We all want to be thought of as good employees, but if we really want to fulfill our career aspirations, then we need to push ourselves to be the best that we can be!
After all, if we only do the minimum required of us, we probably won't get very far. So, if you've set your sights on world domination (or perhaps just that promotion you've always wanted), use these 18 tips to make it a reality.
Be the Best People Person
People skills are one of the most sought-after competencies valued by employers. When you work well with others, it improves productivity, creativity and job satisfaction. So, let's kick-start our top tips list by looking at what you can do to become a better people person.
1. Be a Great Communicator
Being able to communicate well – in person and in writing – is an essential skill in most workplaces. But, it's also one that is often forgotten about. In fact, a study from the National Commission on Writing reveals that blue-chip companies spend as much as $3.1 billion on writing training.
The ability to express yourself eloquently can mean the difference between getting noticed and being overlooked. Write a bad email and all anyone will remember is your poor grammar. But write one that is clear, concise and interesting, and you'll likely find that people will respond to your message quickly and positively.
2. Nurture Your Work Relationships
People skills are as important in the workplace as technical ability. These kinds of "interpersonal skills" can help you to collaborate, communicate, manage conflict, motivate, increase productivity, solve problems, and network.
When you have good working relationships you'll likely be more happy and engaged at work, too. In fact, a 2023 study revealed that positive workplace relationships can help you to avoid burnout, exhaustion and even loneliness.
It can be all too easy to "tune out" sometimes. Whether you're really focused and "in flow," or you're easily distracted by emails and other minor tasks, maybe you just aren't paying enough attention to the person who's talking to you. Whatever the case, you're not alone. It seems that most of us aren't great listeners. Indeed, research suggests that we remember between just 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear!
But listening is vital if you want to succeed at work. It can help you to take in information, learn from others, build relationships, and take direction. Active listening is one of the ways you can improve your ability to listen. It involves making a conscious effort to hear not only the words someone is saying, but the key messages that they are trying to express.
4. Know How to Work With Your Boss
If you're lucky, you'll have a boss that you respect, like and admire. If you're not so lucky, however, you may have one who, for whatever reason, you just don't "click" with. If this happens, it can have a significant impact on your happiness and your productivity.
Ultimately, the onus is on you to make the relationship work. Your boss will likely have several other people to manage, so their relationship with you may not always be at the top of their list. But it should be at the top of yours! Find out more about their preferred management style. Then, adapt your own working style to suit it. Do they like to receive information in person, or prefer email? How do they tend to handle bad news? Do they like to micromanage people or are they happy to delegate tasks?
Be the Best at Taking Initiative
When you take the initiative, you take control of your career. This might be as simple as learning to organize your workload effectively. Or, it could be more complex – for example, seeking out new opportunities and understanding the purpose behind the work you do. Here are some tips for doing this:
5. PrioritizeYour Goals
With so many demands on your time, it's easy to get distracted and lose sight of your main goals. Start each day by prioritizing your To-Do List, and focusing your attention on the top three items. This will help you to manage your time effectively, and to concentrate on the objectives that matter the most. And, if you're really swamped, don't be afraid to ask for help, to delegate tasks, or even to say "no" sometimes.
6. Challenge Yourself
Feeling comfortable and confident in a job likely means that you're doing it well. But, if you're finding it all too easy, you may begin to feel bored and unfulfilled.
Sure, you could carry on and "coast" your way through. But this probably isn't going to get you very far in the long term. Instead, stay challenged by setting yourself some new goals. Learn a new skill, go on a training course, or ask your boss for more responsibility. Not only will you be pegged as a "self starter," you'll also get the chance to broaden your skills, and to engage in new ways of thinking. It may even open up opportunities to work on different projects and with different people.
7. Get out of Your "Comfort Zone"
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is – unsurprisingly – uncomfortable! You might feel exposed, or worry that you'll look stupid. However, if you avoid taking opportunities when they present themselves, you'll never know just how far you can go.
Yes, doing something new can be scary. It might also mean more pressure and more work. But, it can also push you to perform better. It can make you more resilient, give you the flexibility to take risks and cope with unexpected problems, and help you to overcome fear of failure.
8. Remember the Bigger Picture
Do you know why you do the work that you do? What's its purpose? Why is it meaningful to you? And how does it help the business to achieve its goals?
Understanding how the work that you do benefits your organization can improve your performance. It adds purpose to your work, helps you to prioritize your tasks more effectively, and enables you to identify tasks or areas of the business that can be made more efficient.
Be the Best Learner
It's never too late to learn a new skill. In fact, building up your knowledge and skills is often a lifetime pursuit. So, start your learning journey today by following these tips:
9. Build Expertise and Share It!
Having a specialized skill or excelling in a particular task can put you "in demand." Even more so if you have deep knowledge of a subject that is highly sought after – for instance, analytical thinking, creative thinking or resilience.
Being the "go-to" person for a particular task or topic can enhance your reputation and allow you to help others. It can also lead to opportunities to work on high-profile tasks, and may even result in promotion. But remember that building expertise takes dedication and resolve. So, be prepared to put the time in!
10. Know Your Stuff
Rapid advances in technology, along with global political and financial developments, mean that change is fast-paced and unpredictable. And, if you don't make an effort to keep up with these changes, it can result in missed opportunities or getting left behind.
Combat this by making it a priority to stay up-to-date with your industry. Join a trade organization, attend trade shows or conferences, read blogs, and connect with industry leaders and colleagues on social media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter.
11. Set Aside Time for "Deep Work"
We live in an age of distractions. Email, social media, instant messaging, office politics, unnecessary meetings… even the weather! All of these things can cause you to lose focus on the tasks that really matter. In fact, some studies suggest that knowledge workers lose up to three hours a day because of distractions. And this can cost businesses 14 to 15 times more than absenteeism due to health-related issues.
Sure, it might be hard to ignore the 150 WhatsApp messages that you've just received. But, if you really want to produce quality work, you and your phone will need to part ways (temporarily at least). This is where "deep work" can help. It involves pushing distractions to one side, and giving yourself the time and space to really focus on challenging and complicated tasks. This has a number of benefits. For example, it can help you to build expertise and knowledge, and give you a greater sense of fulfillment and achievement.
Be the Best Professional
What qualities make you a true professional? Is it the way you dress? Your charismatic charm? Or, is it your ability to learn from your mistakes? Take a look at our tips on what it takes to be the ultimate professional:
12. Make Mistakes (and Learn From Them)
We've all had that sudden sinking feeling when we realize that we've made a mistake. But it's how you handle these "bloopers" that really matters. Do you, for instance, tend to "run for the hills" and hope that no one notices? Pass the blame onto someone else? Or, do you "fess up" and do your best to remedy the situation?
It can be hard to swallow your pride and take ownership of the mistakes that you make. But, it is only by doing this that you will ultimately learn from them.
13. Ask for Feedback and Use It!
It can be difficult to hear criticism, particularly when it's unexpected. But, if you don't get any feedback at all, you may begin to wonder whether your work is valued or even noticed.
Why not take the initiative? Ask for feedback from managers and colleagues. Not only will you be seen as a proactive member of the team, but the advice and insight that they provide will likely help you to improve your performance, too.
14. Protect Your Professional Reputation
Your reputation is what you're known for. It encompasses your personality, your skills, your values, and your temperament.
It can take time and effort to build up a good reputation, but just moments to destroy it. This means that you need to put the work in if you want to protect and maintain it. Do this by carrying out a personal SWOT analysis to assess your skills, and to create a plan for developing the professional traits and abilities that you want to be known for.
Be the Best Leader
You don't have to be a manager to be a leader. And, in fact, many businesses want people to demonstrate leadership skills, even if they're in a junior role. So, why not tap into your leadership potential today by following the tips, below:
15. Develop Leadership Skills
One of the major "pain points" for businesses is the lack of leadership skills among their employees – even those who are in senior or highly technical roles. Research shows that the best and most successful leaders are those who encourage learning and listen to feedback and ideas. And that this, in turn, can help teams to become more resilient and effective.
Have you ever completed a piece of work that you were really proud of, only for it to go unnoticed?
Feeling as though your work isn't valued or even acknowledged can be deeply demoralizing and frustrating. But, there are ways you can improve your visibility at work. Building a strong network of allies, for instance, can help, as can tracking your accomplishments, taking on additional responsibilities, or finding a mentor or coach whom you respect and who can help you develop your skills and career.
Be the Best You
Wherever your career takes you, and whatever role or organization you find yourself in, the one constant will be you. So, cherish your uniqueness, stand up for your values and beliefs, and always be yourself! The following tips can help you to do just that:
17. Learn How to Cope With Stress
It can be easy to get caught up in negative thoughts sometimes, particularly if you've made a mistake, received some poor feedback, or work in a high-pressure job. But, real problems can occur if you allow these thoughts to take over, such as low self-confidence, poor self-esteem, or even depression and anxiety. All of these things can impact your productivity and performance – setting the whole cycle in motion once again.
Most of all, know when to stop. It can be hard to switch off, particularly when you're surrounded by "always on" devices, like smartphones or tablets. But learning how to relax – really relax – will help you to recharge, stay calm and avoid burnout.
18. Be Yourself
Pretending to be someone else or being a "yes man" (or woman) can be exhausting, confining and demoralizing. It can also hold you back from reaching your true potential. But, when you stay true to yourself and your values, you'll find that you can express your thoughts and ideas much more clearly and confidently. And you'll have a reputation for integrity that will earn the trust and respect of your peers.
Yes, it may sometimes mean "going against the grain" or taking the harder road. But it also allows you to live a more authentic and, ultimately, more rewarding life.
If you want to delve deeper into some of the topics we've discussed in this blog, check out our list of recommended related resources below (please note, to access some resources in full you'll need to be a Mind Tools member):
Senior Editor Lucy Bishop started her working life selling ice cream in a theme park. She now heads up the video learning team at Mind Tools, and gets involved at every stage – from writing and editing scripts, to auditioning actors, to running filming days. Lucy’s a committed member of our neurodiversity panel, where she helps Mind Tools to reflect and support all forms of neurodivergence. She’s also fascinated by new technology and is currently learning about AI – especially its impact on learners. Her favorite advice is, “Before asking someone else to fix something for you, see if you can learn to do it yourself.”
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