What do you need to do to get ahead at work?

When you want to get ahead at work, it can be challenging to know exactly what to do. Most people think that if you just work harder, then your effort will result in a promotion.

Below is Rebecca’s story in her pursuit to get ahead.

Rebecca had no desire to leave her job, she wanted to get promoted in her current position. In her words, she’d been doing “everything” that was asked of her, but no one noticed her efforts, let alone rewarded them.

Meanwhile, some of her peers were flying past her with promotions and raises.

What was the problem with Rebecca, and how was she going to get ahead?

Rebecca enlisted some help by asking HR to refer a mentor. After a few coaching sessions from her mentor, they identified that Rebecca was not connecting with management. The company she worked for was small and casual, but Rebecca shied away from engaging her senior leadership.

How could Rebecca ever convince her leadership that she cared about the business if she wouldn’t make any effort to interact with them?

The reality is that the people who get promoted are doing more than just getting the work done.  Studies show that how we value an employee’s competence changes according to how much we like or dislike that person.

In other words, being really good at your job isn’t enough.

For an employee to stand out, being likeable is a huge indicator for success. The good news is that the biggest hindrance to likeability is apathy.  The good news is that if you are like Rebecca, you can change how others perceive you simply by making the choice to care about other people.

Here are 7 steps you can implement immediately regardless of your circumstances that will put you back on the promotion path, where you belong:

  1. Take initiative

Volunteer for assignments. Are there any tasks that have been lingering on your boss’ to-do list for a few weeks? A great way to get noticed is by taking on a project that no one wants to tackle, but that has to get done.

  1. Connect with everyone

People who get big things done are people who know people, but the Rebecca’s of the world have a tendency to think that inter-office relationship building is too time-consuming and draining to be worthwhile.

Every aspect of your professional life will improve if you get to know your colleagues and making them feel comfortable getting to know you. This can be challenging if you are introverted. Push through this and connect with people one-by-one. Once you’ve broken the ice, you won’t feel nearly as uncomfortable about initiating a conversation in the elevator.

  1. Participate in the office’s extracurricular activities.

Work hard and enjoy your job too if you want to get ahead at work. Participate in the company’s fundraising walk or bake sale. Whatever your organization is doing, participate and do #2, connect.

For the extroverts that love to socialize and party, when it comes to office events, never put more effort into your social persona than you’re putting into your professional persona.

  1. Accomplish the organization’s goal

Every organization has a bottom line or a mission, and if you’re bringing in new business opportunities, you will always be seen as an asset. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been hired for marketing; it’s all about contributing in a bigger way. This doesn’t mean you need to be a walking billboard for your employer, but you should maintain a keen awareness of the opportunities that surround you, whether you’re in a coffee line or a board meeting.

Whatever your organization’s mission is, make sure you are working toward its achievement.

  1. Be a team player

Look for ways to collaborate and work in harmony. Bring your strengths to projects and assignments. Accept and embrace the diversity of talent within your team. Everyone won’t see things the way you do. That’s ok. Learn to work in diverse teams.

You don’t need to be a martyr of self-sacrifice by staying late every single night to do someone else’s work, but stepping up without expecting any personal benefit will never go unnoticed or unappreciated.

  1. Steer clear of negativity

Negativity is highly toxic. No one really wants to hear it, especially senior leaders. Focus on being helpful and solving problems not causing problems.

  1. Speak up.

Toastmasters is a great way to learn and practice your speaking skills.

Side note: Most of the interviews I’ve been on, the interviewer normally asks me about Toastmasters.  It has given me a leg up.

Make sure you practice speaking well. If you struggle with grammar, improve. Take a class. If you are shy and/or introverted, practice speaking up. Make sure when you speak, you are not covering your mouth by resting your chin on your hand. Sit up straight and project your voice.

Back to Rebecca, over the course of a few months, Rebecca started to realize that having a voice in the workforce is like a muscle that grows stronger with frequent use. With each step forward, her self-consciousness loosened its grip and she became confident about seizing opportunities. She felt empowered to step up, regardless of whether it was to run a meeting or populate the spreadsheet.

The standout employees are the ones who behave like leaders, even when their title is Intern. The irony is that when you’re more focused on the results than the promotion, your title will change faster than you can even imagine. This is how you get ahead at work.

If you don’t believe me, guess who’s now managing her company’s brand new office in London?

That would be—you guessed it—Rebecca!

10 Steps to Setting and Achieving Work Goals

Goal setting is a great way to strategically move your career forward. Having work goals and reaching your goals can be challenging, and below are 10 steps to help you better achieve your work goals.

  1. Get clarity on what you are trying to achieve

First things first – understand what you want to pursue. What do you want? It might be a good idea to start with your performance plan or a set of work goals that your manager has for you. If you don’t have this level of support or structure, maybe the first thing is to have a conversation with your manager to find out what you need to focus on.

If you already know what you want, go for it!

  1. Get some help

You might need help to achieve your goal. By understanding your team, you can pull from their strengths to help you to reach your goals. You team might be your staff members, your project team, or just co-workers.

When you understand the people around you, you can ask the right people for the help you need to achieve more. If you are a supervisor, team lead, or a project manager, you especially need the help of your teammates.

  1. Get your supervisor on your side

Maybe your goal is to get on your supervisor’s good side. If that’s the case, attempt to make their job easier. Have a conversation with your manager and ask what you can do to help out. Do what they tell you. Don’t over think it and don’t do what you think will be better. If you want to introduce a new way or whatever you think is better, do what they ask first and then do what you think is better. Then let your boss have a choice between the two products. When in doubt, ask first before you go off and try to predict what your boss wants. Wait until they trust you to try to innovate. 

  1. Focus on what you can control

For every workplace goal, there are factors you can control and factors out of your hands. Be clear on the distinction, and have a plan for what to do if the out-of-your-control factors don’t line up.

In project management, most times project managers are responsible for completing a project, but don’t have total autonomy over the people assigned to their project to get things done. This is a most challenging part of project management. Focusing on things that a project manager can control might be the budget. Things the project manager can’t control might be how quickly team members complete tasks. In this example, the project manage might add extra time in the schedule to allow for team members to complete tasks. Sometimes you got to be strategic on how you accomplish your goals.

  1. Consider your long term career goals

Where do you want to be in 5 years? What would you need to do to get to that position? Do you need to get a certification? Maybe you might need some additional experience. What is your ideal next professional role? Which success stories will make you a suitable and impressive candidate? Figure out what you want to do and begin to make a plan.

  1. Go beyond and think of the big picture

You might have opportunities to do other assignments at work. Think about what you want for your career for the future and take on some of those extra projects if you think it might give you the experience or exposure you need to get to where you want to be.

  1. Visualize as often as possible

See yourself where you want to be. Get a detailed vision. You might create a vision board by adding pictures of things that look like what you want your future to look like. Sometimes you may not know what your typical day will look like in your dream job. But don’t allow that to stop you.

I envisioned getting my project management professional certification. I saw myself passing the rigorous exam and throwing my hands up when I got my score. I saw myself celebrating. While I was studying for the exam, periodically I would close my eyes that think about how I was going to tell my mom. Everything that I saw in my mind, I did.

What can you visualize that will pull you closer to your dream?

Goals are dreams with deadlines – motivational phrase on a vintage blackboard
  1. Get some accountability

If you can get your supervisors support, that would be great. However, if you want to get a new job, your supervisor may or may not be rooting for you. It’s tricky when it comes to new positions and having supervisors support.

Having an accountable person to encourage you and help to keep you on track can make the difference. A mentor could potentially give you the support you need to accomplish your work goals.  

  1. Check-in often

Do you know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? Well, it’s not enough to just set work goals. How many times have you have resolutions and then forgot about them by Valentine’s Day?

It’s important to review your work goals often. Write them down and put them in a place where you will look at them often.

Schedule times to evaluate how well you are doing in terms of reaching your goals. You can do this monthly or quarterly depending on the work goal.

  1. Align what you do daily with your goals

Do a periodic check on how well your daily to-do list aligns with your big-picture workplace goals. If the two have nothing to do with each other, talk to your manager and take action.

Maybe your work goal is to become bilingual, then your daily to-do-list should include some sort of foreign language classes, foreign language tutorials, practicing the foreign language, etc.

If this is one of your work goals, you won’t just wake up one day completely fluent in a foreign language if you’re not putting in the work.   

  1. Track your progress

It feels great when you can look back over a period of time and see that you are moving toward where you want to be. Tracking your progress will help you to see if you are actually getting closer to your goals or moving away from them.

Goal setting is an art. It takes practice and follow through. It’s wonderful when you can achieve your work goals. The major takeaway is that you want to know what you want, keep it in front of you, visualize achieving it, get support, and track your progress.

8 Productivity Tips to Get Things Done

Your work environment (regardless of whether you are at work or home) is filled with “noise” that can distract you from getting things done. There are tons of obstacles in the office that are distracting, like your coworkers. I find it very challenging to focus with people are laughing, talking loud, having conference calls on speaker, or interrupting you every chance they get.

Working from home can be equally as challenging. At my house my son is home every day. I’m not caring for him, my sister-in-law does. However, I can hear him cry, run, laugh, talk, and play. Before he was born, I was distracted with all the other things that I could be doing at home like doing laundry or watering the grass or watching tv. The point is distractions are everywhere.

For these reasons, it is important to take a proactive approach and arrange your workspace in a way that helps you clear your mind so that you can produce your best work or at least get things done.

Here are eight strategies to get things done:

#1: Empty your Mind

Get all the things you have to do out of your head and on paper, in an email, or on a document. There are many ways to capture all the things you have to do. Once they are out of your head and on paper, then you can prioritize them and strategize how you will get them done.

When I get overwhelmed with a lot of things to do. It’s because I have not written down the things I need to do. Once I write down my list of things to do, I feel like a monkey has been lifted from my back.

#2: Shut down your email

Email is so distracting when you need to get things done. I think the best way to manage email when you have a lot to do is to schedule time to check your email. Email notifications are triggers to get you to stop what you’re doing. Once this happens, you have to come back to where you left off, and that’s not always seamless and easy.

For instance, Kaye schedules “inbox time” for the end of each workday, long after she’s completed her high-energy-level tasks. Furthermore, she has disabled all email notifications on both his email and cellphone. That way, she’s only able to look at email when she’s ready to take action on each message.

I’m not sure I’d wait until the end of the day, but you have to find what works for you and your work.

#3: Manage noise levels

Each person is different when it comes to the noise they can tolerate. Some people need absolute silence, while others need white noise to block out distracting sounds in their environment. It all depends on what works best for you.

If you like to listen to music, experiment with different styles until you find one that helps you be more productive with each type of task. Kaye likes listening to ocean waves while writing, but she needs upbeat music when she’s working on tasks that she prefers not to do.

#4: Manage meetings

Sometimes meetings are unavoidable. Depending on your work situation, you may not have control over the meetings you attend, but if you do, keep the following tips in mind:

  • If you can conduct meetings standing up. Have a chair or two available if someone really needs to sit.
  • Have an agenda for the meeting. Send it to attendees ahead of time so they have an opportunity to propose important items before the meeting starts. This keeps the point of the meeting clear and helps prevent you from falling down a rabbit hole of tangential topics.
  • Have a time limit on each topic. People will learn to get the important things out fast.
  • Only invite people to the meeting that need to be there. However, make sure that you have the right people in the room. This requires planning and forethought depending on what the meeting is trying to accomplish. For example, you may not realize that you need to have a decision maker from finance when you are brainstorming ways to get a project back on track. If you’re project is behind you might want to have that finance person at the meeting just in case.
  • Only schedule the meeting for the amount of time you think you need. In some work environments, meetings are typically 1-hour long regardless. Use your agenda to better plan the duration of the meeting.

Most meetings are an incredible waste of time and human resources. I suggest that you either avoid meetings when you can or look for ways to streamline the entire process.

#5: Avoid multitasking

I love multitasking, but it doesn’t work. I love it because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing a lot at one time. However, countless studies have proven that people’s productivity diminishes when they engaged in more than one task.

The problem I’ve had with multitasking is that it is a breeding ground for errors. In fact, multitasking reduces creativity, and makes it harder to remember important details.  Work on one activity at a time and nothing else.

#6: Have a strategy for interruptions

You don’t always have as much control over your day as you’d like. What tends to happen is interruptions happen making it impossible to stay productive because you constantly have to deal with something.

We all experience interruptions, but what separates the successful people from everyone else is knowing how to handle them when they occur.

Here are a few strategies to do this:

  • Accept that there will be interruptions. It’s uncontrollable.  What you can control is your response to these random events.
  • Start work earlier than everyone else. I don’t know about you but around 9 or 10 am is when meetings are scheduled and bulk of emails start and the phones start ringing. Maybe a proactive strategy might be to start work a few hours earlier. You could also try staying late too.
  • Invest in some noise-canceling headphones to reduce the annoying loud talking, laughing, and other noise that can distract you.
  • Stick to your schedule as much as you can. In the beginning of your day, plan your day, then try to stick to it.
  • Have a plan for when you get interrupted. That way you can quickly deal with the interruption and get back to what you were doing.

#7: Say no

Learning to say no is tricky. A lot of people want to be helpful and they will say yes to things when they should be saying no to.

A great way to say no is to communicate what you are working on. Even if it is your manager or a senior leader. If someone asks you to do something, communicate all that you are working on. If this is your boss, let them prioritize how you spend your time, rather than accepting tons of additional work.

For example, you can say,

“Yes, I’d be happy to do write the report, but that will put me behind on the proposal that’s due on Friday.

Would you prefer that I do report first, or would it be better for me to focus on proposal instead?”

Just remember this: Whenever you say “yes” to a request, you say “no” to something else in your life.

Keep in mind that saying no isn’t rude, and there are many ways to say no without using the word “no.” For instance, you can say something like, “Thanks so much for considering me for this opportunity, but I don’t have the bandwidth to do it justice right now.

#8 Delegate

If you can have someone or something else complete tasks for you, do it. Of course you need to know if it makes senses to outsource tasks. If you are a supervisor or a team lead, assign work to other people that can get things done. Sometimes it takes longer to explain how to do an assignment than it does to actually do the work. You have to think about if it’s worth it or not. If the work in reoccurring, then it would be worth taking time to explain it. It also depends on how much time you have to meet your deadlines. In the beginning it takes people time to learn how to do things, but once they get up to speed, they should be able to take on projects with much less guidance.

You don’t have to be in a position of authority. Delegations could be simply asking someone for a favor. For example, if you are swamped at work, you could ask your coworker to pick up lunch for you while they’re out. Of course, it generally is not burdensome if you are giving them money, you’re willing to do the same for them, and you’re not always asking them to go out of their way. 

Being productive isn’t about getting more time each day―everybody has the same 24 hours each day.  Instead, you should strive to be productive to spend as much time as possible doing what you love and spending time with the people who truly matter.

Regardless of your situation and the demands on your time, with a little bit of creativity and careful planning, you can have time for the things that matter most. Use these strategies and start seeing improvements in the way you use your time.

What are the activities you engage in that eat up your time?



6 Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Job

How do you know when it’s time to leave your job? We all want to be happy if we have to work, right? It’s miserable when you are undervalued, overworked, or flat out underpaid. Why do we tend to stay at a job that we are unhappy? For me, it’s been that I didn’t want to exert the time and energy toward looking for a new job. Also, knowing the level of poor treatment and dysfunction was form of certainty for me. Somehow I always seemed to justify staying in bad situations.

Over the years I’ve had some really horrible supervisors that has made the work environment toxic and very challenging to thrive. Some of the jobs I’ve had were a bad fit. Then there was a conflict with various personalities of the people on the staff or team.

From my research I have identified six signs that you need to leave your job and change what you’re doing. Sadly, so many professionals stay stuck in complete denial about these six signs, because they’re just too scared to take action, until the unbearable happens and forces them to consider a new path.

The six signs that you should leave your job or change directions are:
1: You’re not happy with the work

If you are not happy with the bulk of what you do, it’s time for a change. There will always be things we prefer not to do on a job or even being self-employed or running a business. Someone that is really good at sales might not enjoy the paperwork. You might be excellent at what you do and really enjoy it, but hate filling out timesheets. If it’s a small percentage of what you do every day that you don’t like, that’s reasonable and to be expected. However, if the majority of the time, are you feeling unhappy, depressed, thwarted, bored, misunderstood, mistreated, then you might need to make a change. There could also be a problem if you feel the “real you” can’t come out, and the way you love to work isn’t honored or respected. Do you wonder how you ever ended up here, and fantasize daily about doing something very different?

2: The environment is highly toxic, including your boss and peers
Your job isn’t just about the functions and tasks you perform every day. It’s also about connections that you have or don’t have at work.
Your experience is shaped by a myriad of other factors including:
• Your supervisor, peers, teammates, and the leadership dynamic of the organization
• The culture of how your workplace treats all of its human resources
• The outcomes that the company is driving toward, and whether you respect and support these outcomes
• The growth you can achieve in your role
• The ability to collaborate
• And finally, the cohesiveness of your work style

Once you take a look at all the dimensions of your job and the organization, you will be able to see more clearly your role, your ability to navigate the organization, and better predict your future happiness at your organization to determine whether to leave or not.

3: The job is not a good fit
Sometimes you are really good at doing something that you hate doing. Other times, you really like the idea of doing a particular job, but you’re not good at it. What a lot of people don’t understand is that the skills that you possess are not at all the same as the natural talents and abilities that you enjoy using each day. In other words, you may be great at ledgers and income statements but in reality, you may actually hate balancing them. What we’re good at is not the same as what we love doing. If your job forces you to use skills that aren’t enjoyable or easy for you, you’ll be miserable and drained every day in your job.

4: You believe there is something more for you
If you have reoccurring feelings or something nagging you to pursue something greater, then it might be a sign that you are meant for something more. Sometimes we are in jobs or situations to learn from experiences. We need to take those skills and move to the next thing.

If you feel you’re made for more exciting things, then you are. The challenge might be that you have to find a way to bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. Another challenge might be to have the courage to take the leap. This certainly is not easy especially when you have a lot of financial responsibility. Your dream might not pay that much in the beginning or even in the long run. That’s a decision you might have to make.

5: Your work feels meaningless or negative to you
I use to have a job where I had to lie to fulfill my sales quota. I worked there for almost two years. Those were the most challenging two years of my career because I had to compromise my morals and beliefs. Every day I was going against what I knew was right. I didn’t start off lying, but to reach my quota and to have success in the company, I learned that deception was what others were doing and they got rewarded for it.

6: You are experiencing bullying or other forms of abuse at work
If you are being harassed or bullied, it’s definitely time to make a change. That change can be in a new position or maybe you stand up to the bully, but something has to give. Read this article to understand the signs of bullying.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• Do I love what I’m working on and do I feel it has value?
• Is the environment I work in toxic?
• Do I believe in what I’m doing?
• Is this a good fit for me?
• Does my work support my values and beliefs?
• Am I being harassed or bullied at work?

You can’t thrive or succeed if you are not happy with the work. Nor can you be your best working in a toxic environment where you don’t believe in what your organization is putting out in the world, or how they’re doing it. You simply cannot succeed if you subconsciously oppose what your employer stands for in the world. You absolutely won’t be your best if you are being harassed or bullied.

If any of these signs strike a chord for you, it’s time to make a change. The key question isn’t “Will you?” but “When will you finally honor what you know to be true about yourself?”

Game Changer: 5 Second Rule

I’m sharing this video below with you because this 5 second rule has absolutely worked for me.

I’ve been using this to do things I have a challenging time doing. Like writing, believe it or not. Exercising is another challenge. Laundry is the ultimate thing I don’t like to do and will ALWAYS find other things to do to avoid it.

This is a productivity Game Changer: 5 Second Rule

I hope you enjoyed the video.

When I have to do something I don’t like doing or don’t feel like doing. I just start counting 5…4…3…2…1.

I never get to 1. I generally start moving by the time I get to 3.

Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Written by Tamaria Allen