They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions — and the same can be said about the path to career death. Even with the best intentions, it’s possible for subtle career killers to creep up on you.
“A career killer is not one big event. It’s a bunch of small events, repeated over time. Bad habits can slowly build up and take over your career,” says success coach Dean Graziosi.
But there is no need to panic. The fact that the chances of destroying your professional life with one single event are low leaves you with plenty of opportunities to become aware of destructive habits and course-correct.
We’ve asked Dean Graziosi to share the most common — and subtle — career-crushing things to look out for so you can stay on top of your game.
But before diving into what to avoid, remember that focusing on a few core success principles can also go a long way.
Visualize the best-case scenario and practice gratitude and positive self-talk. “Focus on the good and the value you bring to your career. Mentally and physically, be aware of the factors that push you towards success,” says Graziosi.
And always strive to take action, as idleness is perhaps the most pervasive career killer out there. “Don’t sit around and wait for the thing to happen to you. Go out and make it happen for you.”
Now that you’re equipped with a reminder about what matters the most, here are five subtle career killers to stay aware of and prevent.
1. Chronic procrastination
Are you the type of person who says you work best at the last minute? Do you regularly leave little tasks for later? Those are things to watch out for, according to Graziosi:
“Someone who easily puts less important tasks on the back burner for a day or two may be in for career trouble down the line. In these cases of procrastination, ‘a day or two’ can snowball into a week or two. The more you avoid these responsibilities, no matter how small they seem, the more likely they are to pile up, which can lead to difficulty.”
2. Negative self-talk
“Another sign of trouble is negative self-talk related to your career. Low self-esteem can stem from your past and show up when you feel like you’re not doing your best. We can be our worst critic,” says Graziosi.
Here is the sneaky thing about inner dialogue: It’s easy to start internalizing any negative thought patterns as the truth, which then informs how you view yourself, others, as well as situations at work — and ultimately affects how you act.
“The false statements we make about ourselves, others and the world become our core beliefs. This can impact our self-confidence and cause self-doubt.”
Nip that inner critic in the bud through self-awareness and distance, acknowledging that it is there but recognizing that you are not your thoughts and those very normal moments of self-doubt don’t have to throw your career off course.
3. Ignoring your emotional state
Ignoring your emotional state is such a subtle career killer it’s easy to completely miss, especially if you’re a busy professional who’s always on the go. But being in touch with your emotions is key to preventing career killers from snowballing.
“Personal development affects professional development, so being aware of the thoughts going through your head and the people that you surround yourself with is key to overcoming career killers,” says Graziosi, who recommends pausing when you’re feeling low and getting to the root cause of your feelings.
The last thing you want is for pent-up frustration to build up until it becomes detrimental to your relationships, mental wellbeing or work.
4. Staying in your comfort zone
You know that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. But are you truly aware of how comfortable or uncomfortable you are within different facets of your life and career? Getting out of your comfort zone is a continuous practice, and you could very well be a little too comfortable in certain areas without realizing it because you’re taking risks in others.
Graziosi says that “holding onto old priorities and neglecting to grow as your environment changes around you,” is a subtle career killer. Another way this type of comfort zone-indulging manifests? When you’re making excuses and opting for the easy option on a regular basis.
5. Surround yourself with the wrong people
The people you surround yourself with can either help your career or hurt it. The hard thing to recognize is that even people who are not toxic can turn into subtle negative influences if they don’t motivate you or make you feel empowered or if they have a very negative mindset.
That’s not to say you need to stop talking to your loved ones or being there for them when they’re facing difficulties, but it’s crucial to remain aware of the company you keep and the impact it’s having on your aspirations so you can make choices and cultivate strong boundaries. And, ideally, you’ll want to have at least one or two close people who inspire and elevate you.
“You can surround yourself with people who are positive and will help you move your career forward. When you’re feeling doubtful, they can also help keep your mindset in check on a daily basis,” says Graziosi.