Throughout my working life I have strived to learn what makes a person successful in their career. I wanted to identify the key characteristics that determine whether you climb the ladder or stay where you are. I think what I have found is worth sharing so here it is, for those interested, a list of the top 10 useful tips I’ve found so far that just might help you move forward in your career.
Ask questions and keep asking until your blue in the face if you have to … if that’s what it takes for you to UNDERSTAND what you are being asked to do! I’ve seen this one a hundred times – people too shy, too scared or too arrogant to ask questions decide to work on without clarification and end up having to go back to re-do the whole work all over again. Managers / Supervisors / Colleagues would much rather you ask lots of questions until you know what you’re doing, than you running off to do a task you are unsure of, wasting time and making mistakes. If you are asking the right questions it will show that you are hungry to learn and keen to understand what you are involved in, rather than just following a check list. No matter what level of the business you are at ask questions to understand what you are being asked to do.
Have a Positive Attitude
In every bit of research I have carried out I have found that EVERY SINGLE PERSON that makes it to the senior level of their organisation has a very positive attitude, usually companied with confidence. Look around your current company, watch the managers … you won’t find them constantly complaining about the company, going over and over problems, or saying that things can’t be done. They will be finding solutions. There is nothing more deflating to an entire department than someone that always picks out the flaws. The moaner, that no matter what is going right in the company, will spend their entire day going on about the one thing that went wrong. Don’t be that guy! It’s no surprise that those that moan and complain are residing on the lower levels of a company. It’s not a very attractive or inspiring trait if all you do is find fault and complain. Why would anyone promote those that dwell on the problem over the person that has already thought up a solution? For more on this see my previous post on this “The Importance of a Positive Attitude”.
Have Career Goals
Without having a direction of your choosing (a place you want to be), you will be at the mercy of others. If you float through your career without giving any thought to where you’d like to progress to its more than likely that one day you’ll wake up miles away from where you actually want to be! It is YOUR career! YOU are responsible for its direction, nobody else. Don’t let somebody else decide for you. Take some time to think about where you really want to be, what you want to be doing in the next 2 or 5 or 10 years and then think about what it would take to get there. If appropriate let your boss, and even HR, know the next position you want to get to and ask them what you need to do to get there … then go do it! There will always be something you can do to set you up for the next step up you are looking for. Make sure you do what is required to give yourself the chance. Part of that requirement though will be doing your own job well, you won’t be promoted if you can’t do your current job efficiently so you have to work hard at what you are doing while also preparing for the opportunities that you desire. It is balancing act but it will be worth it.
Don’t BS (Don’t try to wing it!)
No matter what you do, do not try to wing it if you have no idea what you are talking about … it is easily spotted and makes you look weak and foolish. If you are questioned on a subject and you don’t have the information required don’t try to guess the facts just to impress someone because at some point they will find out the right answer and your lack of knowledge will be blatantly clear. Instead, offer to find out and report back to them. If you haven’t done the task they asked be honest and tell them, then tell them when you will complete the task so they know it’s on your radar. Everyone would rather hear the truth than you lying to their face. One of the biggest benefits of being honest is that you’ll never be caught out. Your story will always be the same! Managers respect honesty, if you are caught out lying you will be made to look like a real fool and will lose the respect of colleagues and superiors.
Make Sure You Prepare
Preparation is key to performing well in any aspect of your job. If you have prepared enough you will have the information ready if any questions arise. If you prepare enough for meetings things will go much smoother than if you had walked in unprepared, and you’ll have more confidence in yourself as you will know you have answers to any possible stumbling blocks. If you prepare enough for presentations you are more likely to remember the message you want to get across AND are more likely to have visual aids to impress your audience and keep yourself on the right track. If you don’t prepare or plan for these things it will show straight away and you’ll have egg on your face sooner or later.
Find a way to increase your Contribution
Many years ago while listening to a seminar by Jim Rohn the true importance of CONTRIBUTION really sunk in for me. In the seminar Jim asks the audience if someone could be paid Millions of dollars a year and the answer was “Of course! … if the company make Billions of dollars a year and this person is key to that happening then his VALUE per year could be Millions of dollars!”. Quite a simple example but one that has stuck with me and is worth remembering. Your value to the organisation will be judged on how much you contribute. This means your salary grading, perks and benefits are all based on how much the organisation value YOUR contribution … so you have to make sure your contribution is there and noticeable. It may not happen instantly but over time your contribution will become your value, so do as much as you can. Find ways to add value to your company or even just your department, whether it be saving the company money or improving processes. Find ways to make an impact, to really bring visible benefits to your organisation!
Have a bit of Empathy
Try to see others perspectives. It’s easy to always think your right but sometimes there can be two right answers or methods, and other times you may have to admit you’re wrong. It’s not easy but it shows that you have listened to the others perspective and are able to see their side of the argument. If someone is late getting work to you or making mistakes, try to find out if there is a reason for it. Before complaining about it, talk to the person, try to understand why it has happened or find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Everyone has their own challenges, show that you are open minded enough to realise this by showing empathy towards other’s challenges while also ensuring the work gets done. It might not be the driving factor behind you getting a promotion but it will make the working atmosphere better for everyone involved.
As Zig Ziglar once said “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile!”. In other words not many people go the extra yard to make a difference. There is no substitute for hard work and it will pay off if you do it in the right way on the right tasks. If you work hard enough and ensure you are bringing enough value you will eventually be rewarded for your efforts. If you spend long hours in the office working on medial tasks that bring no real value to the company you are likely to find that the value placed on your head remains unchanged. Working hard doesn’t mean staying in the office late night after night just for the sake of it. No, it means making the most of your time and getting things done in an effective manner.
Enjoy your Work
Enjoy your work, or at least try to. Generally speaking for most of us, you will spend way more than half of your waking hours from Monday to Friday at work. There’s a good chance it’s even more than that for some of you, not to mention your commute to and from work. That is why getting some sort of enjoyment from your work is critical to a happy, balanced life. I’m not saying you MUST have a job doing something you’re passionate about, though that would obviously help, what I am saying is that no matter what job you’re in their must be some way to take a little enjoyment from it and dare I say, even a little fun. If you really hate your job so much that you dread going in most mornings then it’s time to look for a different job! One of the most senior people I interviewed on Success said that every day she tries to enjoy her day and make the most of whatever she is doing. This is all part of the positive attitude philosophy, it helps you manage challenges in a much more productive mind set than if you come in to work miserable.
Use the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle)
This rule can actually be found on Wikipedia and basically means that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs. This means that in most cases a small 20% of the tasks you complete yield an unbelievable 80% of the results. To keep it simple, it means in business terms you should identify the tasks that bring the greatest results or add the most value and tackle these first. This will help you prioritise your workload for maximum effect, thus helping you contribute as much as possible and help you make the biggest impact. Many of us will put off starting some tasks if they are the daunting but what if these tasks fall into the 80% of your results category? What if they will add the most value to what you are doing or make the most impact? Still many of us would put them off due to fear / procrastination / laziness or purely being overwhelmed at the size of the task ahead … I urge you to change. To be brave / action driven and jump feet first into the important task rather than dilly dallying about in medial tasks that bring very little value. Tackling the important issues head on will not only bring you the results earlier and increase your value, it will also build your confidence as you overcome the originally daunting task.
These are just some of the key lessons I have learned over my career, I share them with you in the small chance that they might hit a nerve or help you to make more of yourself. These have been learned through personal experience, studying others and watching others make mistakes (like trying to wing it).
Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback, other tips to add or comments I’d love to hear them.
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