How to Move Forward at Work

by Vault Careers | October 21, 2011

  • My Vault

You might think that people who have a job continuously work hard for fear of losing them, but that’s actually not always the case.  A lot of employees fall into a rut, punching in and checking out the minute they hit their seats.  They perform the bare minimum expected of them – enough to keep their jobs, but never enough to move ahead in their careers.  Even the best of us have been guilty of this at times.  There are a lot of gambles involved in being a success and flying under the radar seems to be an easy thing to do, but if you don’t want to look back on your life wondering why you wasted your potential, follow some of the advice below to get ahead of the game:

Set a goal.  This is not as easy as answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  You can’t simply state, I want to one day be the editor of the New York Daily News, as I often used to say.  You have to have a plan of action on how to get there.  What steps will you accomplish toward that goal in the immediate future and what will you do later on to achieve your ultimate success?  You need to make a statement: “In X years, I will be managing my department.  In Y years, I will be a high level executive.  In Z years, I will own my own company.”  Then, you need to chart out your vision of how you will get there.  “To achieve my goal I will accomplish A, B, and C.”  Don’t be impulsive.  Really sit down and think it out, because if you don’t, you end up floating through life, wondering what the hell happened to your dreams.

Never take success for granted.  Just because you got a pat on the back from a boss today for a job well done, doesn’t mean the pats will keep coming.  You need to continue to grow and evolve as a worker just like a company.  Think of Myspace for a second.  What’s Myspace?  That’s exactly my point.  Here was a company that ruled social media and then just did nothing with their new success.  They didn’t think they would lose their loyal fan base who decorated pages with sparkles and hearts and greeted their friends with musical profiles.  But Facebook came along with a a cleaner look and a more adult-feel.  They took over the social media market, but didn’t rest on its laurels.  They added chat and then video chat and an assortment of other cool features that almost made it impossible for anyone else to compete.  But then they made mistakes when it came to privacy settings and strange new designs, thinking that they could do no wrong – that their success would continue regardless.  Suddenly, people are looking at Google+ as an option.  The same thing happens in the work world when we get rave reviews and suddenly walk around like we can do no wrong.  But there’s Tracey in the cubicle next to you.  She’s been taking notes of your success and your failures and suddenly she is getting rave reviews and moving past you.  Always believe you can do better.  Don’t act reckless at work under the belief that all your ideas are suddenly golden. 

Keep the lines of communication open.  This goes back to the previous tip.  Don’t suddenly get cocky and start making decisions without consulting with others.  Always explain your plans and ideas with your team and your superiors.  You might not be completely right in your train of thought and someone might be able to tweak your idea a little to make it a big success.  You still win and you also elevated someone else in the process.  That’s not a bad thing.  A bad thing would be to make a decision and go over the head of your boss, only to have that decision blow up in your face.  No matter how successful you are, when you flick your nose at authority, you end up hanging your head down as you walk away from a once promising career. 

Regroup from mistakes.  Don’t pull a Netflix, following up one mistake with another.  It’s ok to make a mistake.  The measure of a good worker is how you followup that mistake.  Take a deep breath.  Think about it.  What’s your next move?  Admit your mistake, move on and do better.  Your employers will be impressed with your ability to rebound. 

Don’t fix things too late.  Waiting until the last minute to make the correct changes in your work performance is not going to help your career.  If you’re about to get fired and you finally come through, you might save your job, but you dug yourself into a hole that is going to be hard to come out from.  Waiting too long destroys your credibility.  You don’t reach your goals if your employer loses faith in you and your abilities.  Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  Think smart, react quick and keep your eyes on the prize. 

--Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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