People often ask me, ‘What are some things I can do to get ahead at work?’ While the answer to that question has several caveats and is never precisely the same for everyone, there are a few golden rules.
Set aside time to reflect on your goals and to work out what you want. It is easy to be influenced by others, but this is your career (and your life) so make choices that work for you.
Be ready to adapt
Elevate your awareness of what is happening around you. Find out how your role, profession, industry and sector is changing. The nature of work and how we work will continue to be affected by automation and artificial intelligence. You want to position yourself to take advantage of the changes.
Also, look at developments in other industries because it helps to widen your view about what’s possible for your next career step.
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Build your value
Everyone brings specific skills and ways of operating to the work they do. Think of it as your unique selling proposition. It’s the value you deliver through the work you do, and it’s how you engage and lead. It’s what makes you stand out from everyone else.
Being able to articulate that value and how you can help an organisation, business or client achieve their objectives is essential. However, what’s valued changes over time, and so make sure your value proposition is meaningful, current and targeted.
Next, you will want to consistently deliver value through your work and always go above and beyond expectations.
Fall in love with learning
To be at the top of your game, stay across the latest thinking from your profession and different fields. As well, don’t just focus on acquiring new technical skills (such as computer programming, graphic design or project management skills); consider the competencies, such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving and critical thinking, you need to develop.
Learning is crucial to future career success. So always be alert to new ideas and find ways to stretch yourself.
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Become the ‘go to’ expert
Find your niche and hone your expertise. An expert is known for something – having spent considerable time establishing a reputation as the expert in their particular field. When you are the expert and are known for what you do, the work will often find you.
Experts don’t need to hoard knowledge; they willingly share it to benefit all. So find ways to share your ideas and learnings. For example, speak at industry conferences, host or be interviewed on podcasts, share insights on social media or write a book.
Build a profile where you are known for something, are respected, and have a network of people willing to back you and advocate for you. That means you need to spend time thinking more about what you can do for others than what they can do for you. The more you proactively help others, the more they will want to help you.
- How can I help a colleague or connection build their network?
- Have I got new knowledge or insight I can share with someone who would find it helpful?
- Can I help a colleague or friend with their career?
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Gather the evidence
When you do good work, make sure you keep evidence in an easy to find location. It can be an electronic notebook, a word document, an excel spreadsheet or using tools such as OneNote or Evernote.
Your evidence may be a portfolio, which showcases your work. A record of awards and achievements you have received. Testimonials and endorsements from clients, team members or former bosses.
And I have left the hardest to last. Don’t undersell yourself, and don’t oversell yourself. There’s a balance.
You have to be able to sell the work you do and what you’ve achieved. But if you want to have a good reputation, don’t claim credit for work that isn’t yours. If it was a team effort, appreciate the group effort and detail your contribution. Also, never criticise the work or action of others.
And when you think about what to do next, remember the words of the philosopher and writer, Ayn Rand, who said “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me”.