10 tips to avoid "CLM's"- Career Limiting Moves

It was 1997 and I was working at a staffing agency.  We were celebrating the year end and we were headed to the dog tracks in Selma, Texas on a chartered bus.  There was alcohol, and everybody was getting loud and crazy.  We had had a long year and two recruiters had just been promoted to account managers.  Everybody was giving the recently promoted high fives and congratulating them.  It truly looked like a scene from the movie the The Boiler Room.  Most of us were recent college graduates.  All of our guards were down.  Now wait, were they?

The answer is "No",  What I didn't realize, and many others didn't realize at the time, is that we were all being tested. Most of us failed, and failed miserably.  Our mouths sounded like cursing sailors, and we were openly talking about work. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I can think of 2 or 3 people that were married, and most of the others on this trip were single and many were being flirtatious with other co-workers of the opposite sex.  Not smart.  Not smart at all.


This all happened one Friday, and Monday at 6:30 AM came really early.  Our boss had pulled our team into his office and he closed the door.  Our boss had observed it all.  He recognized what everyone was doing and called us out on each thing we did that evening.  All of us felt sick and embarrased.  He wasn't mad, just pointing out that we weren't invisible and there was a time and a place for that type of activity.  That was not it.  Needless to say, that was a tough lesson for all of us.  Fortunately none of us lost our jobs.


Now, I was 23 at the time and yes that does happen to someone fresh out of college, but it can happen to anybody at any age.  Since that time, I have chosen to be the observer, not the active participant and it has served me well.  Your activity when at an event like this can lead to what I call a "CLM" or a Career Limiting Move. 

My lesson was easy, your's may not be as easy.  I have seen executives exit organizations for behavior like this.  CLM's occur out of the office, but also within the office.  

Here are 10 tips to avoid a CLM.  

1.  Understand Work is Work-  Don't forget it.  You are being paid to do a job and keeping work and outside activities separate is very important.  This is not saying you don't have a confidant that you can bounce ideas off of and complain about the days events, but realize who your audience is before opening your mouth too much.

2.  Do The Job You Are Asked-  You have a job description of what you are supposed to do each and every day.  You know what is expected of you.  Others around you may be doing something different, but you may jeopardize your career if you regularly do something that is outside your scope of work.  

3. Cool Off Before Doing Something You Will Regret-  We all have the bad day.  Our bosses frustrate us and things get out of control sometimes.  Walk away from a bad situation before saying something you will regret.  Take a 10 minute walk away from your desk.  Take an early lunch.  Do what ever you have to do to cool off before you say something that you can't take back.

4.  Stay Away from E-mail-  How many times have you fired off an e-mail when you know you shouldn't.  This goes back to the cooling off point.  Anything written is forever.  With today's technology if you send an e-mail just assume the whole world can see it.  Pick up the phone first, that is of course after you cool off.  Tone is hard to read in an e-mail and often times can be misconstrued.

5.  Be Involved-  Genuinely care.  Care about what the company is doing.  Care about other employees.  Go to lunch with your coworkers and be involved.  Get involved in projects where someone needs a hand.  Take that step when others aren't willing to take them.  If you aren't involved, you won't be noticed and someone who may not have the skills you have will pass ahead of you in your career.  

6. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer-  You know who you can and can not trust in an office.  You know who you choose to follow and not to follow.  Be aware of the people who don't have your best interest in mind and kill them with kindness.  If you stick with the golden rule "Treat others as you wish to be treated" then you won't have to worry about your "enemies".

7.  Never Burn a Bridge-  You will never know where you will cross paths again. Things change. Management changes; companies get bought out; people change careers.  Even if your current situation isn't ideal, always wake up every morning with "today is a new day" attitude and put your best foot forward. 

8.  Stay Away From The Gossip Game- Keep your nose to the grindstone.  Don't worry too much about what others are saying.  Stay out of trouble and do your job.  Who cares if someone may move to another department?  Who really cares who is not hitting quota?  Control what you can control and mind your own business!  Simply do your job.

9.  Be Low Maintenance-  Managers hate nothing more than when they have to manage your every move.  Watch your sick days, watch your time off requests.  Everyone needs time away, but don't make it a habit.  If someone can count on you to come in and do your job without any further instruction, you will be their hero.  After all, they have a job to do also.

10. Keep The Cell Phone in Your Pocket-  There is nothing more annoying than someone who takes a personal call every 5 minutes.  If you need to take a call, walk outside and keep the conversation to a minimum.  Chances are, it can wait.  No one wants to hear your personal life all of the time.  Something you say may be overheard by someone that may raise some eyebrows.  

If you liked this article, please share it, follow me on Twitter at @WThomsonJr, and send me a Linkedin invitation.  You can read my weekly blogs at http://bit.ly/RqwiMB .  I am looking forward to networking with you!

Views: 2582

Comment by Ryan Leary on January 13, 2013 at 8:22pm

Will - Great post and very strong info. As I am reading your post I couldn't help to think about myself as I began my career. I'm curious to see some responses here. This may be a great "Question of the day topic" Thanks for the post.

Comment by Will Thomson on January 14, 2013 at 10:10am

Thanks Ryan!  I think more people than not can relate to this.

Comment by Marcia Tiemeyer on January 14, 2013 at 12:45pm

Great post.  Have seen this happen time after time.  I have seen very promising careers ruined by just this sort of thing.  I try very hard to keep my personal life and my professional life quite separate.  When the two world do collide, as they some times do, it is better to keep the drinking to a minimum and be the observer.  This can also be extended, and should be extended to on line sites like facebook.  So many people feel like facebook is some place where they can vent about everything and anything.  I know that you may feel like you are safe on facebook because you can choose who you friend, it's still out there for a lot of people to see and read. 

Comment by Adriana Sanchez on January 14, 2013 at 1:45pm

Great post. All very common sense tips but we need these reminders to stay on track for success each day!  It's very easy to get caught up in the daily grind and get way too comfortable in how we approach our work and speak/interact with our co-workers. Love number 9. It’s all about flying under the radar in the right way. Focus on getting noticed for the good you bring to the team.    

Comment by Will Thomson on January 14, 2013 at 2:25pm

Thanks Marcia and Adriana for the comments!  Marcia- Facebook is something almost everyone uses, and it is a great tool.  It is important to keep everything PG rated though.  You can adjust your privacy settings and I strongly suggest anyone who uses it regularly to keep up to date on those.  It can be career damaging.

Adriana- yes, as long as we do our jobs, do them well and are low maintenence we are less at risk for a CLM!

Comment by Will Thomson on January 15, 2013 at 3:28pm

Thanks Kristin!  It is important to be involved with the company and with your co-workers and to stay away from the gossip.  There is way too much of it, and really not any of it is all that important.


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