5 steps to success at work
You’re full of energy and ambition at work, but how do you get where you want to be in your career? Elisabeth Malissen, careers coach and specialist in professional relationships, has come up with five easy steps to help you succeed at work.
1. Identify your goals
When professional success seems to be slipping away from you, it’s usually because you haven’t thought about your goals. Take some time to consider what you’re aiming for in your career. “Putting a clear objective into words allows you to shape what you do to achieve it. You can also identify factors that might be getting in the way of your goals. You’ll recognise who you need to impress in order to get where you want to be, and what they expect from you,” says Elisabeth Malissen.
In practice: You often feel overwhelmed by your workload. To avoid this, you should work on your time management and organisational skills, but that’s not all. Elisabeth Malissen suggests: “Work with your colleagues to split up tasks according to what you’ve got on. Start by assessing how much time it will take you to do a good job. Then tell your boss and your colleagues how much time you would like to complete the task properly.”
Identifying what you want to achieve and being clear lets you take control of discussions. If you don’t, others will gain the upper hand and arrange things their way.
2. Learn to say no
It can be tough to say no. You think it won’t go down well, people will think you’re lazy or incompetent. You end up forced into saying yes to prove your worth. Think about it like this: you wouldn’t eat something you don’t want to or go to an event if you already have plans, so why take on jobs you don’t have time for at work?
In practice: Your boss has postponed a meeting to the end of the day and your colleague is chasing you to help with an urgent proposal that has to go out by end of play. There’s no point being vague and coming up with excuses like: “You know I would do it if I could, I just can’t right now...” Elisabeth Malissen advises clarity: “When you can’t do something, you must tell it straight and make sure the other person understands that it would affect your work.”
Ask yourself: are you are in a position to say yes or no? If not, then be firm about it while trying to pacify your colleague. Our expert advises trying the following: “I can’t help you out with this one, but maybe we can find a solution together.”
By learning to say no, you can make sure you don’t get too overloaded and also ensure your colleagues don’t take you for granted.
3. Learn to take criticism
Do you feel embarrassed at the slightest hint of criticism? Feel like throwing in the towel on the spot or scratching your critic’s eyes out? Try to keep things in perspective.
In practice: Maybe you get to the office later than everyone else or disturb your colleagues without checking how busy they are. Elisabeth Malissen’s attitude is as follows: “Know how to take criticism when it is justified, and accept that you aren’t perfect.” Rather than being cast down by reproaches, remember that is important to gain your colleagues’ respect. Try and understand why they are criticising you and search for solutions as to what you can improve. Try to react positively and calmly. How good you are at your job is not being questioned. It is just about findings way to improve how you are at work in general. When criticism is unjustified, our coach says: “Make sure you show that you are confident in your own abilities and maintain a professional distance so you don’t get upset.”
By learning to handle criticism, you can stay confident about yourself while taking into account any little faults and ironing them out.
4. Stop being a machine
As soon as you get to your desk the tasks start mounting up and everything seems to have to go out this minute. But remember, you are not a machine. Find your rhythm and make sure you take enough time to strengthen family ties and personal relationships outside work. The key to keeping your head in the office is to know that you are not a cog in an unstoppable machine.
In practice: You are obsessed with performance and make sure you don’t waste a single second when the work piles up around you. Instead of phoning contacts or having meetings, you send emails to save time. Coffee breaks and even lunch just seem like a time suck. But you can have a happier work life. “Recognise that you are human with little breathers every now and again,” Elisabeth Malissen advises.
Take the time to say hi - in person and not just in emails! Avoid brief, impersonal messages and signing off all emails with “regards”. Schedule some little coffee breaks with your colleagues so you can chat about things apart from work, like the TV series everyone is watching or things you have in common. Just a few minutes every now and again won’t affect your work.
You'll be less stressed and start to really enjoy your work. And this is no small thing considering how much of your life is spent in the office.
5. Listen to your emotions
We're ruled by our emotions and if these are forgotten about, there's every chance that they'll rear their heads at inopportune moments. Stay in touch with yourself and your emotions so you can keep them under control at work.
In practice: If a colleague or your boss gives you a hard time, it can lead to anger and frustration. Uninteresting work or difficulty getting new ideas across can lead to a lack of motivation and make you feel stuck in a rut.
“To avoid this, listen to your emotions and accept them. You can then express them in a more controlled way... and to the right person,” Elisabeth Malissen says. A simple meeting with your boss about a new project can rile you if he is aggressive and peremptory. Once you have identified what it is that you are feeling, verbalise it: “I don’t want to work like this. I’m not really comfortable with the way things are and when you get angry, I feel that you can become disrespectful.” Our coach also points out that: “It could be that the other person is having personal problems, and nothing to do with your working relationship at all. Emotions are information for us in this situation - use them in order to get things back on track and come to a mutual understanding.”
By managing your emotions more effectively, you'll be able to put your negative feelings to one side and concentrate on more positive thoughts.
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