How to Avoid Simple Career Mistakes

In an interview we did with personal branding expert Dan Schawbel for our blog, he said that he’d recently “received the worst PR pitch…ever seen. Instead of saying ‘Dan, would you be interested in interviewing the CEO of XYZ,’ they made it very impersonal and said ‘Hi [FIRST_NAME|Colleague].’ What this does is notify me that I’m on their list without permission, that they didn’t take the time to speak to me personally and that they are careless.”

Everyone makes mistakes but when you’re trying to impress people in the workplace, you want to do your best to avoid those that are simple to sidestep.  Here are a few tips to dodge common errors that can derail your career goals:

1. Check your work (twice!): In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist, we share multiple stories of people who made careless mistakes that cost them a potential job. One anecdote we didn’t include in the book is about a young woman who interviewed well in person and put a lot of effort into her writing/editing test, which was printed out in color and hand-delivered to Jessica’s office. Only problem: She forgot to proofread her work, along with the “press release” she wrote to go along with it, the headline of which read, “[Her name] Hired as Publicity Maganger of Heast Magazines.” She obviously hadn’t spell-checked because as far as we know, the words “maganger” (we assume she meant “manager”) and “Heast” (instead of Hearst, the company where Jessica runs PR) are not found in the dictionary. Lesson: Before you send an important letter, presentation or memo, ask someone else to proofread it. If you can’t get another person to review your work, set it aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you might catch on the second round. Reading it aloud also helps you catch mistakes in grammar and style.

2. Be cognizant of your surroundings: You never know who is sitting next to you on the train, walking behind you out of a theater or in the bathroom stall in a restaurant’s restroom. We’ve heard stories about people who were talking on their cell phone about upcoming layoffs at their company and a blogger who covered their industry just happened to be sitting nearby and broke the news — before the employees found out. It’s a smaller world than you might think!


3. Don’t dismiss the maitre d’: Be nice to everyone, regardless of their position because you never know where people will end up. In our business, for example, we might be contacted by a blogger who started in his dorm room but if we turn up our noses and he ends up getting hired by The New York Times (we actually know of someone to whom this happened!), we’re in trouble. The lesson: Don’t be rude or dismissive to the receptionist, assistant or junior folks at a company because those people are not only the eyes and ears of their bosses but also could be in a position to hire you someday.

4. Think before you post: In a fast-moving digital world where everyone can learn about your life with the click of a mouse (or through 140-character updates), it’s very easy to shoot off a tweet or Facebook status update without really considering who might read it. For example, if you’re having a terrible day or had a late night partying, refrain from posting “I’m so over this job” or pics of you downing shots of Jose Cuervo. Even if your boss isn’t your friend on Facebook, other coworkers might be and anything negative can get back to him or her.  According to a Careerbuilder poll, 45 percent of HR professionals are checking out social networking profiles of potential hires. You don’t want them to find something — even if you posted it innocently — that would adversely affect your career.

Have any questions or comments about career mistakes?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter (@BestPublicist).


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