By Perminus Wainaina
Would you say 2018 has been a successful year for your career?
Maybe you have been putting in the hours, meeting your targets and following the employee handbook to the letter. Still, as the year draws to a close, your efforts seem wasted because you didn’t get the promotion you were hoping and your performance review results were just average. If this sounds like you, it is important to realize there are things you can do as an employee that will give you the kind of results you are looking for.
Over the years, as an entrepreneur, I have come to identify a few characteristics that my most valuable employees share.
1. They Think Like Managers
When you think of yourself as your own boss, you begin to take charge of your career in a powerful way. Your goals become more defined and you find a way to plug into the company’s goals so your contribution is noticeable. My best employees have self-drive, they show initiative and they like to put themselves in my shoes, coming up with solutions for my most pressing business problems.
2. They Look For Opportunities To Shine
Over and above your job description, it is important to position yourself in roles that give you a chance to showcase your skills. For example, one employee I had would volunteer to send out an in-house newsletter, updating colleagues on the latest news and sharing motivational resources. He was an entry-level employee, but he went the extra mile and soon his talents were noticed and he was promoted. Another employee volunteered to take the lead on a project whose leader was taken ill. She did an excellent job and a new position was created for her. So if there are any gaps in the system and you can fill one adequately, jump at the opportunity, do a good job, and watch your superiors start to notice you.
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3. The Have Superior Communication Skills
You know that part that says ‘must possess good oral and written communication skills’ you saw in the job ad? There is a reason that employers value this skill greatly. Great communicators are successful in the workplace. They are good with clients as well as colleagues. Given the choice between an experienced employee with poor presentation skills and an intern who creates compelling emails and presentations, I would prefer to work with the one who communicates professionally. If for example your public speaking skills are lacking, you should consider investing in a course to improve them.
4. They Are Results Oriented
If you are looking to get ahead in your career, identify the results that your bosses expect from you. Ask them if you are not very clear. Then create a plan to gear all your activities toward achieving these results. It’s easy to get caught up doing mundane tasks that may be useful but yet not generate quick, measurable results. That is probably why you feel like you are putting in so much effort at work but not getting rewarded. If there are such activities you can delegate, do so. If not, schedule them to take up very little of your time so you focus your most productive hours on the activities that generate results.
5. They Ask For Feedback
In Kenya, a lot of companies do their performance appraisal once a year, usually at the end of the year. This is because it is a costly and involving process. For the rest of the year, you may hardly receive feedback from your supervisor regarding your progress. If this is the case, you need to be pro-active enough to regularly ask for specific feedback regarding your work. This helps you identify and rectify any weaknesses as you go along, giving you the chance to finish the year strong. It also ensures that your progress throughout the year is documented by both you and your supervisor.
6. They Never Stop Learning
Learning is a life-long process. And there is always something new you can learn that will help you perform your work better and increase your productivity. If you feel like your career is stuck in a rut, perhaps it is time to upgrade your skills. Make time and invest in learning new skills. It doesn’t have to be something substantial like a postgraduate degree if you are not in a position to do one right now. Learn a soft skill such as public speaking or digital marketing; apply for certification from a professional body- anything that makes your resume stronger in 2019 is worth considering.
7. They Interact With Superiors
A lot of young employees shy away from interacting with bosses. They think of it as ‘staying out of trouble’. The problem with that is that you can go 10 years without the boss ever knowing you exist in that organization. If your company does not have an open-door policy, my advice is you find other opportunities to meaningfully mingle with higher-ups in the company. It can be something as bold as asking for a mentorship from a manager you admire, or as subtle as putting your best foot forward during the office team building or CSR events. Since it is that time of the year, you could even find an interesting topic to chat about with the boss at the office Christmas party.
If you start integrating these seven habits into your work life, I guarantee you will accelerate your career progress in 2019. If you would like more help on fast tracking your career, check out our one-on-one career coaching services.