4 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Get Ahead at Work

How do you get that promotion at work when your coworkers are also jockeying for it? Standing out from the competition may be easier than you think. Here are some ways to stand out without destroying your relationships with your colleagues.

Go Above and Beyond

Yes, you probably have heard this before, but have you applied it? Showing initiative and taking on tasks you weren’t necessarily assigned to do will get attention from the boss. Just make sure someone else wasn’t assigned to that job. Being willing to step outside your normal job or skill set and do what others won’t will draw good attention. When you’re willing to volunteer for projects others avoid, your boss will be thankful to have you and will be more likely to consider you for future promotions.

Do Your Job

Doing your job to the best of your ability will put you leaps and bounds over some of your competition. Many people just show up to work because of the paycheck. They don’t have any drive or desire to be there or to try and enjoy their work. If you come to work with a smile on your face and do what you do to the best of your ability, you’ll stand out. Even if the job you’re in isn’t your dream job, you can still pick parts of it that you enjoy. Focus on those. Find fulfillment however you can in your job. The quality of your work will improve and you will definitely stick out from the crowd.

Be a Leader

When opportunities for leadership come up, ask to be put there. Don’t shy away from added responsibility. After all, that’s what promotion is all about. This is also a great opportunity to learn the best ways of leadership. If you’re able to, ask your boss once you’ve completed the project how you did. Ask her in what ways you could have improved. Your boss will appreciate your humble attitude, proving that leadership won’t go to your head in the event that you get that promotion.

If you’re able to be a leader, make sure to do your best to cause your colleagues to have success too. Encouraging them and praising them for their work is a great leadership trait. As a leader, not only do you want to succeed, you should want them to be successful too.

Talk to Them

If you know that you and a coworker are both trying to get the same promotion, talk to them. Don’t let the tension simmer. Not only will that make your workplace uncomfortable, it could potentially ruin your relationship with your coworker. Be willing to sit down with them, acknowledge that you both want the job, and commit to remaining friendly throughout the process. By taking the initiative in doing this, your coworker will know that you aren’t going to try to get the job by underhanded means and you’re not out to destroy their career.

Simply doing your job to the best of your ability and taking the opportunities that come your way can get you a long way in your career. Do the right thing. Avoid the temptation to succumb to underhanded measures and back-stabbing techniques. Those may get you ahead for a short while, but in the long run, they will ruin your career.

Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself

A personal brand is all about what people know you for. Ideally, you want them to associate you with a specific thing, a niche so that when they see or hear your name, they think of success in that area. People need to think of you as a leader or expert in that area. Personal branding is all about finding what you’re good at, prioritizing, putting yourself out there, and sharing what you know with others.

Discover Yourself

So how do you start? Well, it’s not as mystical as it sounds. Very simply, think about what makes you unique. What do you bring to your job, business, the world that is different? What are your strengths? And then combined with that, what do you enjoy doing and are passionate about? You may be good at a certain thing because it was drilled into you, but if it’s not your passion, you won’t stick with it. Make a list of what makes you unique, what your talents are, and then cross-reference that with your passions.

Grow

Now that you’ve figured out what makes you you, grow in that area. Learn about it more, take your strengths to greater heights. Do what you need to become an expert in that area. You need to learn enough, be experienced enough, practice enough to be the go-to person in this area. Your personal brand is no use to you if you can’t do it well or even better than anyone else. This is continuous. You never stop learning, growing, and developing. Doing so is critical to successfully branding yourself.

Prioritize

You know what you’re good at, so don’t let your attention get snagged by other things. Set goals for yourself that are in line with your strengths and uniqueness. Prioritize the growth of your personal brand. Do what it takes to develop it. When other opportunities arise, use your goals as a measure of whether you should pursue them. If they aren’t in line with your priorities and branding, then you can politely decline.

Share

Now that you’ve accumulated all this knowledge, it’s time to put it out there. You will never develop your personal brand if you don’t impart your value to others. Find the platform that works best for you, whether it’s social media, a website, or both and start making noise. Don’t be obnoxious, but participate in discussions, write articles, and generally make it known that you have some knowledge in your area. Use your network to spread the word. By helping people there, they’ll tell others, and so on.

Creating a personal brand is a great asset in today’s business world. It does take work and effort, but it’s not impossible or only available for the elite. In fact, it’s all about becoming one of those elite by being an expert in your niche.

How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

The time has come. Maybe it’s because of a health reason, a better opportunity, or a lack of growth, but the job you’re at is no longer the one for you. How you quit a job is almost as important as how you enter a new one. Though you may want to go out in a dramatic way, resist the urge and choose a better tactic. Here’s how to quit with dignity.

Be Absolutely Sure

Before you officially quit, make sure that’s what you want to do. Consider the pros and cons of both your job and the one you’re applying for. You don’t want to quit your present job in haste and find yourself regretting it. Avoid that awkward phone call asking for your job back by making absolutely sure that you want to quit in the first place

Get Ready

If you work with a company computer or use a company email, make sure to clear out any personal items. Don’t leave personal emails or documents behind. The same with your desk. Get it somewhat cleared out before you resign. Sometimes your boss will ask you to leave that day rather than taking the two weeks’ notice. If you think that might be the case for you, take the precaution of being ready for that. If you are required to stay for two more weeks, you’ll need to do this anyway.

Write a Resignation Letter

This is the formal and polite way of letting your boss know that you’re leaving. It also provides a record for how you left. It’s very important that you write a polite letter—even if you’ve had it with your job—because that’s something a potential boss can look back on. You don’t want a poor resignation letter following you around for the rest of your career. There are plenty of sample letters out there to look at, so take advantage of the knowledge of those who’ve gone before you.

Be Considerate

Make sure to give an appropriate amount of head’s up. The requirement is generally two weeks. Another good way to promote good will and show consideration is by offering to train your replacement. This will help your boss and will add to your experience. Do your best to make the transition process as painless as possible for both you and your employer.

Don’t Forget the Details

If you have company property of any kind, make a mental note of that so that you can return it. You don’t want to be accused of theft because it slipped your mind as you were leaving. Additionally, be aware that you may have to participate in an exit interview. This gives the company feedback as to how they can improve. Take advantage of this as another opportunity to leave on a good note. Also be aware of any package or paperwork that is involved in your leaving.

Be Thankful

No matter how much you didn’t like your job, there is something you can express your gratitude over. Don’t lie or make something up, but be willing to give credit where credit is due. Don’t miss this last opportunity to keep good relations with your company. You never know when you may need a reference further down the road, or when an interested employer may get in contact with your former boss.

Though it may be difficult, resist the temptation to leave your job in (a briefly) emotionally satisfying way. Just being in a new workplace will have to be enough, because you’ll never know what bridges you may need in the future.

Avoid These 4 Things When Using Friends as Networking Connections

Creating a quality network can be a difficult thing. It’s not easy to keep up with your many contacts, offering them help, and hopefully getting helped out once in a while in return. Some of the easiest people to network with are those who you’re closer to: namely, your friends. Don’t upset the delicate balance between friendship and professionals by making mistakes that leave you both burned. Here are things to avoid when asking your friends for networking favors.

Going overboard

Sure, that one friend might have a lot of knowledge. Or they know a lot of people that you would LOVE to know. That doesn’t mean that you can or should constantly ask them to give that knowledge and connections to you. Continuously asking for help will quickly dry up your friendship, especially if you’re not going out of your way to help them in return.

If you’ve asked your friend for a favor within the last few weeks, then try and hold off. Damaging your relationship with them is probably worse than delaying whatever you need the knowledge or connection for. Be considerate of them and their time. They have their own lives, their own careers. Practice consideration by keeping those in mind.

All work, no play

When you do connect up with your friend, don’t charge right into what you want or need. It feels incredibly rude and demeaning to be asked to go out for coffee, and then find out that all the other person wants is what they can get. Spend some time reconnecting with your friend and enjoying being with them. You can and will ask that burning question eventually. Don’t sabotage your efforts—and potentially your friendship—by doing so too early.

Stupid questions

There’s a saying that there are no stupid questions. However, there are some that definitely show some ignorance. If you haven’t worked with your friend in a professional way or had professional connections, then don’t ask them to be a reference. They don’t know if you really are a good employee, if you deliver on time, or if you would do well in a particular job. This puts them in a difficult place—having to say no to you. Don’t ask them to provide an irrelevant reference. Instead, ask for their help in other ways. They can look over your resume, let you bounce ideas off of them, and much more.

Being oblivious

If your friend feels uncomfortable about introducing you to a connection or—ahem—providing a reference, be sensitive to that. You don’t want them to do something they would feel uncomfortable doing, for whatever reason. It’s probably not personal. You don’t want to pressure them into compromising their career by helping you get ahead in yours. Be aware of subtle body language that can give you a hint, and be willing to give them an easy out so that they don’t feel like they’re offending you.

Your friends can be a great connection in your job hunt or even if you’re settled in your career. Treat that friendship right, as the valuable connection that it is, and you’ll never go wrong. Always practice reciprocity, and your friends will be thankful to have your friendship.

Use These 5 Words to Energize Your Business Writing

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Those words were written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton over one hundred years ago. Just like the art of fencing requires practice, so does the art of using the pen. Choosing to utilize its power can bring great results.

Most business communication, like presentations, various business documents, and emails are just plain boring. But just like you dread reading that text, so does the person on the other end of your email. It’s time to get a little risky. There are words that you can use that will give some life to that otherwise yawn-worthy email. The person on the other end will thank you.

Here are some words to get you started:

  1. Immediately.

This word conveys quick and swift action that is effective. In our microwave world where instant gratification is the norm, we’re looking for things to be accomplished or to happen with swiftness. Maybe the person receiving the email will receive the benefits of a certain desired action immediately or you’ll immediately see to their request.

  1. Guaranteed.

No side door or backup plan is allowed with this one, and that’s why it appeals to people. The responsibility is placed on you so that there is little to no risk for the other person. This word is guaranteed to get your recipient’s attention and ease any concerns they may feel.

  1. Proven.

Be careful how you throw this one around. People are used to hearing companies talk about their ‘proven’ methods when in reality they’ve never actually been proven. Show exactly how your method is proven and how that will benefit them. This shows them that not only are you confident, you’re also trustworthy.

  1. Relevant.

No one likes getting a generic email that really has nothing to do with them or adds no value to their day or their goals. Likewise, any business writing you may be doing or may have to consume can become pure torture if it has no relevance to you and what you’re trying to accomplish. First of all, make sure that what you’re trying to communicate is relevant to the person on the other end, whether it’s a coworker, supervisor, or customer. Then use this word—sparingly and succinctly—to highlight the value that you’re adding to the other person’s life.

  1. Refresh.

If you’ve refreshed a plan, you’ve given it a new energy, a new vitalization. You took what had worked before and gave it new life, new energy. Use this word to communicate the benefits of your plan and the overall feeling it will result in.

It’s not all semantics. If you can harness the power of the written word in your business writing and emails, you’ll find the responses that you desire. Being able to spur someone to a desired action because of an email or a well-written business article isn’t just going to happen. You’ve got to put in the forethought and effort. These five words are just a springboard, any word can have powerful results if utilized correctly.

5 Steps to Asking for a Raise or Promotion

It would be nice to never have to ask for a raise or a promotion at your job. Instead, you do your work well (like you’ve been doing); and your boss sees and rewards accordingly. Unfortunately, that’s not the real world. Employers are dealing with many employees on many different levels. It’s easy for someone to fall through the cracks. Which is why you will probably, at some point in your career, have to ask either for a raise or a promotion. These are some ideas for how to tactfully do so.

  1. Do your homework.

You don’t want to ask for a ridiculous dollar amount when talking to your boss about a raise. This would be unwise and show that you don’t really know what your industry is like. Check out what others in your field and your geographical area are making. Search Google and pick the brains of your mentor (you have one, right?). Don’t come to your meeting with your boss unprepared. Not only will you waste your best chance at that raise, you’ll waste their time, which won’t bode well for you.

  1. Choose your timing.

Asking your boss for a raise when the company has just lost a major contract would not be the smartest choice. Consider where the business is currently. Is now the best time to ask? Bring into consideration your boss’s position. Did you hear that your boss was just reprimanded by the higher-ups? Approach your boss when they’re in a good mood and when the company is in a good place. Your timing could be what makes or breaks your attempt.

  1. Start building a case.

If you really want a raise or a promotion, then you should be taking on more responsibility and projects now. You have to be able to show that you’ve been handling your current work well, and could easily take on further responsibility, adding value to yourself now and in the future. Don’t expect to get a raise when you’ve been doing the same thing day after day for the last three years with no expansion in your duties.

  1. Consider your approach.

You do not want to be confrontational. This will be a quick shut-down to your request. Instead, approach your boss with the attitude of, “what can I do to achieve this promotion?”. Someone who is willing to be teachable and learn is someone who will do well in a promotion. When you’re asking for a raise, you can’t just have the attitude that you should get one because you want one. That may be what you’re thinking, but you have to show your boss that you’ve added value to the company in your position. You’ve gone above and beyond, and you’re an important asset to the company. Convincing your boss of your worth will go much farther than just telling them that you feel like it’s time for a raise.

  1. Be in it for the long-haul.

The key is not to rush. Being patient will get you the places you want to be. If you ask your boss for a raise or a promotion and they tell you “no,” be willing to wait a little longer and see if circumstances change. Your boss may not be able to give you what you want right now, but if you approached them right, then you’ll be on their mind the next time they have the ability to offer a raise or a promotion.

Asking for a raise or a promotion is a tough thing to do. However, with some preparation and patience, you’ll be able to pop the question in a professional, unemotional way. Don’t rush into a confrontation that you’ll regret. Take your time and use circumstances to your advantage.

How Overwork Could be Destroying Your Health

Maintaining your health is vitally important. However, many people sabotage their efforts by living like workaholics as they try to get ahead. No matter how good your intentions are, working longer hours is bad for your health in many ways. Here are some of the health problems you could encounter.

Cardiovascular issues

When you go above and beyond consistently and are at the office well beyond a normal 8 hours, your risk for heart-related problems and diseases increases. Putting in the extra hours isn’t good for your heart. You may feel like you’re getting ahead now, but long-term you’re digging yourself into a health hole that will not be easy to climb out of.

Diabetes

Sitting for long amounts of time is not a benefit to your body. One of the big issues that can come from it is diabetes. To combat this, try to get a standing desk for your work. Getting on your feet is a major plus for your health. Also, whenever you’re able, take a walk. Use your lunch break to get on your feet and get out of the office for a little bit. When you’re home, avoid slipping into this work habit. Instead, get active and get moving.

Stress

Constant stress can result in many health issues. Obesity, high blood pressure, and heart illnesses can be linked to this. Also, long-term stress can have an impact on your mental health as well. This is why it is so important to unplug when you go home at night or on the weekends. Separating yourself from the stress greatly helps you in the long run.

Lack of Sleep

If you’re putting in the long hours, then your sleep is probably being sacrificed. On the surface, this seems like a good time to give up. However, not getting the sleep you need (7-9 hours for an adult, according to Mayo Clinic) can result in illness. Going without the sleep you need will result in you not only being more tired at work but unable to focus well and perform creatively. Sleep is when your body recharges, and without it, you’re more susceptible to a variety of diseases and illnesses.

Eye strain

By now it’s common knowledge that looking at a computer screen for an extended amount of time is bad for your eyes. If you find yourself with a job that requires this sort of work, practice the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes stare at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. This will help to reduce eye strain and the symptoms that go along with it, like headaches, nearsightedness, and other maladies.

Lack of exercise

When you’re staying at the office well after your normal 8 hours are up, one of the first things to go, other than sleep, is exercise. Being active during the week is very important. The life of a weekend warrior simply won’t cut it. Exercising cuts down on the chance of getting virtually any of the diseases and health issues that have been listed so far.

You may think you’re getting ahead by sticking around work longer, but you’re creating a huge potential problem for yourself. Take care of your health and work smarter, not harder. Take advantage of the time you have at work to be your most productive self.

5 Basic Practices to Strengthen Your Employer-Employee Relationship

Your boss is a critical part of your everyday life. They have the authority to hire and fire, and they may dictate what work you do throughout the day. Because of this necessary and pivotal relationship, you want to have the best working partnership with your boss. Here are five ways to be the employee any boss would love to have.

Be a team player

No lone wolves here. In order for work to get done smoothly, most workplaces require a team effort. This may be by getting to your work on time so that it can be accessed by other members of your team, or sitting down and collaborating together on a project. No matter how it looks, it is essential to consider yourself a part of the team. Have the whole team’s goals—including your boss’s—in mind. Seek ways that you can help your colleagues out, that doesn’t interfere with you getting your own work done, of course.

Be respectful

You may not agree with every single choice your boss makes. In fact, you don’t have to and probably shouldn’t. However, that doesn’t make you exempt from showing them respect. Being able to give your opinion in a respectful manner will impress your boss. When you are willing to show respect for another person, reciprocally they will more than likely show respect to you. This is also a way to be a leader among your coworkers. If your boss can count on you not to bad-mouth them behind their back, you’ll become a valuable asset to their team.

Be humble

If you’ve done something wrong or you messed up on a project, admit to it! Don’t make feeble excuses. Be willing to explain how you mean to remedy the situation, but fess up to what you did wrong. Being able to take responsibility is a trait that is becoming less and less common. Your boss will appreciate and value an employee that admits their flaws, but also works to fix them.

Be considerate

Did you find out that you’re going to need to take a day off in two weeks? Let your boss know. If they are aware of your need for time away they can plan accordingly. This is a simple way to help them with the amount of stress they have to deal with. Employees who ask for the next day off five minutes before the end of the workday will be on their short-list of annoying people.

Be dependable

Do your work, and do it thoroughly and well. Get to your job on time and be ready to go as soon as you sit down at your desk. Turn your work in on time, and avoid wasting time on social media sites, etc. If you’re dependable, your boss can rely on you. And your boss isn’t going to rely on someone they don’t like. Put in the extra effort that will set you apart from the crowd by being your boss’s rock in the workplace. This will also be a huge bonus to you when promotion time comes.

You don’t have to be a ‘yes man’ (or woman) to get in your boss’s favor. Nor do you have to be the teacher’s pet. Being a person of your word who lives with integrity will do the work for you.

Acceptable Reasons for Calling into Work

What is a legitimate excuse for not coming in to work? What qualifies as a sick day and what will get you a reprimand? You may hate taking any of your sick days, or you may already be maxed-out and it’s March. Whichever end of the spectrum you land on, here are some good reasons for taking a sick day.

Contagious illness

This could be everything from the flu to a sore throat. When you’re sick, you will not be very productive. Add to that the possibility of your coworkers becoming ill as well, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. So what kind of illnesses would this cover? The flu, stomach sickness, fevers, pink eye and sore throats are some of the reasons you may want to call in sick. It works, because you actually are sick. The key to this is that it is contagious; and others could catch whatever you have. For the sake of your coworkers, please, just stay home.

Death

Of course, if a family member dies, call in and let your boss know you’re not going to be able to come into work. This has been a standard acceptable reason not to go to work. However, never lie. If your boss finds out that your family member did not actually pass away, you’ll be in big trouble; and your trustworthiness will be called into question.

Family sickness

If your kid has to stay home from school sick, it’s acceptable for you to take a sick day. After all, you’re probably not going to be able to find a sitter who wants to hang out with your ill child. Explain why you can’t come in, and leave it at that. Your boss will appreciate your forth-rightness rather than you coming up with a crazy excuse for why you can’t work. Most workplaces are okay with you taking off a certain amount of days throughout the year for family issues.

Doctor’s Appointments

Do your best to schedule your appointments for late in the day or early in the morning, not at 1 p.m. This way, you can get to your appointment without having to take off too much time. Even if you schedule your appointment for late afternoon, you’ll still be leaving work earlier than usual, which will give you some time to relax and kick back, even if it is in the doctor’s office.

Blizzards

Or any other weather that would make it dangerous to get to your job. If you’re hiding out in your basement because of a tornado, call in, let your boss know you’ll be a little late. They’ll probably already be aware of whatever natural disaster is going on, and won’t have any problem telling you not to come into work. Rainy days and light snowfall don’t count, though, so don’t try to use those as an excuse.

Some unacceptable reasons: being hungover, laziness, disliking your boss, procrastination, you fill in the blank. You’ve probably read of, or heard of yourself, many excuses that are just plain outrageous. Whatever your reason is, make sure it’s legitimate, and don’t lie to your boss. If you have to lie about it, then it’s probably not a good reason to skip out on work.

7 Networking Mistakes That are Undermining You

How are your networking skills? But really, how are they? You may think you’re hitting it out of the park at every networking event you attend, but you could really be undermining your efforts. If you’re doing any or all of these 7 things, it’s time to change your networking style.

  1. Forgetting your business cards

The conversation went well. You see a potentially mutually beneficial relationship in the works. So you pull a gum wrapper out of your pocket and start jotting down your information. Big NO. Invest in yourself and your business contact; and get some business cards before you hit this point. Show that you believe that both your contact and yourself are worth the effort.

  1. Monopolizing everyone’s time

This can apply whether you’re meeting in person or online. If you’re at a networking event, then everyone else is there to, yes, you guessed it, network. You’re not the only one looking for advice or information. Be considerate of not only those around you but also the person you’re talking to. When you connect online, be aware that their life doesn’t revolve around meeting you. They have a life and a job, let them live it.

  1. Waiting until it’s too late

If you’re waiting to establish contacts until you need them, then it’s too late. By the time you need them badly, you don’t have the time to get quality ones. Plus, you’ll come off as desperate, a quality you don’t want to be exhibiting. Start building your network now, so that when you need them, you’ll be able to access those people immediately.

  1. Dressing down

If you’re at an event where you know you have the potential to connect with people and make good contacts, dress accordingly. If it’s a casual affair, be clean, tidy and sharp. Just because a picnic is involved doesn’t mean you should break out the stained t-shirt and holey jeans. This could be the conversation that lands you the job you’ve been waiting for. Treat the opportunity accordingly.

  1. Coming unprepared

Know what you need and how to get it. Don’t bumble and fumble your way through conversations because you’re not really sure what you want. Additionally, do your research. Know the individuals who are coming and how they like to connect with people. Do your research and be prepared to show your intelligence.

  1. Not following up

You may tell yourself that you would never do this, but many people never actually follow up on contacts. Whether they think they don’t need the contact or they get paralyzed by ‘what-ifs’, this is a huge mistake. You went to all the trouble of meeting the person, putting yourself out there, and maybe even getting an offer of help. Even if you only had a good conversation, follow up by email or phone and let them know you appreciate the conversation and their time. This will also help them to remember you longer than a week.

  1. Forgetting to send a thank-you

This can be accompanied in your follow up, and should definitely be present when you and the other person part ways. Thanking someone for their time is a standard courtesy that many people forget. Rise above the crowd and send a thank-you along with your follow-up. Let them know that you really did appreciate their time because it is valuable.

If you avoid these 7 networking mistakes, you’ll have stronger, better network relationships. Evaluate your networking abilities right now. Is there anything you need to change? If so, do it! It’s never too late to start networking like a pro.