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How to Be a More Reliable Professional

This article is the first in a 10-part series on the topic of overcoming career-limiting habits.

Unreliability was identified as the number one career-limiting habit and it’s no surprise. After all, if the people you work for (and with) can’t depend on you, what purpose do you serve? Truth be told, unreliable people are actually dangerous to the success of the entire team.

If you want any level of career success, people have to trust you. They have to know that you will do everything in your power to meet your commitments. If you want to be seen as credible and a valued member of the team, you must first be reliable. Here are 3 strategies to help you overcome the career-limiting habit of unreliability.

Be True to Your Word

Never, never, never make a promise you don’t intend to keep. There is no quicker way to lose trust. And once trust is gone, it takes a very long time to recover (and sometimes, it’s simply gone forever). When you give someone your word, you are providing a personal guarantee and believe me, a broken promise will not go unnoticed.

Think of your word is a contract. Before agreeing to anything, be sure you understand the terms and conditions. If the deadline or expectation is unrealistic, address it. Yes, you always want to push yourself and challenge your capabilities, but not to the point where you can’t meet the commitment.

Under Promise, Over Deliver

Don’t just tell people what they want to hear. Instead of making promises that aren’t backed up with realistic planning, help yourself and make your commitments attainable. Set the bar at a reasonable level. And then, jump right over it.

If you promise something that is too challenging and then fail to deliver, you have no one to blame but yourself. Give yourself some leeway. Remember that (almost) nothing goes as smoothly as you hope it will in the workplace. Plan for disruptions. Expect surprises. Add “padding” to your estimates. This will only impress people when you perform over and beyond. And it will provide you with some wiggle room should Murphy’s Law kick in and everything that can go wrong actually does.

Confront Mistakes

We all make promises that we intend to keep and then later realize we can’t. We all make mistakes. And though we want to do our very best, everyone falls short at times. These are just the facts of life. It’s how you deal with them that matters most. Be upfront and address problems right away.

If you can’t follow through on something you said you would, be apologetic and attempt to make it right immediately. If something happened that made it impossible for you to deliver on a promise, speak up and do everything in your power to fix it. Most importantly, don’t hide or make excuses or shift blame when things go wrong. Take responsibility. Own up to it. Make it right. And then figure out what happened so it can be prevented in the future.

Being reliable doesn’t mean you’re perfect. It just means that others can have faith in you. They can feel confident in your abilities and in your character. These are the things that business relationships are built on. Without question, unreliable professionals will certainly struggle when trying to get ahead in the workplace, so take action today to overcoming this career-limiting habit.

Photo Credit: MichaelKuhn (Flickr)

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6 Responses to “How to Be a More Reliable Professional”

  1. Jo says:

    Hi Chrissie. Your advice about confronting mistakes resonates with me. Often I find I will give a wishy-washy answer to something because I don’t want to fail and not deliver on a promise. I don’t want the person to think I’m ‘unreliable’ but the result is that they think I lack confidence, which isn’t really any better! Then I become unreliable because they can’t have faith in me to complete the work. For someone else to be confident in your abilities, you need to be confident in your own and that also creates reliability.

  2. […] Chrissy at Eat Your Career is posting a 10 part series on career-limiting habits. The first is reliability: How to be a More Reliable Professional […]

  3. […] cited the 10 most common career-limiting habits, procrastination ranked at number 3, just behind unreliability and “that’s not my […]

  4. Rick says:

    I agree with the points in your article about being responsible and dependable. It really isn’t that hard and once you start changing your behaviors and developing better habits your professional and personal life will both improve. Taking personal responsibility, admitting when you screw up, and then focusing on solutions will positively impact all areas of your life and significantly enhance your self-esteem.

  5. […] Unreliability 2.    “It’s not my job” 3.    Procrastination 4.    Resistance to change 5.    […]

  6. […] At present in our generation, half finished work appears to be a familiar sight everywhere we go. Much is begun and little is accomplished. Why? Perhaps we lack enough dedication to the work at hand and so we believe that more tasks will cover up our emptiness and inadequacies. That is not true. It only wastes more time and resources. Incomplete work is just a bad legacy to your name. Don’t begin what you are not dedicated to finish. […]

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