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Ten Critical Career Moments

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In every career, there are certain moments when you can either make an outstanding impression or commit occupational suicide. The key to success is recognizing when those moments occur and responding appropriately. Here are ten situations where many careers have been made or broken.

1. The Second Job Interview
If you have been called back for a second interview, then you’re a serious candidate for the job. However, you may still have strong competition, so you need to separate yourself from the pack. Too many applicants get cocky and take a more relaxed approach to the second interview, but that’s a big mistake. For suggestions on avoiding this pitfall, see Making the Most of Your Second Interview.

2. Getting a New Boss
The most hazardous time in anyone’s career is the arrival of a new manager. All too often, people continue to operate based on the expectations of the old boss, only to find that the new manager has completely different ideas. Or a completely different leadership style. By the time you realize this, however, your career might be in the ditch. You can find tips on responding to a new boss at Strategies for Surviving a New Boss.

3. Asking for a Raise
Some people are so uncomfortable talking about money that they remain underpaid instead of asking for a raise. Others become entirely too demanding, expecting to be paid more than their job or their experience is worth. If you’re going to approach your manager about a pay increase, you need to do it in the right way. Learn how at How to Ask for a Raise.

4. Handling Criticism
Since there are no perfect people, you will undoubtedly receive negative feedback at some point in your career. Maybe a project didn’t go as planned, or you failed to meet an objective. Perhaps a colleague has issues with your job performance. Or maybe you and your boss have different communication styles. Your response to criticism will determine whether people see you as mature and professional or defensive and thin-skinned. Here are some thoughts about getting critical feedback: How (and Why) You Should Ask for Criticism.

5. A Bad Performance Review
Getting a bad performance review can make you feel angry, unappreciated, defeated, and hopeless. But it’s not the end of the world. The way you respond to this appraisal can make all the difference in the next one. Even if you believe that the review is inaccurate and that your boss is completely wrong, you will benefit by reacting in a mature, adult manner. You will find advice for handling this difficult situation here: How to Respond to a Bad Performance Review.

6. Reorganizations
Reorganizations represent a shift the distribution of power. Sometimes you may have an opportunity to lobby (tactfully, of course) for a change in your own circumstances. But at other times, the best strategy is to simply lie low until the turmoil subsides. Once the dust settles, you need to evaluate the revised power map and determine who is now in a position to affect your future. If the reorg has brought management changes, you may find these suggestions helpful: How to Manage Your Boss. And if you think your boss may have lost power, here are some clues that the situation could be serious: Twenty Signs That Your Boss Is on the Way Out.

7. Your First Management Job
Many new managers fail to realize that management is completely different from whatever they were doing before. Regardless of whether you were a salesperson, a nurse, an accountant, or an engineer, you are now in a totally different type of job that requires some new skills. So if you’re a new manager, don’t try to “wing it”. Take the time to learn what management involves. Here are some tips: Twelve Tips for New Managers and The New Manager's Coaching Guide.

8. Encounters with Top Management
A chance encounter with a high-level executive can make or break a career. Any time you are in the presence of upper management, you have an opportunity to create a lasting impression – and you want that impression to be positive! When future opportunities arise, you would like that executive to immediately think of you. Not sure how to make that happen? Then study these suggestions: How to Impress High-level Managers.

9. The Office Party
Office parties represent both opportunity and risk. On the one hand, you can develop better relationships with your colleagues and get to know people that you would never meet otherwise. Some people use parties for serious strategic networking. At the same time, however, uninhibited party behavior can destroy your career. To be smart about office social gatherings, check out The Office Party: Career-Builder or Career-Killer?

10. Mergers & Acquisitions
If your company is acquired or your organization is merged with another, you have to realize that all bets are off. There are going to be management changes, culture changes, and changes in expectations, so you need to be open to new ways of doing things. If you remain wedded to the past, you may just kill your career. To better understand how you tend to react to change, check out this Quick Quiz: What Is Your "Change Personality"?

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