Dreaming of the fastest way to advance in your career?
We want to go from intern to CEO in the time it takes to pull up to a drive-thru window and get a large order of fries. We’ve got places to go and success to obtain.
The ambition gear has to be in overdrive for you to reach the next rung, but before you accelerate, know that there are speed limits in place for your own good.
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 cut out 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 that meeting deadlines is crucial, and sometimes it means skipping lunch to get that report done by 2 p.m.—but every day shouldn’t look like that.
On days you don’t have tight deadlines, take a break to replenish your body and mind. The company’s stock won’t plummet if you take 30 minutes to eat your sandwich. Eat your lunch; enjoy every bite. Take time to step away from your desk, go chat up a co-worker, 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. What you love to do probably doesn’t include monitoring your work email as though your life depends on it.
Relax. Work/life balance is a must. There are times when you’ll be on call for a project that’s extended itself beyond normal working hours. Other than those times, set aside your work phone 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 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 have to be completed before your trip. It’s simple.
4. Over-explaining yourself.
You need to go to the doctor, because you have a nagging pain in your leg. Does your manager have to know why you have to leave early? 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 contribute the exact thing you were terrified to offer, and everyone will end up loving the idea. Don’t let this happen; own your ideas, and speak confidently about them.
[RELATED: Ragan's new distance-learning site houses the most comprehensive video training library for corporate communicators.]
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 that you know how to work efficiently and that you can handle your workload, but never compromise the quality of your work because you have too many other tasks to complete.
It’s OK to 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 hinder your success rather than help it?
Jaimee Ratliff is a PR Consultant and a culture enthusiast based in Houston. She also likes to write about all things Generation Y. Follow her at @WhatJaiSays. A version of this article first appeared on Brazen Life.