A group of young workers was staying in an upscale hotel in the business district of a major city for a week of corporate training. On their first evening together, they all enjoyed a night on the town. Later, when they returned, one of them, in a drunken stupor, made a fatal mistake -- a real career killer.
She set off the fire alarm. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Hundreds of hotel guests were evacuated into the street at 11 at night while, at the same time, a senior vice president, also staying there, wandered into the lobby from his own night out. He asked one of the trainees what was going on and discovered the perpetrator had been someone from his company.
Security tapes were reviewed, people were questioned. The woman who sounded the alarm did not show up at training the next day -- or at her job, except to clean out her desk.
Moral of the story? It can take only one really dumb decision to derail your career.
Major career meltdown moments aren't the only ways to sink a career, though.
"Careers are rarely sunk by a single incident, and if they are, then it is clearly something dramatic," says Will Robinson, co-founder of VirtualJobCoach.com "Most damage is usually longer term."
Career Advice From Bankrate.com:
Bash your employer in public
Forget about ever getting a glowing letter of recommendation if you tell the world how you really feel about your job and employer.
Lynne A. Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in Boston, relates a story about a senior vice president who came into the office one morning obviously upset about something. "You could all but see the steam coming out of his ears," she says.
"Apparently he had been riding the T (a subway in Boston), and one of the employees was on the train talking to someone -- in a loud enough voice to be overheard -- bashing his manager and the company."
The senior vice president relieved the employee of his misery. He was fired.
Employees are, of course, entitled to their opinions and can't be forced to love where they work. But they're also ambassadors for the company. Refraining from publicly trashing the organization or the people with whom you work is just common sense.
Unfortunately, common sense is often anything but common. Compounding the issue for employees and employers alike is the fact that the public realm has grown to encompass all of cyberspace.
Companies have begun to go online to research employees and prospective hires. Damning evidence online is a quick way to weed out candidates during the recruitment process.
Jennifer Mounce, founder of Coach Effect, a career coaching and consulting firm, recalls a client who found two candidates for a position and ran a check on different social media sites.
"One of the two candidates actually had a video online talking about how they hate their job and their company. Suffice it to say, if something is going to tip the scale, having a video posted about how much you hate your company is it.
"That certainly is not going to fare well with a new employer," she says.