Five easy ways to commit career suicide

We are all capable of making mistakes that can send us straight to the career doghouse. Here are five big no-nos to watch out for.

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Yes, the party will have food. Go ahead and eat some, but don't draw attention to yourself by parking at the shrimp cocktail table. (Right or wrong, people will judge you if you pig out.) Consider eating something before you get to the party to avoid looking famished when you arrive. Be careful if the party offers alcohol; you know what can happen when a person drinks too much.

If you bring a guest, ask that person beforehand to be careful about his words. You don't want your guest to say to your boss, for example, "Oh, you're not as bald as they said you were!"

By the way, no matter how well you get along with your co-workers, the party is no time to complain about all the overtime you had to put in on the SAP rollout. If you do talk about the hours or the project, try to keep things positive, as in, "It was tough, but we did it."

Burning bridges when you resign

Many of us fantasise about telling off the boss when we quit a job -- but before you let loose, think twice. Remember the '90s Internet bubble? Many IT people left traditional companies with visions of pulling in millions from Internet start-ups, only to be rudely surprised when their new companies went under. Those who left on good terms with their former employers had a better chance of being rehired.

Christian Bass is a firm believer in maintaining good relationships with previous employers. Until 2006, Bass served as director of academic technologies at George Washington University. After leaving GWU, he spent two years as an employee of a consulting company; he then formed his own company, Successant LLC, in 2008. He recently negotiated a consulting contract with -- you guessed it -- his old boss at GWU.

When asked how he handled his GWU resignation, Bass said he emphasised that he was leaving for positive rather than negative reasons. "If something was bothering me at work," he said, "I resolved it, rather than letting it be the factor that led me to leave." He also stressed the importance of leaving with a good reputation and a record of solid accomplishments.

So, when you leave, keep things as gracious as you can. When you make the Big Announcement, stress the advantages of the new job, not the shortcomings of the current one. Conversely, come up with reasons to be grateful to have worked at the latter, but be sincere and don't make things up.

If you learned something from your boss or co-workers, let them know. Even if you had difficulties with someone, you still could say, "Thanks for teaching me how to benchmark an Active Directory environment." Leaving on good terms can only help you if you encounter these folks later.

Career suicide can happen all too easily, in several different ways. Fortunately, by taking common-sense steps, you can reduce its chances of happening.

Calvin Sun is a business consultant, speaker and writer.

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