TODAY: Top Work Mistakes

Even when you think you’re a star employee, you may be making some missteps that could prevent you from really excelling at your job or, in some cases, earning enough. From the way you present yourself at meetings to how negotiate with your boss and  engage in conversation with co-workers, corporate consultant and TV personality Mark Jeffries and I joined the Today show this morning for some important take-aways that can help us make smarter decisions – and better progress –  at work.

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Here’s a rundown of the top work mistakes we discussed from our roundtable discussion:

Asking For A Raise At the Wrong Time

Never ask for a promotion or an increase in money on a Monday morning no one is in the right frame of mind to listen. Save it for a Thursday afternoon and you’ll get a much more positive response. And if we get rejected – we make the mistake of accepting a NO as the final word.  Instead, when you hear NO let that be your cue to offer up an alternative and negotiate. For example, you may not get the 3 to 5% raise you were seeking, but what else could you ask for in that meeting that could benefit your bottom line or provide more work/life balance? Could you ask to work from home on Fridays? Could you ask for an extra week of paid vacation? Or, what about a 10% raise with the proposal of setting a performance review in 6 months where you may be able to earn the extra 5%? Show some tenacity! Your boss may only feel he or she can say NO so many times.

Failing to Maximize Your 401(k)

401(k) participation is down. A recent study by Mercer finds that US employees who save for retirement through their employers’ 401(k) plans are not planning to save more for retirement in 2014 as compared to last year. And those closest to retirement are decreasing their planned savings by more than 18%, despite increasing concern about health care costs in retirement. But a 401(k) is perhaps the most cost-efficient way to save for retirement when you factor in the pre-tax savings and the potential employer match.

Spreading Negativity

As bad as your journey into work was, or how horrific your weekend turned out to be… Never bring your horrors to the office. When you whine and moan about the trouble you have experienced, you breed negativity and this is never an emotion you want attached to your personal brand.

Leaving the Meeting

One of the biggest errors people make when they attend meetings whether they are senior or junior is to “leave the meeting” simply by how they choose to sit in the chair. Many people make the mistake of showing how bored or disinterested they are by sitting back crossing their arms, staring off into space, sneakily checking their phones etc. If you want to show that you truly mean business, think about how you are sitting. Lean into the meeting,  spread your eye contact around like a lighthouse and, even if you say nothing, these actions alone will show that you are an important part of that gathering!

Getting Too Comfortable

As someone who has experienced a layoff in her career, the lesson is you should never be too comfortable with your job security or too presumptuous that you’ll never lose your job. If there’s anything we learned from the economic downturn of 2008, 2009…it’s that there is no such thing as an “essential” employee.” To that end, it’s always important to stay on top of the news in your industry, to continue to grow in your field and network. My first boss shared with me some valuable advice: She told me I should always keep my resume fresh, updated and circulating, at all times!

Mark adds that your network is your number one asset. It is made up of who knows you, knows what you do and knows how good you are at it. They are also your unofficial sales team… They will pick up the phone and recommend you to someone else if you ask them to. This explains why those with the biggest networks always seemed to be the most successful at work! Go to work parties, attend conferences, find ways to keep growing your connections.

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