18 Bits of Good Advice for 2018
With a new year on the horizon, I began asking a few people if they had any tips for making the next 12 months more productive and successful at work. Some answers were rather obvious and elementary. My favorite response: “Show up on time and don’t smell!”
I soon realized I might be better off venturing outside my personal circle of friends for advice. After delving a bit deeper (read: going on the Internet), I found tons of suggestions for how to be an indispensable and valuable member of the workforce. The usual culprits were there, including having a positive attitude, taking responsibility and adapting to change. But I wanted something more “meaty.”
Then I found an extensive list of career success secrets on themuse.com that covered more than just the conventional wisdom. After carefully culling this thought-provoking list for the most creative ideas, I selected 18 habits of highly successful professionals they identified that you should consider putting to work in 2018. (If you’re curious about the other 20-something I didn’t include, you can find the entire article here!)
1. They Think Like Managers, Not Employees
Employees wait to be told what to do — managers think strategically about what needs to be done, and then they do it. Employees do their own job well — managers are committed to the team doing well, so they mentor other employees, pitch in when they’re needed, and go that extra mile if it means the works going to be done better.
And people who get promoted think like managers.
2. They Think About the Skills They Need for the Next Job
We all (OK, most of us) try to be awesome at the skills in our job descriptions, but the most successful people also focus on what they’ll need to know to succeed in their next jobs. Not sure what skills you should be developing? Check out career expert Laura Katen’s tips for honing in on exactly what to reach for next.
3. They Get to Know the Higher-Ups
It’s pretty hard to get promoted if your boss’ boss doesn’t know who you are — so make it a point to get to know the higher-ups in your department. Check out Sara McCord’s tips for talking to your boss’ boss the right way.
(COROLLARY: They also learn how to talk to the higher-ups in the language of business.)
4. They Give People Their Full Attention
“Listening is one of the top skills employers seek in potential and current employees, and it’s correlated with perceived ability to lead,” career coach Lea McLeod explains. Giving people undivided attention, helping them feel motivated and energized and showing them that you care about their thoughts and opinions is more powerful than you know.
5. They Record Their Accomplishments
Unfortunately, even if your boss generally thinks you do a great job, he or she probably doesn’t keep a running tally of your achievements. And that’s why the most successful people keep track of their own sales numbers, project results and awesome client feedback.
(COROLLARY: They know how to communicate about those accomplishments without sounding like jerks!)
6. They Focus on Results, Not Just Activities
Just like you would on a résumé, don’t just talk about the to-dos you’ve knocked off your list — talk about the quantitative results of your work. Think: “In last week’s vendor meeting, I was able to negotiate a 10 percent discount, which will save us $20,000 next year,” versus, “Last week’s vendor meeting went great!”
7. They Keep Tabs on the Business as a Whole
Senior leaders don’t just know what’s happening in their own functional area — they know what’s going on in their business as a whole so they can contribute to the big picture. To get started, set up a Google Alert with your company’s name so you’re always kept up to date on what’s happening.
8. They Know How to Pitch Ideas (the Right Way)
Smart people are full of ideas — but brilliant people also have the ability to sell those ideas to everyone else, sharing not only why the idea is a great one, but how it will impact the team and business. McCord has a few great pointers.
9. They’re Comfortable With Pressure
“Start getting comfortable with pressure. In fact, go out of your way to put yourself in uncomfortable situations,” says Jeff Vijungco, vice president of Adobe’s Global Talent organization. “When you do this often enough, you’ll be more immune to pressure when you are stress-tested — like in an impromptu meeting with the CEO.”
10. They Own Up to Their Mistakes
Of course, they know how to deal with those mistakes the right way — by apologizing (once), figuring out how to fix what went wrong, and making a plan to make sure it never happens again.
11. They Listen to Feedback
Feedback can be tough to take. But top employees have figured out how to take it seriously without taking it personally — and more importantly, how to put it into action. (Here’s how they do it.)
12. They Take Opportunities They’re Afraid Of
“When you’re offered a big opportunity, consider it carefully — even if it scares the heck out of you. In the end, high risk often leads to high reward. But if you turn down every opportunity that comes your way, you won’t even have the chance to succeed,” says Daily Muse writer Avery Augustine.
13. They’re Not Afraid to Ask for Help
“Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength,” says Elliott Bell, director of marketing for The Muse. “No one got to where they are today without help along the way.”
14. They Don’t Say Yes to Everything
Because if they did, they’d never finish what’s truly important. “As you go through the day, do frequent reality checks. Stop each hour and quickly ask yourself: Did the last hour contribute to my most important goals?” says McLeod. “If not, vow to make the next 60 minutes better and start again.”
15. They Constantly Think About Their Careers
Upwardly mobile people don’t let a couple of years go by without really thinking about moving up — where their career is headed is regularly on their mind. “Every year or two, spend some time really thinking about your career,” says career coach Christie Mims. “Go out and warm up your network, check out new opportunities and do some salary comparisons. You make smarter career decisions when you have real data.”
16. They Always Know What They Need to Work On
Do you know exactly where you need to grow, your boss’ goals for your future, the timing of your next review, the timing of promotions and raises at your company and who besides your boss you should be impressing? Hint: You should.
17. They Know What They Need to Do Their Best Work
Whether it’s a full no-meeting day, a quiet hour in the morning to get focused work done or regular check-ins with their team, successful people know exactly what they need to get their work done — and they’re not afraid to make it happen.
18. They Commit to Learning
Learning about the company, the industry and the world at large — the most successful people are asking questions, attending conferences and courses and always working to improve upon their skill set and learn something new.
Written by: Diane Landsman
Diane Landsman is familiar to many in the HR community as a former editorial director at Human Capital Media. Now an independent communications strategist, writer and editor she helps enterprises educate, engage, influence and sometimes even entertain their audiences. Her specialty is crafting original content across media channels, from websites that attract searchers and keep them engaged to email campaigns, articles that put organizations on the map, and executive-level whitepapers, speeches, and op/ed pieces.