5 Ways Other People Can Help (or Hurt) Your Career

Employees and others in the career field

Employees and others in the career field | iStock.com

Work hard, put your time in, and move up the corporate ladder, right? Not so fast. As important as it is to do your best at work and to gain experience, there are many mistakes you could make that would negate your hard work and damage your career. In addition, the truth is that you alone are not in charge of where your career goes (or doesn’t go); other people have more power than you may realize.

This is particularly true if you are an employee because you have performance reviews and co-workers to worry about, but even if you own your own business, you will always have to interact with other people. While hard work can get you far, there will always be other players who can positively or negatively change your course. Here are five ways that other people can affect your career.

1. References

Sometimes a reference is a good thing. If a hiring manager has narrowed the search down to two candidates, and your references speak very highly of you, then you might get the job offer. Also, if you regularly check in with your references and you update them about new work experience and training that you have, they will be prepared to share this information when they receive calls.

On the other hand, be careful who you choose as a reference. It’s a common myth that companies can only give the dates that you were employed; employers are allowed to give an honest opinion about employees as long as they avoid misrepresentations or lies (however, many companies have set rules about how much information they will provide). Be sure to ask if it is acceptable to use someone as a reference, and if they feel comfortable giving you a positive one.

2. Networking

Google office

Google office | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The importance of networking can’t be overstated: meeting the right people can truly help your career. If you build and maintain a strong network of people who can share job opportunities with you, and even recommend you for positions, then you will truly be building important relationships. Still, as much as contacts have the ability to help you in your career, they also can easily harm you. If you have a bad experience with someone who is well known or important in your job field, you could easily find yourself unable to find a job at several companies that work with your contact.

In order to successfully network, it’s important to avoid some big mistakes; make sure to talk about more than just work, and truly build relationships and offer to help others too.

3. Reviews

Office Space

Boss | 20th Century Fox

Your boss can easily make or break your career, or at least, your ability to move up at your current company. If your boss is disappointed with your work, believes that you are lacking in some other way, or simply dislikes you, he or she can make it next to impossible for you to advance in your career or earn a promotion. Your boss can also help you though; if you impress your boss, you may quickly get promoted at your company, and you also may have the opportunity to meet new people and work on projects that will help your career in other ways.

Your boss isn’t the only one who might give you a negative or positive review. Your co-workers can also have a say: if they find you to be lazy or incompetent, your boss will surely hear about it.

If you have a customer-facing job, you may get a customer complaint. Most companies provide training for their employees, but if your supervisor continually receives negative reviews or complaints about your work, you might find that a complete stranger has the ability to negatively affect your career simply by sharing their opinion. Even a simple mistake during an important client lunch could have disatrous effects.

4. Job competition

job seekers

Job applicants | John Moore/Getty Images

We all know that we are likely competing against several other qualified people when we apply for a job or come in for an interview. However, it’s also true that you might lose out on a huge opportunity because a complete stranger is more qualified than you, or is better at interviewing, or simply knows the right people. It’s possible that you might be even farther in your career right now if years ago a hiring manager hadn’t received a better resume from another applicant.

Where you live alone might be changing your career path. According to the January 2016 Rankings from Indeed, it’s much harder to find a job in certain cities; if there are more unemployed people for each job listing, you may be facing more competition for the job you want.

5. Social media

A big logo created from pictures of Facebook users worldwide is pictured in the company's Data Center

A big logo created from pictures of Facebook users worldwide is pictured in the company’s Data Center | JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/Getty Images

What you put on social media can affect your career. If you post embarrassing pictures, or you complain about your job, then your boss or co-workers might see it. However, your career can be affected by what other people post too. If your friends share embarrassing or drunken photos of you and your boss sees them before you get a chance to delete them, the result could be funny, or it could be ruinous.

According to Kelly Services’ The 2015 Hiring Manager Research, only 12% or hiring managers said they had disqualified a candidate based on a review of their social media profile, but you don’t want to be part of that 12%. Also according to Kelly, social media can be an important tool when networking (68% of working professionals said they use social media as their primary method of networking.)

The work you do to move forward in your career is essential to success, but remember that other people can have a big impact on your career as well.

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