stands to reason that you should be able to do it faster and better than when you started or than less experienced peers. If you are not increasing your rate or your results or both, you should question why. Your manager is likely asking that same question.
Check for understanding.
Some people are gifted enough to know what is needed with minimal direction. You may not be one of those people. (Most of us are not those people.) Take a notepad with you into every meeting, and write down what is being asked of you. Ask questions to make sure you thoroughly understand the task at hand and the related timeline.
Do not leave an interaction without clarity on what was said and what are the next steps. Speak up if you're confused, have conflicting priorities or both. It is always better to stop and check before taking off in confusion. Confusion never ends well and always takes longer. Both are terrible outcomes at work.
Career success requires awareness of how you are viewed. Make sure you know what people expect of you, and periodically ask how you are doing overall. Your manager has an opinion of you, and not hearing it doesn't mean it doesn't exist -- it just means you cannot do anything productive with it. Check in regarding your performance. Ask for the tough-to-hear but vital-to-know feedback.
Finally, act on the areas that need to be improved, and enhance your strengths. When you take the time to work on your professional brand, your employer will notice.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.