DePaul University Career Center's Blog

5 Mistakes You Might Be Making at Work

By: Alexandra Bradbury, DePaul University Organizational Communication major, American Studies major ’19 and Career Center Communications Assistant

Appropriate behavior and professionalism in the workplace may seem like common sense. We know not to arrive three hours late in our favorite plaid pajama pants and take a four hour lunch break. But, professionalism extends far beyond these obvious offenses.

We sat down with Sarah Carbone, the Associate Director of Student Employment and EDGE at DePaul, to uncover the less obvious, but common, mistakes people make in the workplace.

1. Wearing Unprofessional Clothing

Although workplaces are becoming more casual, it is still important to dress professionally. Never assume the attire is casual and never push the envelope when it comes to your clothes – if you look in the mirror and you’re on the fence, don’t wear it. Sarah believes that professional attire can have an impact on your mindset, productivity, and confidence. Whether it’s a phone interview, in-person interview, or a day at the office, wear an appropriate professional outfit to make a good impression and feel like your best self.

2. Gossiping About Coworkers

Remember when adults used to tell you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” This adage also applies to your job or internship. Gossiping can damage your credibility, causing others to see you as untrustworthy or unprofessional. Avoiding gossip is particularly important if you are an intern. Gossiping about your superiors or coworkers could sabotage your chance at a full-time offer. Sarah encourages employees to “be respectful, even if you disagree.”

3. Getting Distracted

When was the last time your phone was more than a foot away from you for a long period of time? Fight the urge to use your phone for personal matters at work. Sarah’s reminder is that “in most office settings, anyone can walk by your desk at any time.” If your co-workers or superiors see you scrolling through Twitter, it can communicate that you are distracted or unmotivated and damage your reputation.

Business people distracted with their smartphones

4. Losing Track of Time

Managing your time involves prioritization, communication, and taking initiative. Sarah advocates for prioritizing tasks according to deadlines. Rather than starting with the most enjoyable task, tackle the project with the nearest deadline to avoid rushing through your work and delivering a mediocre end result. It is also important to engage in constant communication with your supervisor. Make sure you’re keeping them updated on the status of your projects and tasks. Instead of spending your downtime mindlessly scrolling through social media, Sarah encourages you to ask your supervisor for more tasks to boost your skills.

5. Resigning Unprofessionally

Even if you’re miserable, you shouldn’t ghost your employer. If you plan to leave your job, it’s critical that you give two weeks notice to your supervisor during a face-to-face meeting and write a formal resignation letter after you meet. Even if you don’t enjoy the job you’re leaving, it’s an experience you can learn from.

We all make mistakes. But luckily, these five mistakes are easily avoidable. Lingering questions about workplace professionalism or any other career concerns? The Career Center is here to help. Visit our website or stop by the Career Center for more information on how to be a stellar employee!

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