Little changes can make a big impact on your career.
Over the course of a lifetime, we spend an average of 90 thousand hours at work. That's about a third of your time on Earth. With so much time dedicated to work, it's important to be happy with your career and the direction of its progression.
If you feel like you're stuck in a rut, we've got you covered. Sometimes, in life, it's the small things that matter the most. Here is a handful of small, impactful ways our resident careers expert, Amanda Augustine, suggests you try if you want to get ahead in the workplace.
1. Learn to let go of some tasks
If you have an overwhelming workload, you're unlikely to succeed. As Augustine explains, 'When you're juggling too many priorities, chances are that you'll end up dropping one along the way.' She recommends thinking of each responsibility as a ball made of a different material. If you have a lot on your plate, work out which of these 'balls' will bounce back once dropped, and consider delegating these tasks to others.
2. Boost your productivity
For many businesses, money isn't the only currency – time is, too. If you can be more productive at work, you'll increase your value to your company. Of course, there are many ways you can boost your productivity at work. For example, according to research from Texas A and M University, standing whilst you work could make you more productive as it improves attention and cognitive function. Consider the other ways you can get ahead at work, including helpful productivity apps.
3. Understand your USP
You're an individual, and that's valuable. If you're trying to excel at work, consider what you bring to the company that no one else can offer: your unique selling point (USP). As Augustine explains, 'It's hard to lay off someone who's considered the “go-to” person for a particular speciality.' So, should you have a special skill, it's time to flaunt it. It could put you in prime position for a promotion.
4. Attend industry events and networking sessions
If you want to progress in your career, you must commit to learning and development. Otherwise, you'll remain static. With that in mind, keep an eye out for opportunities to broaden your skill set. Whether it's learning new skills from online courses, meetups, or other networking events, make an effort to interact with opportunities, expand your knowledge base and remain at the forefront of your field.
5. Show passion in the workplace
Being passionate about your job is a better indicator of career success than talent, according to research from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. There's a reason you chose this career path; with any luck, it's because you love the industry. If that's the case, showing that you're passionate about your job could help you succeed and get ahead. You may increase your enthusiasm during meetings, share new ideas with your department or put yourself forward to tasks when they arise.
6. Regularly update your CV
Just because you're not looking for work right now doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your CV up to date. The truth of the matter is that it's easier to update your CV when there's less pressure. Set aside a little time and get this done. Once a year, take time to review your career path, access those valuable details that would strengthen your career narrative and top up your CV to support your new goal.
7. Take the initiative and ask for a promotion
Hoping for a promotion won't necessarily land you one ‒ but being proactive just might. Take the initiative and speak with your boss directly. By placing the ball in your own court, you can prepare ahead of time and make a controlled case for why you deserve a pay rise or new title.
8. Evaluate your performance and progression
Since you're on the ground doing the work, no one knows how well you're doing like you do. Evaluate your progression and performance since your last appraisal against your targets to show your boss just how far you've come and where you're heading.
9. Compile a list of your achievements
Never be afraid to brag about your achievements, and if you don't have a brag book to track your achievements at work, start one immediately. 'Schedule a block of time at least once a year to reflect on your work and your career path', says Augustine. Compile a list of your achievements, bolstered with stats and figures. These tangible metrics are invaluable when you're making a case for a promotion or looking for a new opportunity.
10. Figure out your worth
You might be more valuable than you expect. Before you speak with your boss about a raise, you must find out how much you're worth. Luckily, doing so isn't hard. Take to job boards, Glassdoor and Salary.com and research how your job and salary compare to current industry averages in your location. Be sure to factor in details such as your experience level, your education and how long you have been with this company. If you know the average wage, you'll understand how much you deserve.
11. Find a career role model
Is there someone in your industry who inspires you, whether that be in your company or the wider working world? Research from Southern Methodist University found that exposing young women to a charismatic female role model inspired them to pursue a male-dominated field. Therefore, having a mentor or figure to motivate you could help you get ahead. Get out there and find your career role model.
12. Evaluate and define your career goals
Take a step back and review your current situation at work. Are you happy? Are you longing for something more in your work life? Think about what's working for you and what's not. Then, take your findings and define your new career goals. If you were to change roles, imagine what that new position would look like. With a defined direction, you're more likely to make a positive change.
13. Rewrite your personal statement
Your personal statement sits at the top of your CV and tells prospective employers what you have to offer. It's the elevator pitch that sells you and your skills. Naturally, it evolves as you do. Augustine says, 'If your career goals are shifting, re-evaluate your personal statement and the information listed under each position you've held to ensure they support your new goal.'
14. Tell a consistent story
When future employers review your CV and LinkedIn profile, they're looking for a consistent story. If you've tweaked your CV, make sure you update your LinkedIn profile too so they're telling the same narrative. If they don't align, prospective employers are likely to be confused and may walk away.
15. Avoid putting your own interests first
Think that being Machiavellian in the workplace is a smart way to get ahead? Think again. Research from the University of California, Berkeley suggests that there is no clear advantage to being intimidating or pushy within your job. Equally, trying to be sneaky and take others down behind the scenes is unlikely to win you points. When you're working as part of a team, you have to act like it. That means serving the greater good in your everyday tasks, rather than only attempting to elevate yourself.
16. Showcase your career highlights
LinkedIn has a great range of sections you can utilise. Consider adding to those that showcase your career highlights more than your CV would. Add a touch of your personality and demonstrate your expertise too. Savvy social media is a quick way to show employers the complete package.
It can be too easy to sit back and let the weeks roll by at work without a second thought as to where you're heading. But implementing just a handful of these small suggestions could create a big impact and help you scale your career and get ahead in the workplace.
A stellar CV will help you get ahead in your career as well. To find out where yours stands, submit for a free, objective CV review now!
This article was updated in December 2020 by Charlotte Grainger.