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6 ways to ruin your career

StressAt a past job, I worked with a nightmare of a client. My team members and I would often forward her “nasty-gram” emails to each other, commenting about her awfulness. After one particularly snippy email from said client, my colleague accidently replied all instead of forwarding the email, letting the client know just what he thought of her. Needless to say, our boss wasn’t too happy, and my co-worker was eventually taken off of the business.

Yes, mistakes happen to the best of us. They don’t always result in major consequences, but sometimes they can cause a bump in your career. In his book, “Reply All…And Other Ways To Tank Your Career,” author Richie Frieman provides a guide to circumventing career-altering mistakes by putting your best foot forward during a job search or while on the job.

Here are six examples of ways you could potentially ruin your career, according to the book, and how to avoid becoming a victim of these errors.

1. Arriving late to an interview
While sometimes you want to arrive fashionably late to an event, an interview is not one of those times. You don’t want the hiring manager’s first impression of you to be negative, all because you couldn’t get your act together to show up on time. As Frieman says, “Employers want commitment, not someone who thinks being a few minutes late is acceptable.”

Frieman suggests that if you live far away, you should leave early to avoid any traffic or public transportation issues. “‘My train was delayed’ is a juvenile excuse and you won’t be taken seriously,” he says. Remember that you’re not the only one applying for the job, “So when it comes down to it, the details are what will make or break your chances.”

2. Being overly confident in an interview
You may have every skill and qualification listed in the job posting, and then some. So you may go into the interview feeling confident, which isn’t a bad thing. But taking that confidence too far can backfire. As Frieman notes, “By far one of the biggest mistakes you can make during a job interview is assuming you already have the job … Granted, you may be the smartest, slickest, most dynamic person ever to grace the earth, but you must not act like it.” If you do, the interviewer will see right through you. “I can guarantee you that acting like you’re the cat’s meow will come across as annoying at best and patronizing at worst,” he says.

3. Not being accessible to your boss
If your boss asks you to help out on something, you need to accept the work, and enthusiastically, unless you have a legitimate, significant reason why you can’t. As Frieman notes, saying you can’t stay late to help because you have a spin class will not fly.

While always important, being accessible is especially crucial when you’re new to a job. “When you are fresh in a new job you have to make sacrifices, and by telling your boss you can’t help out you’re making your commitment (or lack thereof) loud and clear,” he says. “Granted, your boss doesn’t own you or your time; however, prioritizing is key.”

4. Talking a little too casually around the office
There may be times when you’re frustrated with your boss and want to tell him exactly how you feel. Or maybe you just heard a funny, albeit slightly dirty, joke you think your colleagues would enjoy. But do yourself a favor, and hold back from using any potentially offensive language while in a professional setting.

“Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of occasions when co-workers will annoy you, tempers will flare, you’ll get into a heated debate, and want to rant like the filthiest sailor in the seven seas. But … you can’t,” Frieman says. When you curse, it shows a lack of professionalism and self-control. “It doesn’t always land the way it was meant to and some words can be downright offensive. If you have to curse, only do it in private, with someone you trust who doesn’t mind, or when you are by yourself and away from others.”

5. That dreaded “reply all” scenario
Let’s say you find yourself in a situation where you’re the one who just replied all to an email from your co-worker or boss, and the content of your email wasn’t so professional. “An embarrassing text or email is usually the result of something incredibly frustrating. It’s a quick-trigger reaction when you need to vent…These kinds of texts or emails always come back to haunt you — especially since come new-job-search time your potential new employer will most likely call your old employer to ask about your performance.”

But don’t run out of your office, change your name and move to another state just yet. There is a way to salvage the situation, Frieman says. “The only way to put this behind you is to be honest, accept blame, and grovel a bit,” he says. “The boss will respect you more for your honesty than for trying to BS your way out of it. Keep it clear, simple, and don’t dwell on the details.”

6. Cancelling meetings repeatedly
There will always be times when you’ll need to cancel or re-schedule meetings. And you’ll have meetings cancelled on you as well. Things come up, people get busy — that’s just the nature of business. But be careful not to become a repeat offender, because that can reflect poorly on you. Even if you haven’t fallen into that category yet, you’re still not off the hook. “When you do cancel, you have to make sure the other party knows where you’re coming from and that you’re truly apologetic for wasting their time,” Frieman says.

Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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