Achieving personal goals comes from fully applying oneself in every situation. This is what earns the trust and respect of others that will catapult an individual to a position of greater responsibility. A positive work ethic gets results and is contagious. If expectations are not being met, an individual should ask the right questions, find the answers, and make the necessary changes. If expectations are being met, an individual should push to exceed them. Individuals should never become complacent.
Getting Organized and Getting Things Done
As an individual’s success at achieving goals grows, so do his or her responsibilities. Good organization and time-management skills become increasingly important. While each person might have a different process for staying on track, every individual must develop one. Planning ahead, setting priorities, and communicating well should be part of this process.
Being organized includes:
*Creating a regular, daily routine.
*Establishing a reminder system (for meetings, deadlines, etc.).
*Making allowances for the unexpected (flexibility is key).
*Breaking projects into manageable “chunks.”
Spotting an Opportunity and Standing Out
Opportunities to excel are not always obvious. Networking and taking on “out of scope” tasks (with a manager’s permission) can yield hidden gems of opportunities that otherwise might not have surfaced. When presented with an opportunity, individuals should not let fear of failure stand in their way. They should fearlessly grab hold of opportunities as they come along–it will be noticed.
Some ways to bring about more opportunities include:
*Networking across the business.
*Earning a reputation as a “go to” person.
*Being analytical and always asking “why.”
*Speaking up and sharing thoughts, ideas, and initiatives.
*Leveraging chance encounters and talking to strangers.
*Taking novel approaches.
Sucking It Up
No matter how good a job might look from the outside, sometimes it turns out to be not as good from the inside, but that is no reason to quit. A willing and learning attitude that transcends difficult relationships and unrewarding tasks can result in great returns in the future. If nothing else, “sucking it up” builds character.
Below are some ways to view a bad situation differently:
*Be introspective and recognize the opportunity to learn.
*Be decisive and take action–get things done.
*Set out to win over challenging people.
*Keep emotions in check and always present a professional and positive countenance.
Pushing Back and Saying “No”
Often, new employees who are eager to please are taken advantage of and end up taking on too much. Learning to say “no” is an important part of being a productive employee. However, saying “no” is contextual. The method will vary depending on whom the request is coming from.
*Requests from peers. Clearly but politely communicate current priorities, deadlines, and commitments. This conveys that a “no” is not personal, but is tied to organizational goals.
*Requests from senior employees. These requests can trump one’s current projects. The individual should make sure he or she has a clear understanding of the request’s requirements and impacts on current projects, and then vet the request through his or her first line manager. If the request is from an individual’s manager and competes with other responsibilities, it is time to sit down and review priorities with that manager.
*The request seems inappropriate. Early on, it can be difficult to have the expertise or authority to know what is an appropriate or inappropriate request. This knowledge comes with experience. It is fine to ask questions and respectfully offer alternatives. However, a managerial edict (in the absence of an ethical or legal transgression) should be followed.
Ways to make saying “no” more productive include:
*Recognizing that the act of saying “no” is hard.
*Earning the right to say it by having built a good reputation as a hard worker.
*Understanding exactly what the request requires.
*Looking for alternative solutions to help solve the problem.
*Enlisting others to help in meeting the request.
*Communicating the reasons for saying “no” clearly and respectfully.
*Not becoming confrontational.
*Turning down the request in person.
Working Out When to Leave
The time to leave a job is when the opportunities to learn, develop, and make unique contributions end. It is very important not to leave prematurely or for reasons one has control over, such as difficult relationships or mastery of the position.
Individuals sometimes stay in jobs when they should move on because they feel comfortable in their roles, they are earning a lot of money, or they simply like their coworkers. While these are attractive features, in the absence of ongoing challenge, growth, and development, they can actually hold individuals back from progressing in their careers.
Before deciding to leave a job, employees should make sure to:
*Clearly identify what the undesirable aspects of the job are to determine if there is opportunity for change.
*Evaluate whether or not there are continued opportunities to learn and grow.
*Determine if there is only one overwhelming negative issue and, if so, take steps to resolve it before leaving.
*Seek counsel from a trusted friend or family member to get perspective.
*View the situation within the larger picture of life.
*Consider how the circumstances would be interpreted in a résumé or interview.
If at all possible, employees should resolve the situation and leave on a “high note.”