A positive reputation, especially at work, can take a long time to build. And once built, it needs to be properly maintained. Things like gossiping, breaking company rules, or failing to show up for work will certainly diminish your career prospects. But workers need to beware of less-obvious mistakes that can sabotage their career success. Your behavior, visibility, and ability to produce A+ work will play important roles in finding success, not only early on in your career, but also throughout your entire working life.

Here are the Top 5 Career Killers today’s workers need to be aware of:

1- Letting Your Network Go Cold

Networking is still the number one way to find a job, but maintaining your contacts after you’re hired is paramount to the continuing success of your career. Most people let their network go cold once they land their new gig. However, keeping in touch with key contacts and joining trade groups or associations helps you stay up to speed on the latest issues and trends in your field and gives you people to call when you need advice or a job lead. Developing relationships with key employees at your current company is important too, especially the ones you don’t interface with day to day. Given the rate of change in today’s business environment, most positions only last a few years at most. A solid networking contact you’ve stayed in touch with just may just help you land your next gig or get that promotion.

2- Partaking in (Only) Negative Office Politics

When someone mentions the term “office politics” most people conjure up thoughts of backstabbing and gossiping. But not all forms of office politics need to be an episode of Survivor where only the scheming and deceptively cunning survive and win. Like it or not, every workplace has an intricate system of power and influence, and to earn more and be promoted faster you can and should work it ethically to your advantage.

To get a promotion or raise, avoid being downsized, or to get a project approved, you need co-worker and mostly supervisory support and sponsorship. Get that backing and enhance your reputation capital by building relationships – especially with the higher-ups. Schedule a time to chat for a few minutes or even meet for coffee. Most executives would be happy to spend some time with you as they at one time were exactly where you are now in your career and understand the importance of building positive relationships in the workplace.

3- Purposely Producing C- Work aka “Quiet Quitting”

“Quiet quitting” is a new corporate buzzword that’s been getting a lot of publicity lately. Simply said, quiet quitting is showing up to your job and performing at the lowest level possible while avoiding write-ups or reprimands due to poor work quality. Basically, it’s producing C- work – on purpose – even though you’re capable of performing at a much higher level.

There are a myriad of reasons why this can be a career killer. First, positive work reviews, good job emails, and awards – even the non-formal type – can all lead to a raise, a promotion, and increased leverage when negotiating work duties and roles. Positive work results can also lead to solid referrals and recommendations down the road when you’re interviewing for a new position or if one of your network contacts has an opening to fill. The high performers are always contacted and considered first.

Quiet quitters reap none of these rewards. Their skills can dull and even become antiquated over time, networking pool shrinks, pay can remain stagnant or lessen, and opportunities for a promotion can dry up. But probably the biggest impact will be on the quiet quitter’s own psyche. Knowing you’re showing up to work every day doing the bare minimum can wreak havoc on a person’s self-esteem and spirit. Many people identify with their chosen career and profession as a way to contribute back to society and feel good about the product, service, or cause they are promoting. By quiet quitting, you can sabotage your own success which can lead to a pattern of job jumping, earning a minimal income, long gaps of unemployment, and it can contribute to low self-worth and self-image.

4- Failing to Balance Team Player with Individual Contributor

Workers today face a delicate balance. For any group work project, you do need to step up for your team members and do your share while helping others along the way if possible. This is also a solid way to contribute to your reputation capital at work — you’re known a person that pulls their weight and can get things done when called upon. You help the team and help others so when the time comes that you need a favor, chances are people will gladly assist you too. This is how strong relationships at work are forged. It’s a symbiotic process.

But you can’t be so much a member of the team and overextend yourself that your individual efforts are overlooked and not recognized and rewarded. You still need to demonstrate your skills and abilities to successfully build your career without giving the appearance that you’re interested only in looking out for yourself. In today’s disjointed business world where many people work at a distance from their supervisors, it’s important to let your leadership know your contributions and that you are a valuable asset. This could be as simple as providing your supervisor with an e-mail once a week to inform him or her about what you’re working on and your progress. By doing this, when decisions are made for promotions or a raise, you’re more likely to get strong consideration if you’ve positioned yourself as a team player who also has a litany of individual contributions to display.

5- Lying on Your Resume

There are some highly public examples of people getting caught lying on their resume. This might seem blatantly obvious, but if you lie on your resume, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to get caught. Most job seekers lie about their previous job titles, education, skill set, or even their dates of employment and their job responsibilities. But it’s important to keep in mind is that it is incredibly easy for employers to fact-check your job application for accuracy—and honesty.

If an employer finds out that you’ve lied during the application process, yours will probably get tossed. Lying on a job application or your resume is also grounds for termination at any point in the future – even years later – and because of the reason for your termination, you likely won’t be able to use anyone at the company as a reference. Plus, you’ll not only have to explain in future interviews that you were fired but also the reason why. While you could delete the company from your work history, if you’ve been there a long time or even for a couple years, you’ll have a gap in your resume that may not be easy to explain.

Any of these career killers can be mitigated or eliminated with some strategic planning, advice from trusted sources, and most of all – common sense. Career killers can come deceptively packaged as quick fixes or an easy way to rapidly springboard to a better role or higher income. But the long-term cost and impact to your career can be egregiously negative. Your work reputation is the one thing that will follow you throughout your entire professional career. The good news is you control it 100%. Make sure your professional reputation works for you, not against you.


Donald J. Strankowski is a two-time author, active public speaker, and a regular guest on FOX 31 Good Day Colorado. He is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career management and professional development firm for businesses, professionals, and executives. Since 2001, Ascend has helped people land a better job, improve their level of performance, change careers, or start their own business. Serving customers across the US and internationally, Ascend offers best in class career advisement and professional services for any individual or company looking to gain a key competitive edge. Schedule a free consultation today.