Four Career Missteps to Avoid


I’m a former paralegal who went back to school and to obtain a business administration degree. Before going back to school, I previously worked in various legal support roles at small law firms. After graduation, my dream would be to land a legal administrator position at a larger law firm. Do you have any suggestions for polishing my image in order to secure a management-level position at a more prestigious firm?


Many job seekers get tripped up when it comes to projecting a suitably professional image. And many of the pitfalls that arise are related to online etiquette. Although no one can discount the central role of social media in our personal and work lives, there are definitely some missteps to avoid as you embark on your post-graduation employment quest. Here are some of the biggest blunders:

1. Engaging in posting madness. Expect prospective employers to check out your online presence, so tidy up your social media as needed. Remove indiscriminate photos and questionable content from social media accounts, blogs and chats. Also, check your privacy settings to ensure you’re not oversharing personal information. Going forward, think strategically about what you share, post, tweet and do in your personal life that could leave a long-lasting digital footprint.

2. Blanking out. You may need to scale back on your online presence in some places but enhance it elsewhere, such as on professional networking sites. For instance, an incomplete profile on LinkedIn is a missed opportunity to market yourself and showcase your experience. Help prospective employers and networking contacts understand your qualifications and interests with a robust profile that highlights your key skills and achievements.

3. Corresponding carelessly. Proofread all emails to prospective employers and networking contacts carefully. Your friends may not mind receiving messages that contain typos and digital shorthand but hiring managers and those who would recommend you for a job might think twice if your communication style doesn’t measure up.

4. Experiencing technical difficulties. With most firms conducting interviews by videoconference amid the pandemic, make sure you’ve worked out any potential tech issues beforehand. For instance, don’t do an interview on your cell phone from a location where you have a bad connection or a lot of background noise. And for a video interview, make sure you project a professional appearance, including your background. Just because you’re connecting from home doesn’t mean you should appear to be “at leisure.”

Although there are numerous tech-related gaffes that can trip up today’s job seekers, don’t neglect the more traditional basics either. Make sure your personal appearance elevates your candidacy by dressing and grooming in as professional a manner as possible. Be mindful of your demeanor and language as well. Make eye contact and avoid casual lingo (e.g., “no problem” or “whatever.”) As the old adage goes, interview for the position you aspire to, not the one you currently hold.