How to progress at work fast

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Whether this means getting better results with your team, or taking step towards senior management. There are 5 components every manager look for in the team members. 

Let’s assume you’re not one of those people who turn out at work because it is must, it pays the bill so you show up for 40 hours a week. But as soon as you’d get a chance, choice or option, you’d hand in your notice. If this is your case, hold on tight, stay put and get back to reading my posts because I have got one coming up for you in next couple of months. 


For now, let’s assume above does not relate to you. On the contrary, you’re good with your current role, all you lack is making progress. You’re ambitious, you’re driven, you know what you want out of your work life but right now you’re unsure how to get it. Are you often puzzled by how your colleagues get ahead, promoted while you believe you’re smarter, more dedicated and full of better ideas?


Beside this website (where I am realising my dream of writer and go-to -person for advice on psychology, productivity and career), I am also manager. Which is ungrateful but also rewarding job, there are typically similar but also totally different days full of thunders and dramas, hard but on some days easy work. 


I get to work with a lot of people - daily, familiar and new, driven but also just show-ups (first paragraph type). What I have noticed from my own perspective, as a driven and ambitious person and manager, it takes only 5 elements to make a progress in a career. These are very easy steps you can apply as soon as now which will guarantee fast progress.


These 5 components are what a manager look for in the members of her team. 


Before I reveal them and dive into more details around each one, I want to give you a short overview of my managerial career, so you know I am not only sharing my opinions, I’ve based these on my own experience. 


I started as a manager over 8 years now. In first year, I’ve lived the management, at work, outside of work through courses and books. It was my number one focus to learn and better myself day after day. 

After first year in my new role, I was hired for the same role to work on different contract ahead of managers with more of experience, much more experience, ahead of managers who trained me. After first 6 months in my new role, I’ve become go-to person to my boss. Next in line to step up and progress into senior management. 

This may not seem as a big deal to you, but it was a biiiiiig deal for me. For shy 25 year old with big dreams but lacking confidence, the progress, success and praise seem to be surrounding me. 


Back then, I believed I wanted to climb so called corporate ladder and I was prepared to see how far I could go. Until the job started to beat me, wear me out and change me into a person I was not prepared to become. Eventually I have realised this was not the path I wanted to be following and made decision to start my own business. Since the big revelation day, I have been doing less of 5 points I am going to share with you hence I am reliable, content, solid manager. Comparing last 6 years to my first 2 years on the job, I can see how much difference these 5 steps take. 

Consider trying them out for yourself. Let’s explore them now and see how they can help. 



1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT

This can apply to you being a new on the job but also if you’ve been on the job for years. You’ve got to approach each day as the time to learn. Before you step into your work space, remind yourself - I am ready to learn. Absorb the information and experiences surrounding you. Identify who you think is really incredible in their skills and abilities on the job and watch them, observe how they handle the situations, make decisions, solve problems. 

Typically when you start a new job, you’re provided with a training giving you ins and outs of your role all the important hows. Setting standards for what is expected of you. 

And this is where many of us go wrong, once the training is over we think, this is it now. I know what I am doing, not what needs to be done daily and then you stop being curious. 

Learning on the job does not mean you have to be sent out to days worth of training. Learning can happen every day if you choose to

It could be as simple as taking on project which seems daunting and way out of your confront zone. Push the boundaries, step out of comfort circle and open your mind. 


There is nothing you’d appreciate more as a manager as seeing one of your team members taking interest in developing their skills, going ahead and learning and being curious. 

You know, the sort of Why people - who challenge and want to understand the reasons behind decisions and work you do. 



HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Get clear on what you want out of your career. Gaining clarity is easier than it sounds. 

All it requires is to ask clear questions:

  • What do I want out of my career?

  • Where do I see my career going within company I work for? 

  • What skills do I want to/ need to develop? 

Once you’re clear, decide what you need to do to realise it. 

For example: create your development plan (go ahead and use the template I use) and share it with your manager either during your Performance review meeting or ask for meeting with your manager when it is convenient for her.



2. I CAN, WE CAN

‘This will not work’. ‘This is not the way we do things around here’. Does any of these sound familiar? There are people who will shut down idea as soon as it is presented to them. We don’t like the change, so as soon as we see sign of it, we shut it down. Even if this meant, the change could bringing something good for us. 


At work, it’s damaging and killing the business. 

If you are in managerial role and tend to stick to your good old ways, you could be seriously hindering your business. 


The times are changing so fast, this is fast pace world, right now to stay in, you’ve got to innovate and produce with minimum of costs.  You’ve got to review every corner, every process, every task and Improve, improve, cut down and improve. 

In recent weeks, I’ve been tasked with the continuous improvement project of department where I do not work. Talk about being out of your comfort zone. 

At the start, my whole body and mind were rejecting this project. How can I improve something I don’t know a thing about

 I moved passed my resentment as this is part of my job and I really must deliver. 

As I was talking to my colleagues and trying to find out more about the job they do. I’ve came across so many cannot-s. ‘Oh, no there’s no way to improve anything’, ‘We’re already stretched as it is’. 

This is closed off thinking. Doing your job how you’ve always done it (for past 6 years) is lazy and easy option. 



HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Develop growth mindset. If you have not read Carol Dweck's book Mindset - you've got to add it to your Must-do-reading list - see mine

Mindsets are beliefs. They are powerful beliefs, but they are just repeated thoughts in your mind, and you can change your mind. 

Dr. Carol Dweck invested majority of her career to mindset research. According to her, we either have growth or fixed mindset. Growth mindset is when you believe that your abilities and capabilities can be developed, your circumstances can be changed.  Fixed mindset is when you believe you have limits and the things will always be as they always were. 

You can have both. Sometimes you can have a fixed mindset in one situation and growth mindset in the other situation. The good news is, you can develop growth mindset and therefore create better opportunities and results for yourself. 




Here’s how:

  • Failure or unsuccessful attempt is not the end of the world. So now you found out what does not work, what else can you try out/ test out? It’s also beneficial to review what went wrong? Why attempt ended unsuccessfully? It’s beneficial for 2 reasons - avoid the same mistake in the future and learning point. Remember, as I mentioned in the first point, everything is learning if you decide so. 

According to Dweck’s research, people with growth mindset enjoy challenges because they look for opportunities to develop new skills and they strive to learn. 

  • Work on your self-awareness. Understand what your skills and talents are and strive to utilise them wherever you can. Understand (and admit) what areas are challenging for you and strive for improvement (not perfection). 

  • Acknowledge your efforts. This is where many of us go wrong. As soon as one task is done, we jump on the next one. Acknowledging your efforts takes literally a minute. Kind though. Two words of praise - well done. 

  • Ask for feedback. Only from co-workers who’s opinion you value. 




If you’re interested in the Dweck’s research on How companies can profit from Growth mindset and What having a ‘growth’ mindset actually means, don’t miss these 2 articles posted on Harvard Business Review. 




3. SAY YES MORE THAN YOU SAY NO

The fact is, it is easier to say no than to say yes. Saying yes means more work, more effort, more time. 

If you say no often, eventually people will stop asking. And you may end up missing out on project you’d actually love. Or you may end up missing out on training you wanted to do for a long time. 




What you also need to remember is, as much as you’d like to, you cannot do it all. 

You've probably heard of economic term - Opportunity cost, when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else. There's always opportunity cost in anything you do. This is why being clear on what you're working towards in your career or specific project/task is so crucial. You don't want to work towards something that has little or no benefit to your overall Development plan. 

Normally we underestimate how much time and effort it’ll take. 

Then we feel frustrated and angry because it’s taking too much time and we’re already making all these adjustments just to have enough time to do all needs to be done. 

This is a loop of stress you’re getting yourself into.

Keep constantly re-evaluating what your priorities are and plan your work accordingly.




HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO:

When you get asked to work on the project, invited for a meeting, offered new development opportunity, remember, you're not obligated to give immediate answer. What you can do is give yourself time to consider if this is right move for you. 

Here's how you can do that with respect and in professional manner:

  • thank you so much for thinking of me, I will consider it and give you my answer by... (choose the date or time - ideally you want to take a day or two no longer than that)

  • thank you for the offer, let me think about it

  • or as Bob Burg (business speaker and best-selling author) suggests: 'thank you so much for thinking of me', 'I am so honoured to be asked', 'While it's not something I'd like to do...'

This way you're not agreeing to something you did not consider. You're giving yourself some time to make the best decision for you and for others.  Plus you're minimising stress, feeling resentful, frustrated and exhausted. When did you ever got any great work done feeling stressed, resentful, frustrated and exhausted?




4. SHOW WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF DOING (NO WORDS, ACTIONS!)

There’s many people who’s words are bigger than their actions especially in management. Are you letting your ego to take better of you? Do you easily admit when you don’t understand? Do you speak up at the meeting and ask to have the point clarified to you because you did not get it? Do you walk out angry from yearly review because your manager pointed out a few skills you need to develop?

Do you get defensive as soon as you hear a word of criticism? 




5. STOP SAYING YOU’RE TOO BUSY AND STOP MOANING

At work, you will always be too busy. Busy is good. It means the business is going well. It means that your job and skills are not redundant. List out what needs to get done. Prioritise it. And get to work. 



Here’s how you can set priorities:

What is the compelling reason for doing ..? 

What is the payoff of this activity compared to the time you will invest in it? 

Is this event or activity time critical or day specific? 

Can this task be delegated? Who could do this at least 80% as well as you? 

What is the worst that could happen if this doesn’t get done?

Saying you're too busy does not solve anything and will not get work done. Complaining, moaning and bitching are not the reasons you were hired. Stop moaning and don’t engage in bitchiness. If you don’t like something, then figure it out and change it. The processes are not always perfect, with system changes, they go out of date, become less effective if that's what you're facing then add value by reviewing them, improving and making the process more effective for you and the team. That is why you were hired. 




If you find yourself saying I am too busy, consider, are you too busy because

• you took on too much ( in that case - return back to point 3)

• it is excuse or different way of saying ‘leave me alone, I am here because I have to? (in that case consider Subscribing to my monthly membership where I dedicate and share many tools, tactics, tips how to transition into new career, identify what career choice would the best for you, learn more here)



Apply these 5 steps, and your progress and career success is guaranteed. Before you go, I want you to remember that the skills which helped you get the job you have now will not necessarily get you further. Create your development plan and consistently work towards it.  
You’ve got to take charge of your own progress and development. 



How to create a development plan


Creating a development plan may seem daunting and time consuming, trust me, it is not. I’ve included 3 points to consider when you’re about to create one for yourself.  

You can also download the guide here which includes some more in depth questions around career choice and development. 

Download the guide here




EVALUATE YOURSELF

Where are you now. Are you happy with your career choice? Are you daydreaming of being or doing something else? 

This perfectly ties up to my next question I want you to consider.

What do you want out of your career? 

Choose what to start working on. 

Identify your skills. And how you can use more of them in your daily work life. Identify skills you need to develop and steps to developing them. 

What do you enjoy doing? And how can you do more of it more often?




DON’T BE SHY TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

You may have to have the talk with your manager and see how you can work on your development within your current role. Not many people see further beyond themselves. Your manager is probably too busy managing her daily tasks and own development choices. It is not necessarily right way of being a manager but it is the reality. 

Choose what you want and speak up. 




CONTINUOUS RE-EVALUATING

From now on, don’t wait until your yearly review to hear what your manager thinks of your performance, your development and where your career is heading. 

From now on, you schedule time at least once a month for yourself to review:

Where you’re at?

What you need to work on?

What projects you’d like to take on?

What skills you need to work on this months?

What you’re struggling with?




So here we are, create your development plan workbook and take control of your own career progress and personal development. 



Are you in charge of your own development? What are you working on right now? Where do you see your heading? Let me know, in the comments below.