Climbing the corporate ladder is a career priority for many modern professionals. Higher status within an organization means greater influence, greater responsibilities, a greater sense of impact, and of course, a higher pay grade. To the unambitious, promotions are something doled out in time, once a superior realizes how long you've been around and how much you've learned. To feistier candidates, promotions are a prize to be fought for, the result of tenacious hard work and constant attempts at self-improvement.
Regardless of your approach and your degree of commitment to earning your next promotion, there are several habits that can interfere with your chances of success--and you may not even realize you have them. Be wary of these seven common ways employees sabotage their chances of moving up:
1. Taking Credit for Things You Didn't Do. This professional sin is easy to avoid in the obvious context--for example, most workers wouldn't try to steal credit for a co-worker's report. However, there's a more subtle way this action can manifest itself. For example, if you're a part of a team responsible for directing and executing a new marketing campaign and the campaign is a success, it might look bad if you try to make it seem like the result of your effort and work more than that of your team. Be sure to give credit to everyone involved, and never take credit for work you weren't involved with.
2. Making Everything About You. When you're looking for a promotion, it's natural to try to make yourself stand out. Companies look to fill new positions, so individualizing yourself is a necessity. However, if you spend too much time developing yourself and start forgetting about your co-workers, you could appear to your supervisors as selfish or irresponsible. Don't be afraid to stand out by working harder and taking on more responsibilities, but don't let that individualism creep into a kind of selfishness. Remember, you're a part of a team, and you're all working for the good of the company.
3. Aiming for the Wrong Job. Sometimes, workers spend so much time fantasizing about getting a promotion that they lose sight of the fact that it means having new responsibilities. Rather than looking at whether they would enjoy or excel at these new responsibilities, they get lost in the glamour of a title or the appeal of a new salary. In effect, they start aiming for a promotion that doesn't fit, and the people around them take notice. Before you end up investing in a promotion for the sake of a promotion, be sure the new position would actually be a good one for you.
4. Spending Too Much Time on New Skills or Responsibilities. To get promoted, you have to align yourself for the new position. You start taking on new responsibilities to show you're capable of handling the new workload, and developing new skills to show you're ready for the transition. However, you must also execute your current responsibilities and perform your current role to the best of your ability. If you start developing yourself for a new position by sacrificing your old one, you'll appear unprofessional or irresponsible.
5. Expressing Negativity. Many workers seeking a promotion are dissatisfied with their current position. It could involve frustration with the line of work, poor interactions with co-workers, or unhappiness with salary. Whatever the case may be, it's a bad idea to express negativity about your current job, in any public context, when you're up for promotion. When asked why you're interested in a new role, talk about its positive aspects rather than the negative aspects of your current role. Excessive negativity could compromise your chances of getting promoted.
6. Taking It Personally. Promoting a person is a professional decision, not a personal one, and if you try to make it personal, you could decrease your chances of success. Sucking up to the decision maker will almost certainly work against you, and explaining your worthiness for the promotion in terms of your personal financial needs or home life is a sure-fire way to compromise your professional image. Focus only on the professional qualities that make you a fit for the new job.
7. Overworking. It's true that putting in extra hours and going above and beyond the call of duty can make you appear to be a more favorable candidate. However, overworking for the sake of a promotion can have some serious negative consequences. You'll become stressed out or burned out, and even though you'll be working longer hours, your productivity and efficiency will suffer. Focus on getting better results rather than putting in more raw hours in--your accomplishments will speak for themselves, regardless of how much time you spend at your desk.
Of course, there's much more to getting promoted than simply eliminating the bad habits that could get in your way. At a reasonable pace, try making new connections and learning new skills, and go out of your way to dress and act for the job you have your eye on. Finally, be patient--all good things take time. If you rush to get promoted, you might not get promoted at all.