Don't burn out!

6 Soul-Crushing Career Habits You Should Break Right Now

Dreaming of the fastest way to advance in your career? The time it takes to pull up to a drive-thru window and order a large fry is how fast we want to go from intern to CEO. We’ve got places to go and success to obtain.

The ambitious gear needs to be in overdrive to get to the next rung on the ladder, but before you go accelerating, know that there are some speed limits.

Despite what you’ve heard about the surefire ways that’ll get you to the top sooner, some habits can actually end up labeling you as a doormat—and doormats are not fun.

Here are six habits you should nix early in your career to ensure you aren’t being counterproductive in your pursuit of success:

1. Not taking your lunch break

You want to show your manager you understand meeting deadlines is crucial, and sometimes it means skipping your lunch to get that report done by noon—but every day shouldn’t look like this.

On days you don’t have tight deadlines, take a break to replenish your mind and body. The company isn’t going to plummet in stock if you take 30 minutes to eat your sub sandwich. Eat your lunch and enjoy every bite. Take some time to step away from your desk, go chat up another coworker and enjoy the break.

2. Answering emails after hours

Your personal time is just that—personal. It’s your time to spend doing what you love to do, whether that’s hiking or lounging by the pool playing Candy Crush. And what you love to do probably doesn’t include monitoring your work email like your life depends on it.

Relax. Work-life balance is a must. There are times when you’ll need to be on-call for a project that’s extended itself after hours. Other than those times, toss your work phone aside and make a point not to look at it until the next business day. Your boss emailing you pictures of her vacation to Mykonos doesn’t warrant an immediate reply.

3. Not using your paid time off

One of the best parts of the benefits package is the vacation time! But what’s fun about it if you never use what you’ve earned? You can and you should use your vacation time. All of it.

The constant workload will often make you feel there will never be a perfect time to break away and go surfing in Maui, but the truth is there’s never a perfect time to do anything in life. The work will always be there. Set aside some time with your manager early on to discuss your vacation plans and all the projects that need to be completed before your trip. Simple.

4. Over-explaining yourself

You need to go to the doctor because you’ve been experiencing an annoying pain in your leg. Does your manager need to know why you have to leave early to go to the doctor? Absolutely not.

Sometimes we over-explain our situation to our employers to prove why we need the time off. A 12-minute synopsis is unnecessary. Things that happen in your personal life are your business. Providing a doctor’s note is the best way to show you’re being honest.

5. Not speaking up in meetings

Maybe you’re the newbie at the company or you just got promoted to a new division, but it’s not an excuse for not speaking up at every opportunity when you’re invited to a meeting.

Never underestimate the importance of what you have to contribute. Your creative idea could help launch a viral social media campaign. More often than not, someone else will say the exact thing you were terrified to say, and everyone will end up loving the idea. Don’t let this happen; own your ideas and speak confidently about them.

6. Taking on more work than you can handle

You’re only one person. You can’t do all the work by yourself. You shouldn’t have to, either. Sure, you want to impress your manager and other colleagues by showing them you know how to work efficiently and can handle your workload, but never compromise the quality of your work because you have too many other tasks to complete.

It’s okay to speak up and let your manager know when you’ve reached your capacity on the tasks you’ve been assigned. Speaking up, expressing concern about your workload and prioritizing your tasks will make you look responsible rather than incompetent.

What are some habits you feel can actually hinder your success rather than help it?

Jaimee Ratliff is a PR Consultant and a culture enthusiast based in Houston, Texas. She also likes to write about all things Generation Y . Follow her at @WhatJaiSays.


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  2. Cassie Nolan

    Great article. Guilty of all these except maybe #5. Ambition can really work against us sometimes. :) Love the tips!

  3. Kohinoor Devroy

    HeyJaimee, Nice article.However I have a diiferent say for point no 4 – because even if an employee is not giving explanations by themselves, it is by default expected. Such issues “things to be careful of” are reminded politely during quick coffee breaks or team lunches

    • Jaimee Ratliff

      Hi Kohinoor- thanks for reading!

      I definitely agree with you that explanations are expected by default. Where do you think we draw the line when it comes to that?

      • Kohinoor Devroy

        I believe giving directions to an emplyoyee and expressing expected outcomes should be appropriate. This will not only initiate the new learner to grow comfortably but make him/her more confident and efficient

  4. Guilty. Except #5. The funny thing is, if you work in an environment that keeps pushing you to commit all the other bad habits, you’ll probably encounter some negative issues speaking up in meetings as well. If management didn’t already respect you enough before you went to that meeting, they aren’t likely to want to hear you express an opinion either. In any case, the best advice is to go where you’re happy, where the company recognizes and respects the fact that you’re a professional and will work your ass off for them, and where management understands you deserve to take a vacation sometimes, or might need to handle unexpected personal issues.

    • Jaimee Ratliff

      Hi Thomas-

      I really like your perspective as happiness is definitely the most important factor. Do you think that we can sometimes dig our own holes by creating these bad habits from the start and then it’s all of a sudden expected from us by our employers when we ourselves decided to do it on our own without being “forced” to do it by management?

      • Excellent point. Like any other relationship, if we allow ourselves to compromise from day-one, the other side will just assume that’s normal and expect it. I tend to be more critical of management, which can empower people to be better, or which can allow itself to devolve into letting people give and agree too much. Good managers shouldn’t want people saying “yes” and agreeing with them all the time, right? :)

        • Jaimee Ratliff

          Agreed! It’s good to speak up and express yourself in a respectable manner.

          Thanks for reading Thomas. I appreciate your interaction. Have a great holiday weekend!

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  6. memyselft

    #6: That’s where I am right now. But I DID tell them I have too much work and not enough time. Their answer: “make time”. Now I’m in the hot seat, and they ask me “why didn’t you speak up sooner?”

  7. Pingback: Avoid Early-Career Burnout by Breaking These 6 Habits | The Savvy Intern by YouTern

  8. Abigail

    I’m number #1 and number #2! Funny thing is I make it a point to have my employees take a lunch so they can have a breather yet I feel guilty if I have alot to do and always check my email! Definitely need to work on both of these, the balance is so important! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Jessica Sweet

    What comes disguised as “work ethic” is soon revealed as the fast track to burn-out. Thanks for the guidelines to lay down personal boundaries and ground rules! I know that my clients (I’m a career coach) struggle with these things all the time, and wonder why they feel like they’ve been run over by their job. It’s simple – they have!

  10. alexsts55

    Speaking up is a good idea when you working with professionals. In some cases showing that you know what is going on on front of stupid blonde who got promoted to managerial position for god only known reason could be worse than not speaking at all.

  11. Great points. It feels like there’s an implicit career crushing habit of being the “lone expert.” If you’re the only one who can do X, it’s going to be extremely difficult to take a lunch, have work-life balance, etc. Find and train your replacement so you can advance your career; if you don’t, you may end up stuck in your current position because the organization needs you there.

  12. Nayna

    What comes disguised as “work ethic” is soon revealed as the fast track to burn-out. Thanks for the guidelines to lay down personal boundaries and ground rules! I know that my clients (I’m a career coach) struggle with these things all the time, and wonder why they feel like they’ve been run over by their job. It’s simple – they have!

  13. Arvi

    Honestly I used to do a few of these like ‘Answering emails after hours’, ‘Taking on more work than you can handle’ etc…Actually I was not so aware about these while I was starting new…It used to make me feel sick…Thanks for mentioning all of these here as it will surely help many guys and girls for sure…

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  15. Jennifer Edwards

    Great article. I would love every point especially there is
    a one thing for topic #3. We all love our life than job we need job to lead
    life with our family. But where the vacation!! Where our family!! We don’t even
    have our holidays, they offer a mammoth figure for our holiday hour, and even
    if we do not agree to work in holiday or more than the normal work hour we got
    threat of losing our job. So it is better to give monetary security to our
    family instead of hanging out with them.

  16. I worked where there is no time for taking breath,just 10 min for launch and 9am to 6pm work.How i manage to go vacation,Boss won’t allow even 11 min for launch.Last month my family has gone for vacation to Europe when i am still playing with keyboards ,writing content for other. Except #1 i can manage everything.Now i think i need to switch my job.

  17. You need to go to the doctor because you’ve been experiencing an annoying pain in your leg. Sua Macbook Does your manager need to know why you have to leave early to go to the doctor? Absolutely not.

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