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4 Workplace Habits That May Harm Your Career

Some things you do at work may be subtly hurting your professional image. Read on to learn what they are--and how to mend your ways.

You speak up in meetings and work late without complaining. But despite busting your ass, you still might not be as far along in your career as you'd hoped. What gives? Well, according to experts at the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, a nonprofit organization that trains women in business skills, many determined working gals aren't asserting and advocating for themselves enough.

"Young women are ambitious, but they still have self-doubt, which hinders success," explains Naomi Wolf, Woodhull's co-founder. Here are four big mistakes you may be making:

1. You Downplay Your Accomplishments

"Boys are often encouraged to toot their own horns; girls are socialized to think that people will like them more if they're modest," says Woodhull's executive director, Wende Jager-Hyman. But if you don't champion your victories, who will? Sorry, but your boss is too busy. Chances are, she doesn't even know how damn hard you're working—so you need to tell her. A quick email saying "It took long hours, but it was worth it—the venture was a success!" can open her eyes...and fast-track your career.

2. You Talk, Like, Uh, Dumb

Your voice rises an octave, statements end with a question mark ("I turned it in yesterday?"), and little fillers, you know, sneak in. These speaking habits, like, totally undermine your professionalism. So why on earth would a confident chick regress? "Many young women are embarrassed to be wrong, so their talking style is tentative," says Wolf. "But to get ahead, you have to speak with authority. Men do it, even if they're wrong." So, be aware, focus on using a stronger voice, and believe in what you have to say, even if others might not.

3. You Don't Negotiate

"Part of not asking for more money is a fear of rejection, and the other part of it is a need to keep people happy," explains Jager-Hyman. But companies actually expect you to negotiate, and they budget for it, so they're more surprised when you don't than when you do. Bring in a list of what you've done recently, and research what other people in your position are making. Prep work helps because when you realize you deserve that cash, you'll be ready to fight for it.

4. You Don't Step Up

Look, everyone is scared of failure. But then, for some reason, women tend to let it get to them more than men do. Thus, they often choose to play it safe. "Wanting your life to run smoothly is understandable, and you may not feel equipped for a challenge that may tip the boat,” says Jager-Hyman. "The thing is, real growth usually happens when you step outside your comfort zone."

Although exploring an unknown—whether it's a new job responsibility or an entirely new career path—may feel scary, there are just times when you simply have to bite the bullet.


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