Do you remember your first job interview? If it was anything like mine, it was a nerve-racking encounter that involved hours of deliberation about what to wear, how to act, and what to say to impress the interviewer. While it’s pretty common to overanalyze the way you conduct yourself in the early stages of a career, as years pass and your 9-to-5 becomes a well-trodden routine, that ability to self-reflect tends to dim.
If you’re beyond the age of first-job scrutiny, that doesn’t mean it’s time to hit cruise control. In fact, science and industry experts agree that some habits, if left unchecked, could stand in the way of your next promotion. Yes, everything from words you use in a meeting to your messy desk sends a message to those around you; what does yours say? If you’ve fallen into the habit of making these six common and subtle mistakes, it’s time to improve your game stat.
When you meet a client for the first time or introduce yourself to a new colleague, what’s your go-to greeting? If you prefer to forgo a formal handshake, research suggests that could be a big mistake. A study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that the simple gesture touches neural circuits in the brain that predispose a person to like you. Those who extended their hand were even perceived to be more competent and trustworthy.
Try this: At the start of an important client meeting, stand and shake each person’s hand. Body language experts recommend making eye contact and extending your arm out—holding it close to your body is said to indicate a lack of confidence.
For a massive 93% of American workers, a new job involves changing employers rather than being promoted within a company. If you’re set to take flight from your current position, Bluefly President Carly Rosenberg says one habit could sabotage your next role. “One of the biggest mistakes that entry-level employees can make is failing to recognize that your reputation is everything. We live in a small world, and with social media, it is only getting smaller. The way you behave at your workplace, whether you like your job or not, will follow you on to your next company,” she tells MyDomaine.
Try this: If you find your performance (and attitude) slip as you near the last days in your role, take note. “Make sure you always represent yourself in the way that you want to be perceived. Work hard, show up on time, deliver what is asked of you,” says Rosenberg, because once developed, a bad reputation can be hard to shake.
While seemingly insignificant, the words we use throughout our day can speak volumes about our work ethic and attitude. In a recent interview with MyDomaine, Polyvore CEO Jess Lee revealed she pays close attention to whether candidates use the word I or we in an interview. “I like to ask, ‘What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve ever worked on, that you’re most proud of?’ You learn a lot about what the person cares about, what they prioritize, and whether they say I or we,” she explains.
Try this: Next time you receive praise at work, pay close attention to your response. If others were involved in the project, calling out that it was a team effort shows humility and leadership qualities.
Countless studies show that those who lack desk organization skills are often more creative and intelligent, but here’s the thing: Regardless of your skills, research suggests that your messy habit could delay a promotion. A CareerBuilder survey reveals 28% of employers said they’re less likely to promote someone with a disorganized workspace, while 57% of workers judge colleagues who have a messy space.
Try this: Create the illusion of a tidy desk without drastically changing your behavior by investing in accessories in one color. A catchall and paper tray will also encourage you to toss spare sticky notes or papers in one place.
This might seem like an astoundingly basic question, but can you describe your job? A recent LinkedIn study reveals that 40% of workers struggle to clearly articulate what they do for a living, saying they often hesitate because they feel like they’re bragging. If you don’t have an elevator pitch, it’s time to stop holding back. Regardless of whether you’re talking to a friend or potential boss, not knowing how to describe your role and the value you bring to a company does you a serious disservice.
Try this: Jot down the three main responsibilities of your role. Then, write how you excel in each area. Use this information to summarize your position into two to three simple, jargon-free sentences.
Are you guilty of any of these self-sabotaging habits?
This post was originally published on August 15, 2016, and has been updated by Sacha Strebe.