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Sometimes, we may know something to be true but still need to hear it from someone else, especially when we’re feeling a little stuck or unsure of ourselves. In a high-speed, ever-changing world, little reminders and nuggets of wisdom can be enough to get us moving forward when we hit a wall!
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 50 tips on how to be successful at work, not just in a financial sense but in a more holistic way that touches your happiness, self-esteem and overall satisfaction. Here’s some of the best career advice we’ve come across!
1. Set clear goals
As minister and educator Benjamin Mays famously said, “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”
Setting specific, realistic goals for yourself is vital in progressing as a professional. Clearly defined goals act as a sort of compass, guiding your choices and informing your decisions. If you have no compass, you’re likely to end up wandering aimlessly!
2. Have realistic expectations
Inevitably, things at work sometimes get tough. And inevitably, sometimes you plateau. Or your focus disappears, or your motivation runs out. These things happen, and the more we resist them, the more tension we create for ourselves.
Instead, it’s better to practice acceptance. This doesn’t mean putting up with inexcusable behaviors, but rather accepting that roadblocks and dead ends are part of the journey.
3. Keep things into perspective
Perspective plays a huge role in how we feel, which in turns informs the way we think and act. Making mistakes at work, taking a risk that doesn’t work out or having a bad day (or month) for whatever reason doesn’t have to signify the end of the road. You have to keep going!
4. Practice gratitude
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” says Eckhart Tolle, self-help guru and bestselling author of The Power of Now*.
Indeed, practicing gratitude has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, contributing to improved overall health. And let’s be honest: at a time of sky-high levels of workplace stress, gratitude can be the antidote that helps us stay motivated and focused.
5. Keep learning
Albert Einstein said that “wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
Indeed, lifelong learning is vital in keeping the mind young. Besides acquiring new information, it helps in replacing old beliefs with new ones, which is vital in growing as an individual and as a professional. Think of it as pruning a tree, making room for growth by removing unhealthy branches!
6. Question your beliefs
Things in life are hardly black or white. Our shared experience is full of nuances, and the more you challenge your beliefs, the better off you’ll be. What we tell ourselves plays a huge role in how we feel and act, and it can also dictate the course of our relationships, professional or not. So, stay curious and keep an open mind!
7. Take risks
Many of us reach a point where our role feels stagnant or otherwise unfulfilling. In moments like these, we have a choice: to stay in our comfort zone or pave a new path for ourselves.
So, start that company you’ve been dreaming of. Try breaking into a new industry. Give yourself permission to take risks. It’s essential to happiness!
8. Invest in your relationships
Human connections are a sort of magic ingredient to career advancement. The closer your bond with your coworkers (at least with some of them!), the better you’ll be able to handle challenges in the workplace — and that’s essential in progressing your career.
At the same time, making friends can also open doors down the line; if someone hears of an opportunity, they’ll think of you and put a good word in.
9. Be kind to others
Bryant McGill, bestselling author of Voice of Reason*, said: “Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life.”
Acts of kindness, even small ones, can boost our confidence, give us a precious sense of control and help us feel more connected to those around us. All of these things help in building resilience, which then benefits us in the workplace as well as outside it.
10. Leave work at work
We’re not saying that you should have a “clock-in, clock-out” mentality. But we are saying that compartmentalizing is important in preserving your mental health and avoiding ending up resentful towards your boss, clients or colleagues.
To achieve this, set healthy boundaries with yourself and others: no answering emails or calls outside of work hours, for example.
11. Don’t wish — do!
This one sounds simple, but it can be hard.
A lot of the time, we get in our own way without even realizing. We think of something we want to do and then we think of reasons not to. The thing is: we’ll never arrive to where we want to be unless we start taking steps.
12. Allow yourself to be bad at things
Advancing your career means doing things you’ve never done before. You can’t go from junior to senior to manager without ever acquiring new skills or knowledge, for example. And fear of failing or doing something that’s not “good enough” can stop us from taking chances that don’t come by often.
13. Forgive your mistakes
Being too harsh on yourself isn’t going to do you any favors when you’re trying to propel your career forward. Everyone makes mistakes: even the people you admire and strive to be like.
Instead of allowing self-defeating thoughts to take up most of your mental and emotional capacity, reframe your thinking around errors: see them as opportunities to learn and not as obstacles.
14. Keep a growth mindset
Someone with a rigid mindset is someone who thinks that intelligence and ability are unchangeable qualities. As a result, they’re less likely to take on challenges or listen to feedback, and tend to be intimidated when they see others succeed.
A growth mindset is the opposite. It’s being open to changes and trusting in your ability to grow and overcome challenges!
15. Know when to walk away
There comes a point both in our personal and professional lives when we outgrow people or situations. While this doesn’t mean leaving things behind at the first glimpse of something we dislike, we must have the willingness to be honest with ourselves and others.
If your work environment, partnerships or career path in general no longer fulfil or challenge you, it may be time to move on.
16. Learn to say “no”
Saying “yes” to everything you’re asked to do may seem like a good way to earn approval at work. But it will actually work against you.
Rather than frequently taking on tasks that aren’t your responsibility or staying late, it’s best to preserve your mental and physical health by setting boundaries. This way, you’ll have more energy and focus to spend where it matters.
17. Strive for balance
There’s a quote circulating the internet that says: “20 years from now, the only people who will remember you worked late will be your kids.”
While work is important, in that it can offer a sense of security, purpose and fulfilment, it shouldn’t take up all the space in our life. Resting, spending time with loved ones and having hobbies is vital to our wellbeing. This makes us more productive at work, too.
18. Make your voice heard
Whether it’s standing up for yourself, sharing an out-of-the-box idea or presenting in front of an audience, making your voice heard is a good way to build your confidence and resilience. At the same time, it can also help you form stronger professional connections!
19. Be the bigger person
Over the course of your career, you’ll come across all sorts of people. Some you’ll love, some you’ll hate. But being respectful to everyone equally (unless they straight-up disrespect you) is going to work in your favor. Keep your composure in disagreements and let things slide where you can… Even if on the inside you’re doing it purely so you don’t give someone the satisfaction of knowing they got to you!
20. Know your worth
When you’re at the beginning of your career, it’s easy to sell yourself short. However, self-doubt can lead to you getting the short end of the stick later in life, too, never quite receiving what you deserve.
When you know your worth, people can’t take advantage of you. You set the rules.
21. Ask questions
When we’re young, our teachers and professors love to tell us that “there are no silly questions”. As adults, we sometimes forget that, and we end up overthinking or keeping ourselves in the dark.
Asking questions opens up dialogues between you and your colleagues. This can enhance collaboration, improve efficiency and even help you think more critically.
22. Don’t wait for the perfect moment
As existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: “Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future; act now, without delay.”
It’s true: the future may never come as we envision it, and (usually) we’ll never be 100% ready to take a chance, regardless how long we wait.
Whether done online or in person, the benefits of networking are plenty: besides helping you access job opportunities, your contacts can offer you new insights, ideas and advice to move your career forward.
Networking also boosts people skills and confidence, which are key in career progression.
24. Learn to prioritize
Prioritization skills are essential to career advancement. This doesn’t refer only to prioritizing tasks at the office, but also prioritizing in your personal life. When you need rest, for example, carve time out of your day for it. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, schedule in a catch-up with your closest friends.
25. Take breaks
One of the most important things you must do sometimes in order to be great at your job is to not do your job. Taking breaks from work goes beyond resting physically, however; mental and emotional breaks are necessary, too.
Give your body and mind the chance to recharge and process, even when you feel like you don’t really “need” to. It’s best to be proactive with some things!
26. Don’t try to do everything at once
Contrary to what you might think, multitasking doesn’t make you more efficient; it does the opposite. Switching between tasks is cognitively “costly”, because of the mental demand required to jump from one thing to another. In other words, it slows you down.
While it sometimes is necessary to juggle many things at once, avoid it where you can.
27. Stay curious
Enriching your knowledge and expanding your perspective are two very important aspects of growing as a professional. So, make sure you regularly visit educational websites, read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, and have conversations with people from different backgrounds. That’s how you’ll generate new ideas!
28. Let your success speak on its own
In the words of singer Frank Ocean: “Work hard in silence; let your success be your noise.”
While it’s natural to want to share and celebrate your achievements with others, it’s best to do this with the people closest to you. And, most importantly, to do the things you do for you, for the joy and fulfilment you get — and not for how your achievements might make you appear in the eyes of others.
29. Help others grow
Helping others become better at something meaningful to them shows confidence. When you’re not threatened by other people’s success, it means you’re sharing resources and ideas openly, which can also be of benefit to you. It also makes it likelier that when you find yourself in need, you’ll have a group of supporters that can help and guide you through challenges.
30. Ask for help when you need it
We can’t do everything alone, and neither should we have to. Knowing when to put our ego aside is vital in progressing our career — and in building stronger work relationships.
Showing others that we’re open to receiving help can also lead to them asking us for help. This builds trust and respect!
31. Look on the bright side
We’re not suggesting that you power through your bad days without acknowledging or processing how you feel and giving yourself time to bounce back. But optimism can speed up the process!
Indeed, as Hellen Keller once said: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
32. Have faith in yourself
In the words of writer Arthur Golden, “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.”
It’s true: we tend to be our own harshest critics. If you have the tendency to focus on your shortcomings more than your achievements, it’s good to find ways to reframe your thinking.
33. Don’t lose your humor
Sometimes things go south. And then they go south-er. While we’re not implying that you should keep smiling through it all; if you can maintain a lighter mood through the tough times, you’re bound to come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Plus, humor in the workplace will help you bond with people, reduce your stress levels and increase your job satisfaction.
34. Let things go
Anger, failure, disappointment, conflict, grudges, jealousy… Though they’re all things you’re bound to experience over the course of your career, they aren’t things you need to be carrying around with you forever.
Knowing when to step back or move on is vital to preserving your time and energy.
35. Listen to your gut
In one of her shows, comedian Taylor Tomlinson commented that people repeatedly make mistakes in their 20s because they have no gut to listen to yet.
Though not everything our intuition tells us is true, there’s a reason that scientists have labelled our (literal) gut the “second brain”. Listening to hunches can save us a lot of trouble.
36. Leave your comfort zone
Walt Disney (whose idea for Mickey Mouse got rejected some 300 times) said: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Sure, leaving your comfort zone can get uncomfortable. But the safety and predictability of staying in it don’t lend themselves to growth.
37. Develop your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to comprehend, use and effectively manage emotions. As such, it’s essential in maintaining healthy relationships and handling stressful situations. You can see how that’s desirable in the workplace — especially at a time of increasing burnout rates around the world!
38. Take care of your health
You’ve likely heard the phrase “healthy mind is a healthy body”. It dates back to the classical era, which comes to show just how clear the mind–body connection is.
Our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs can affect our biological functioning. People who understand that are able to look after themselves more holistically, which is essential in accomplishing goals.
39. Take initiative
If something needs to be done at the office and you’ve got some free time, offer to do it. If there’s a problem that keeps occurring, offer up a solution if you’ve got one. If you see something that could potentially go wrong, act proactively. In other words, take command of the reins; your team will appreciate it.
40. Create healthier habits
Regardless of industry, one bit of advice you’ll often hear from leaders is to build better habits. If you get into the habit of daily reading, for example, you’ll be gaining new knowledge instead of mindlessly scrolling on your phone. Or if you start time-blocking your days, you’ll increase your efficiency at work instead of multitasking or stopping and starting your work.
41. Develop your self-awareness
Without self-awareness, there can be no career clarity nor satisfaction. When you’re in touch with yourself, it becomes easier to set meaningful goals and stick to them, as you’ll know what drives you and what dampens your motivation. You also notice how your moods or beliefs impact your relationships with others and your productivity.
42. Develop good people skills
If you’re an employee at a company, you need people to support you and recognize your value in order to move up. If you’re a “lone wolf” and manage your own company, you need clients to place their trust in you. Our point is that no single person can become successful alone; relationships are fundamental to success.
43. Don’t give up on yourself
Nelson Mandela once said that “a winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”
Climbing up the corporate ladder or starting a business of your own isn’t easy. But if that’s what you aspire for, then you owe it to yourself to persevere when things get hard. Whether it’s through more strategic breaks, affirmations or career counseling, find a way to stay motivated.
44. Hold yourself accountable
Accountability comprises confidence and honesty. You need both those elements to admit to making mistakes, own your work and commit to becoming better in any aspect of your life.
Taking accountability won’t just bring you closer to your personal goals, however; it will also benefit any team you find yourself working in, which will be viewed favorably by those around you.
45. Admit when you’re wrong
“It takes guts and humility to admit mistakes,” author Roy T Bennett has said. “Admitting we’re wrong is courage, not weakness.”
It’s true: admitting first to ourselves and then to others that we’re wrong is essential in demonstrating integrity. Plus, the faster you can get it out of the way, the sooner you’ll be diverting your attention to finding an alternative or a solution.
46. Be honest
Although the truth can sometimes be harsh, knowing how to express what you believe in a mindful, respectful way can take you far in terms of your career progression. Put simply: it will encourage people to trust you. And if they don’t, well… It’s better to break ties with someone whose views don’t align with you than earn their approval on false grounds.
47. Compete with yourself, not others
Although workplace competition is common, it can lead to work environments becoming unhealthy if it gets out of hand.
At the end of the day, your colleagues’ performance ultimately doesn’t concern you. It’s not you versus them; it’s you versus old you. Focus on becoming a little bit better in the ways that matter to you every day.
48. Untie your worth from your performance
How will you succeed if every time something goes wrong, you tell yourself you don’t have what it takes? (Spoiler alert: You won’t.)
Your value as a human being doesn’t diminish based on your performance at work, and neither do your talent or intelligence. You are worthy of great things; you have to remind yourself of that.
49. Keep dreaming big
As writer CS Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Telling ourselves that it’s too late to start over, learn something new or make changes is the very thing that makes change impossible. “Late-blooming” entrepreneurs who found success stand as a testimony to that: Marvel’s Stan Lee, Ford Motors’ Henry Ford and KFC’s Harland David Sanders, for example, all found success in middle adulthood.
50. Embrace failure
“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness”, Oprah Winfrey has said. She’s right: failure can be the best educator.
Although making a mess of something important to you will never feel great, viewing it with acceptance and eagerness to learn from it will make it better.
To progress your career, you must first come up with your own definition of what makes you successful. Once that’s clear to you, you can focus on specific targets, which makes your ambitions more attainable.
As we’ve seen, some of the best advice you’ll ever receive on career matters will have more to do with your time outside of work than in it. Practices like self-awareness, setting boundaries, taking breaks and keeping a curious mind are more general, yet they can help us achieve the success we dream of.
Can you think of any more career advice to share with other readers? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published on January 15, 2019.