The following tips are what helped me get ahead in the corporate world. They took me from a part time, entry level position to a sales management position and finally to top institutional sales manager for a large brokerage firm. These are also things that I valued in my employees and that helped them to succeed. Most of us have to work. Why not enjoy it by giving it your all and excelling?
When giving this advice, I’m assuming that you like the company you work for, even if you don’t like your boss. If you don’t like the company, don’t quit, but do actively search for a company that you like better. Or maybe you want to start your own business. If you do like your company then read on.
1. Manage Your Time. Think like a business owner, not an employee. If you do this you will want to prioritize your work according to which activities best grow your business and profits. Figure out what those type of activities are. Get them done first and don’t worry about the smaller things that don’t have as big a payoff. When you can, delegate appropriately.
2. Take Initiative. Don’t wait to be told to do things. If you know it will help your company or team, do it. Surprise your boss with extras. Of course always be sure to get your most important work done first. There’s no point in failing the exam because you were working on extra credit stuff. Ace the exam and then do the extra credit report too!
3. Politics: Understand It and Make It Work for You. Politics is not bad. Politics is simply humans doing what they’ve done since caveman days, working together. Politics is “You help me and I’ll help you.” There’s nothing wrong with that if your end goal is to grow business ethically and to grow your career based on good works. The only thing bad about politics is ignoring it. That will hurt your career. Work on building a network of supporters. Help others out with their projects and, like putting money in the bank, you’ll be able to withdraw that support at a later date for your projects. And be sure to seek out diversity in your supporters. Be wary of simply focusing on your small circle of friends. A broader base of supporters will give you more power to enact your great ideas in the future.
4. Make Your Boss Look Good. Yes, even if you don’t like him or her. When your boss looks good, so do you. Think ahead for your boss. Anticipate his or her needs whenever you can and take action. Actively promote the good works of your boss. Don’t be afraid of being labeled a “suck-up.” The only people who will call you that are people who are not working on growing their career, who are too cool to stick their neck out, and whom you will surpass. If your boss is a poor at his/her job, don’t spend your time trying to sabotage him/her. Just stay focused on doing great work. If your boss is really bad, his/her superiors will eventually figure it out. Stay above the fray and do your best to associate with positive top-producing colleagues.
5. Don’t Gossip. Try not to speak ill of others. It does you no good. It does no one any good. Focus on your work and keep moving forward. Gossip is a waste of time. If you need to vent do so with your family at home.
6. Be a Good Leader, Follower, and Team Player. You don’t have to be in a leadership position to take on a leadership role. You can be a thought leader and an action leader. Do both. The same is true with being a good follower. Be willing to check your ego at the door even if your title says that you are the designated leader. Be open to new ideas from people below you in rank. And never fear their success. Embrace their success and you win too. Try to squash their ideas and success out of fear, you will look weak, and you will lose respect. Being a good team player means facilitating the involvement of everyone on the team according to their strengths.
7. Take Smart Risks. Forge a new path. Seek out involvement from others to make your venture more successful.
8. Pick Your Battles Carefully. You’ve probably heard this one before, but I was always surprised how some people continually want to fight for every idea, and thereby undermine their own power to get anything done at all. If you are going to throw down a challenge, ask yourself if this is going to truly make the company more successful. Be able to explain how it relates to the goals that are measured. Will you have support from others and how much influence do they have? Will you be making someone who holds power over your career look bad? Is your company in a tight fiscal mode or is the cash free flowing? What is at stake and is it worth it? If you’re not sure, ask someone that has success with getting their ideas implemented for some guidance.
9. Details. Find the right balance. Don’t forget the details of your job and don’t drown in them either. Establish systems or seek out support to help you. If administrative help is not in the budget, perhaps consider swapping tasks with a colleague.
10. Work Smart, Work Hard. Be efficient with your time. Stay focused on activities on which you are measured. And, although “The Four Hour Work Week” touts success with only 4 hours of work per week, the truth is that most of us need to put in a good chunk of time to be successful. And, really, if you love what you do, that’s not such a bad thing. Hard work is what makes play so pleasurable. So make it a point to enjoy the work too.
11. Be Positive and Enthusiastic. Don’t think you have to be serious all the time. People want to be around happy positive people. Be one of those people. See the good. Speak positively. And encourage everyone! Watch how it comes back to you!
12. Seek Out Mentors. If you see someone who is successful that you admire, go ahead and contact them. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you just ask. Offer to help them in some way. And in return hopefully you’ll be able to build a relationship with that person and learn from them over time. Just like building your support base, seek diversity in your mentors. You might have a couple of mentors that approach things very differently or maybe they work on completely different things. Learning from people with diverse experience will benefit you greatly.
13. Manage Your Career. Don’t wait for your boss to send you to training. Don’t wait for your boss to set your quarterly objectives. Don’t wait for your boss to write your reviews. Don’t wait for your boss to give your career coaching. Take the bull by the horns because often these things don’t happen. Your boss might not be a bad boss, but in the age of downsizing, they may simply be overloaded with responsibilities. Don’t spend your time critiquing your boss and lamenting the lack of coaching. Realize that you are the only one who can make it happen. Set your own goals. Bring them to your boss. Make it easy for your boss to review you by handing him or her all of your accomplishments from the past quarter. And seek out coaching all the time from lots of different people.
14. Understand the Big Picture. It’s very easy to fall into tunnel vision with your own career or with your work-group. You may think that corporate headquarters is not giving you the resources you need. News bulletin: everyone always feels that way. It’s the human condition to always want more. That’s fine, but learn to make it happen on your own and to make due with what you have available. Try to understand where the company is headed in the long term and how your team fits into the overall picture. Again don’t spend precious time whining about corporate headquarters. Instead think about how your team can be a model for supporting the company’s overall goals and think about how you can be a leader on that front.
15. Learn How to Motivate People to Take Action. This is a leadership skill. If you can influence people to do things you will be able to implement your ideas to improve the company and make a difference for clients, which, in turn, will grow your career. How do you do this? You start by understanding what is important to any given person or work group you are trying to enlist for help. You must offer them some benefit that ties into those things that are most important to them. Speak in their language. And act with integrity. Fulfill your promises to build trust.
16. Always Be Learning. Seek out training and education. Take night courses. Read business books and trade magazines. Learn from your mentors, heroes, and enemies. And learn from your mistakes. Make a habit of reflecting on what you learned each day. And be creative with what you learn. You may learn something completely unrelated, but perhaps there is a parallel that fosters a new idea to grow business. Look for these kinds of opportunities.
17. Self Promotion. It’s important to let people know about the good things you are accomplishing. Don’t think that by just working hard that you’ll get noticed. You need to let people know. Higher-ups like to know these things because they can’t know everything that is going on, so speak up!
18. Focus on Excellence. In everything that you do, do it well. Dress well. Be on time. Deliver on your promises. Produce high quality work. In turn your career will manifest in accordance with your focus on excellence.
19. Recognize Moments of Truth. Every day you have moments of truth. The only problem is that there is no dramatic movie music to spur you on to do the right thing. You must learn to listen to that little angel on your shoulder. Often no one is watching at a moment of truth. Do you make those sales calls even though your boss is at an offsite meeting, or do you take the opportunity to leave early and go golfing? Which one is going to further your career? Do you contact that Vice-President to offer your great idea or do you talk yourself out of it? Do you take the additional 30 minutes after work to prepare extra well for an important meeting or do you decide to wing it since you’ve done this kind of thing before? When you consistently do the right thing at many moments of truth, they will add up to a massive positive impact on your career.
20. Make Others Feel Good. It’s the Golden Rule. Encourage, praise, and support those on your team, and everyone for that matter. Don’t fear other people’s success. Celebrate it. Be sincere and demonstrate that by being specific in what you say.
What have been your keys to success in your career? Please share! We’d love to hear from you!
Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are NaNoWriMo Success: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days and How to Be a Great Salesperson.