You won’t be promoted if you don’t do this – and you may be fired

When your boss reviews your work, typically he’ll suggest some improvements and correct some errors. It’s the errors that are really dangerous to your career. There are two kinds of errors. First, there’s the harmless kind, where you make a mistake that just about anyone in your shoes would make. You are new on the job, for example, and still learning the ropes. There are lots of other acceptable ways in which you might screw up.

I'm firing you and the person who hired youThe second type of error is the career-killing sort. If your boss finds easily preventable errors in your work, you will be lucky to keep your job and definitely won’t be promoted if you repeat them regularly. What’s an easily preventable error? That’s an error that –

  • you could have detected yourself by checking your own work or
  • you’ve been trained not to make and to watch for or
  • is due to haste, inattention and carelessness.

When you make easily preventable errors, you’re telling your boss that you need babysitting. Trust me, he doesn’t want to be your babysitter! If you really want a promotion, you will need to show your boss the opposite, that you are ready to babysit others.

catching your own mistakes

Show your boss you don’t need babysitting by checking your work carefully before delivering it:

  • Proofread by reading out loud – you will catch many more mistakes, if not all of them. Next, scan your writing backwards. Yes I mean that – start with the last word on the page and work your way from right to left, bottom to top. Both of these techniques prevent your brain from running on autopilot, which is how you miss mistakes.
  • Have a coworker or friend review your work. Sometimes you are too close to a project and know too much about it to step back and see it the way it will be perceived by others.
  • Give it a real-world test. Run through the process from beginning to end without skipping any steps or making any assumptions.

Make checking your work a habit and you’ll build trust with your boss that will eventually get you promoted.

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  • Cindy Ortega

    I believe this is a very common mistake made in today’s typical work place and my father can second that opinion. My father runs his own company and people consistently making the same mistakes happens far too often. I, personally and unfortunately, have been one of those people. My own father has fired me twice because I kept on making the same, preventable mistakes.

    I cannot stress this tip enough, always double check your work. It has gotten me involved in many complications at work and it will anyone else who commits the same mistakes I have. These are the type of mistakes that make you feel incredibly incompetent after because you knew the exact way to do it, you just didn’t and you’re facing the consequences because of it. It is not particularly enjoyable to be fired, especially by your own father. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR WORK AND LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES!

  • Chloe

    This reminds me of a past co-worker. I worked at a restaurant that had a salad table where all the food was kept cold. She worked the closing shift so it was her job to put the food on the salad table away at night and turn the everything off. She left the the food out on the table one night and all the food went bad. Our manager was really upset about it.

  • Sayed Tanzid

    As a college student, my first job experience was in 7-eleven, one of the best leading retailer shops. When I was hired, I had no previous experience of working in any shop. As a result I was literally in “babysitting”. Most of the time I had to count the products and input the data in the database. Although I tried my best to be conscious about what I was doing, almost every time there were some mistakes in the database. My boss didn’t tell me anything but I could see the anger in her face. I was also feeling ashamed of myself.

    Some days later, she minimize my schedule from 5 days to 2 days in a week without even saying any reason. I realized why it happened. Also when I worked, I couldn’t input the data. Later I just quit working there when I understood it was not something for me. After reading this article, now I am realizing what was wrong with me. I should have done way more better if I proofread the data carefully after putting in the database without just quickly handling them.

    Now I know what I have to do for a better position and for that awesome look from the boss. It was really a life lesson for me.

  • Emily Mishalanie

    This is HUGELY important! If you can do this then you become indispensable. The goal is to have your work reflect that which you hope to project and errors do not have a place in that line of thinking. Growth, proofreading, editing, thoughtfulness, efficiency and thoroughness will get you very far as these are traits that young professionals can lack in this day and age.

  • Vincent Lopez

    I find this lesson to be true in that you need to take initiative and be willing to work unsupervised. I would have to say that the best ideal job to really test your skills in a field would be to try to work out a satellite office. If you are able to accomplish your tasks and goals in these type of environment, with minimum supervision, you will find it much easier to get promoted and possibly already have the mindset to not need a babysitter and can be counted on to take projects that most people would normally be afraid to do.

  • I agree there are many things which can hamper your chances at getting promoted. The most important takeaway from this article may be avoiding casual and easy to correct errors. It’s true, we all make mistakes, but the mistakes that look the most unimpressive are the simple ones we fail to catch. It’s imperative that we are careful when submitting important documents, because often times the quality of the product reflects the quality of the work that was done on the product and this reflects our overall commitment to achieving the best possible outcome in the workplace.

  • Joshua C

    I was working with my father and he bought a door that was too large. So he explain why we couldn’t cut the bottom to make it fit. I offered my solution to cut the door and make it the correct height. He left for an hour and I completed my task of cutting the door and correcting the problem he saw. But then he measured the width and we were still off. So it was back to store for a new door as we shook ours head all the way wondering how those measurements ended up being so bad. Since then I double check his measurements.

  • I, too, was very eager to please my boss. After being unemployed for 3 years, I began work with a non-profit organization. I absolutely loved the office setting and staff. The training was rigorous and fast. I was assured on every level, that I was ‘doing well.’ The competition was a draw back due to my age. I felt challenged by my younger colleagues, to perform better. In fact, it was the reverse. They were in competition with me because they felt that I was more experienced. This is why I love my non-profit organization. We are like family and we often critique each other. During the competitive stage, I often made mistakes for the sake of a speedy completion of tasks. Once the mistakes were sited, I was that much more embarrassed. Aside to say, my younger colleagues were just as careless and this prompted team conversations. Once one team member opened up about their competing concerns, we all followed suite. We began to assist and critique one another’s documents, for typos. We encouraged one another to become more confident. We are all star’s in our organization and our director is always happy to brag about us. We learned how to trust one another.

  • Joel Nopal

    It’s true that there is many major mistakes that can be avoided by asking question when in doubt. When i first started working at the job I’ am at now I forgot to put dates on some products of when they were opened. Everyone at work kept using the products that hadn’t been opened. By the end of the month the product was moldy and had to be thrown away. That was money that the store lost. Ever since then I double check everything i do just to make sure that I didn’t forget to do anything.
    I agree with this article and it’s always important to have some else double check your work to make sure u did everything right.

  • Katie

    I think that this is probably one of, if not the, most important tip on this list of 20. People tend to get used to a job and settle into auto-pilot mode. Then, they tend to make more mistakes. I think that if you can do something, and then go about doing it in a different way the next time that you have to, then you would be less likely to make mistakes since you won’t be doing it subconsciously. Granted, I don’t have much to go off of (I have worked at a gas station, Subway, and a nursing home), but there are some mistakes there that could be a big deal. For example, I pass medicines at the nursing home. Many people go through the medicine cart and pop out all of the pills for each person for whatever time of day it is and slip into auto-pilot mode since it is always the same thing. But here’s the catch: Some times, things change. People get new medicine or get different doses. When you do this subconsciously, you may not notice. This is why I like to go in a different order every time I pass medicine and mark them off as I go. Also, DOUBLE CHECK your work is a huge deal. It’s much less embarrassing if you catch your own mistake rather than having someone else point it out.

  • I feel this lesson is extremely important no matter if you have just recently been hired onto a company or have been with one for a few years. No employer wants their employee making mistakes, especially repeated mistakes. Never underestimate the power of a friends ear also learn from your mistakes.

  • jtothefro

    While working retail, a great frustration of mine was the
    level of politics that existed. It seemed preposterous to me that instead of
    focusing on the job that needed to get done, my co-workers would instead wait
    for their manager to pass by and see them
    completing a task, so they knew they were a hard worker.

    In my mind, it seemed silly to ask for praise in such an obvious way. Therefore,
    I went my way carrying out the daily responsibilities, and therefore showing my
    supervisor that I don’t need a baby-sitter to ensure things get done – if I am
    asked to do something, it will be given due attention and completed in a timely
    manner without them needing to check up on me.

  • Always read your own writing… If it doesn’t make sense to you, it probably won’t to anyone else! If it does make sense to you, after reading it, then pass it on to someone else and see if it makes sense to them! I have lived by this rule most of my academic career and it has served me well, I imagine it will be useful when I enter the workforce!

  • As I began my first Job as a file clerk, I was very nervous not to make a mistake. The office was already very behind on filing therefore it was all up to me to get the office caught up. With the pile of papers I had to file, I felt the pressure. There was one girl that worked with me who was full time, which I was only part time. She did a lot of procrastinating therefore, I worked my butt off every shift I had. We ended up getting scolded for no progression. Sadly she was fired. I continued working there and haven’t had any issues. I am very helpful and have caught up with the filing!

  • I had a job previously working for my campus’s gym at UC Santa Barbara. I only worked for a quarter, but what i noticed that costed me the job was my carelessness on the job. I only made two mistakes, one was big, the other just careless. I miscounted the cash when i opened one morning. Thinking it was the manager’s job, i did not think to check twice and i missed the count the five dollars. Two days i lost my position. I learned from this lesson in real-life experience and from this article to double check my work, whether at work or in school. It is vital to take proof-reading into account, sometimes, in my case, it could cost you your job. I will take this into account at my next job. Thank you for the advice!

  • Sabrina101

    This is a great lesson to be given and can help efficiently. I work at McDonald’s and if errors were repeated, it prevented workers from getting promoted or getting a raise because the work is not efficient every time. No one wants to be corrected, after three months of working there, I got a raise for outstanding performance and drive – thru times being at our goal or better while others have waited years to get a raise because their performance was below the standards and wrong performances were being repeated. This advice can help others as well and I will take it into practice as well.

  • serranof1

    This is one of the best lessons I learned while working as a document manager at the University I attend. I was responsible for scanning and inputting informations from hundreds of documents a day. A lot of focus was required to do the job without error. Being human, I made plenty of errors when I first started on the job, and I came to realize that the only thing that set me apart from other people who could potentially be hired was that I was trained to not make the mistakes that other new employees would make. I came to see just how replaceable I was if I kept making mistakes that I was trained not to do.

    This realization encouraged me to check my work twice before submitting anything. Eventually I simply got in the habit of not making mistakes. Soon after I was promptly promoted, within two month of having been hired, to find the mistakes that others were making. And currently I am in the process of being promoted again to an even better position with more responsiblity because I have proven that I care enough not to make mistakes.

  • Ciera

    Before I decided to go into education, I worked in nonprofit. For six years I worked with one organization and learned how to operate well under their rules and culture. I succeeded and grew into an organizational leader. After some continuing education, I took a job in another nonprofit organization. I entered this job full of vigor and eager to please my boss. I worked quickly and learned all I could without much orientation to the office or procedures.

    Then I started making mistakes. Big ones.

    Simultaneously, we had a 90% staff turnover which included a new CEO/President. My quarterly review coincided with her first day in the office, and needless to say it did not go well. I had been plowing forward with projects I was too proud to ask for help on, and the mistakes kept coming. (I “knew what I was doing” because I had “experience in nonprofit.”)

    A month later I was fired. I learned to not just slow down and check my work, but also to ask for collaboration with my coworkers. Had I been more open to receiving help, I would still be with that organization. Instead, I was bent on outperforming the rest, which lead to sloppy work. Now I know!

  • LiLKiMbA512

    As Alexander Pope best put it, “To err, is human…”. I couldn’t agree with this statement more, because we all make mistakes at one point or another in our careers. However, when we do not learn from our mistakes or continue making the same mistakes over and over again, this becomes problematic. We may get overlooked or passed over for promotions or other opportunities that come our way.

    In my professional experience, I found that double checking and proofreading, especially, are powerful tools to avoid making careless errors. During my first internship, I worked as a corporate tax intern in the mutual fund industry. I was responsible for several tasks, including the state tax extensions and the state tax estimates. Because of the learning curve, I naturally made mistakes. However, when I kept making the same mistakes over and over again, this came across as being uninterested, careless and sloppy. I quickly learned that proofreading was not an option, but an absolute necessity on the job.

    Specifically, I made sure that my work followed a consistent format, similar to prior years’. The lead sheet was on top, followed by work papers and back-up. I referenced the lead sheet and labeled all supporting documentation for easy cross-referencing. For example, the federal and state income, the apportionment factor, and the tax rate were all referenced and documentation was provided to support these amounts. Finally, on the lead sheet, I made sure that all formulas were working and pulling contents from the right cells—no one likes a math mistake! By proofreading my own work, I prevented careless mistakes, and the quality of my work greatly improved. I took pride in and showed ownership of my work. I proved that I could handle assigned tasks and be trusted with additional responsibilities as well.

  • Caroline C.

    I’ve learned this lesson well in the world of food service. It is always important to ensure that everything is operating correctly. If you don’t there can be very bad results. Things like low food temperatures can cause illnesses for guests. Things like forgetting to turn off equipment can cause fires. One of the most valuable things that I have learned at my job is to make sure that all of the electrical equipment, especially the warmers, toasters, and deep fryers are off before leaving, as the can cause electrical fires.

    Leaving things like these on is a fire-able offense because if could end up causing lots in damages. Another thing I’ve learned is to have someone else check behind you, even when you have already checked behind others. Chances are that you forgot something, didn’t see it, or just accidentally overlooked it. Having more than one pair of eyes on something can be very beneficial.

    Thus, I think the real lesson to be learned here is that teamwork is necessary, and without it you could become lost in the world of your job. Relying on other people to help you through could become your biggest asset.

  • Bryan S.

    When posting a message for my employees or an email to colleagues, it is always a good idea to have someone proof read your work. As this page say, its easy to miss simple mistakes that can make a big difference in the message. As a manager in a retail chain, I would always ask my superiors or peers to double check my messages to avoid having simple mistakes that could ruin the professionalism of that particular message. Many times the messages that were posted had simple grammatical errors that I would overhear my direct supervisor commenting with her peers about. It is quick fixes such as this that really ensures that you are know as someone that crosses their T’s and dots their I’s.

  • Learning new ways to do things is a wonderful experience. When I started to go to college I though
    that I could not write a paper. I found out that I can write papers and I can do a good job at it. This lesson was great, it helped me to learn that there is more than one way to proof read. This will be very helpful when my job will demand me to write many papers and letters. I have found in past job experiences that preventable errors always has harsh reprimands. Boss make look pass other errors but not the preventable ones. chosen for top 75 websites for your career

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About the author


In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.