Welcome to 2012. Did you know that over 90% of all people who make a New Year’s Resolution have broken them before the end of January? So don’t feel badly if you are still smoking or have not gone to the gym or whatever else you have promised that you would change as we enter a new year. But the one thing you might want to promise yourself is to help your career in 2012. Give thought to the things you could do to make yourself a more valuable employee in the next 12 months. To get you started here are 12 suggestions you might want to put into practice in 2012 that will make you a more valuable employee.
1. Show up early: Make the effort to get to work 30 minutes before you need to be there. This may turn out to be the most productive 30 minutes of your day, especially if you manage to beat most of your coworkers to the office. Now showing up early to spend time checking your Facebook page is not going to make a difference. If you use this time wisely it will give you some valuable uninterrupted thinking time or time to deal with those difficult tasks that cannot be done when the office is busy and people want to talk to you. Focus on the most important things that need to be done as getting those tasks off your “to do” list will not only give you a feeling of accomplishment but it will also help you feel less overwhelmed as the day goes on. By the way if you are often late it will eventually be noticed and indicates a lack of commitment. In challenging economic times it is often the person who is always late who is let go.
2. Be Positive: Positive people are a lot more fun to be around. So make a point of arriving in the office with a smile on your face and show that you are in a positive frame of mind and people will want to be around you. Did you know that positive people live on average 10 years longer than people who are always negative? Google “The Nun Study” if you don’t believe me. In another study, a researcher by the name of Martin Seligman proved that sales people who had a positive attitude out performed sales people who were often pessimistic. Another researcher by the name of Tim Sanders showed that positive people are more likely to get the support of others, are more likely to get promotions and pay increases and achieve greater success in the workplace. So as the song goes “Don’t worry… be happy” and good things will happen to you.
3. Be more dependable: This starts with you always doing what say you are going to do. When people know they can depend on you, be it your co-workers or your boss, they know they can rely on you. Having a team of dependable people is one of the common traits you will find in most high functioning organizations. Each person knows what their role is and they perform and execute it to the best of their ability. So make a list of the things you could do to ensure you are more dependable.
4. Learn from your mistake: Mistakes happen and from time to time we all mess up. But how we act when a mistake happens can be very telling. Some people try to blame the mistake on others, while some will try to hide the mistake. But the most important thing is to learn from your mistake. Asking how we can ensure this mistake does not happen again shows that you care, you want to solve the problem and you want to prevent it from happening again.
5. Improve Your Time Management Skills: Learning how to organize your days and plan your weeks based on your highest priorities is the easiest way to be more efficient and therefore get more done. There are some people who get a lot done in a day and they make it look easy while others run around looking stressed and often get very little achieved. Being organized is a lot less stressful than the alternative and it brings more peace of mind which in turn allows your mind to focus on the bigger ideas. Your time management and organizational skills will be obvious to all those you work around and report to. There are lots of on-line courses you can take, or books you can read that will really help you.
6. Have an opinion: When was the last time you contributed in a meeting? This starts by being prepared and doing some research ahead of time if you know the topic matter that will be discussed. You do not want to be the loud mouth or the show off. Instead try to be the person who brings a new prospective to the table. Having an opinion and the ability to articulate that opinion at the right time is a skill and one that will be appreciated because it shows that you care and you are thinking about the company and the problem at hand. Not having an opinion indicates a lack of passion or perhaps a fear. All too often people will not offer an opinion because they are scared of being wrong or scared of looking stupid. The great thing about an opinion is that it is just that… an opinion. So try starting off a sentence with “In my opinion I think…” and chances are your contribution will be appreciated. It may be refined or expanded but it shows you care about the company and that you are a valuable employee who is trying to contribute.
7. Stay Healthy: This can be hard to do, but often times we get sick because of poor diet or lack of exercise. When someone is away sick typically co-workers have to cover for them and the operation becomes less efficient. If a person is frequently calling in sick then fellow workers may feel resentful and this can impact morale. So make the effort to eat a healthier diet and stay away from the junk food. Go to bed a little earlier and get some exercise. In other words living a healthier lifestyle will reduce your chances of getting sick. If you do get sick with anything that is contagious then don’t go to the office and share it around. Going in when you are sick may seem admirable but you may end up infecting the whole office. It’s better to have one person sick than the entire office!
8. Help your Boss: This is the person who can help you or hinder your advancement. Often it is this person’s recommendation that will get you that pay increase or that promotion. They are the person who will be called for a reference if you apply for another position. If you hate your boss because he or she is a jerk then you should find another job in 2012 because working for a boss you like and admire is a lot more fun. Make the effort to help your boss with that project or stay late if possible to help them get it done. Ask your boss what you can do to help the most in the next week and the next month. Spend some time thinking of ways to improve the operation or offer better customer service and pass these ideas along to your boss. If they are well received then make a point of coming up with a few ideas a month. Lastly make your boss look good whenever possible as that will help you.
9. Exceed expectations: If you are doing everything in your job description that’s great, but what if you could go beyond what is expected of your position. Doing so will instantly increase your value to the company. This might be something small such as taking on a task that others do not want to do, or it may be larger such as coming up with ways to improve efficiencies in the operation. One way to do this is to imagine that you are the boss or that you own the company. What would you do differently? This is the polar opposite to the attitude of “that’s not my job to worry about…that’s what the guy in the big corner office gets paid the big bucks for.” Pretend you are the boss and think about what you would want to change. Often you have to be doing the job to see the obvious. If you come up with a great idea discuss it with your boss. If it is a major idea you should write it out, refine it and then present it to your boss. When you do more than you are required to do, providing you are not crossing the line, it will be noticed and appreciated. Bringing more to the table than is asked of you is a great way to make you an employee your boss will not want to do without. If however you don’t feel essential and perhaps even feel insecure in your position then making the effort to exceed expectations is a great way to fix this. By the way I love how Google encourages their staff to exceed expectations. It’s called Google’s 20% policy and it enables staff to spend one day a week working on projects that aren’t necessarily in their job descriptions. They can use the time to develop something new, or if they see something that’s broken, they can use the time to fix it. They can brainstorm new initiatives that help Google remain an innovator. The recently announced Google’s “self drive car” is a perfect example of this.
10. Network: There are three types of networking that I believe to be important; within your company, your industry and out of industry networking. Sometimes people fall into the trap of working so hard that they do not have time to network. Remember even good people end up “on the beach” and trying to reach out to others when you are out of a job is a lot more difficult then when you are employed. Networking within your company is also important as it helps you to become recognized within your company. If you are a “nobody” to everybody then no one will miss you if you get cut during a round of layoffs. So make a connection with as many people as possible in your company, no matter where they are on the corporate ladder. Networking with others in your industry is also important. You may be able to share ideas, pick others’ brains for ideas and also build friendships which may help you down the road. Lastly you should also make the effort to network with people outside your industry as well, as this can broaden your knowledge base and bring a different prospective to things. Make sure you give more than you take or people will not want to network with you. Networking can be fun but it is also critical to your personal growth and business development. Having a network of people you can tap into may help you solve problems quicker, create new opportunities for you and will often get you re-energized as a result of connecting with other people. Today it has never been easier because of technology and software such as LinkedIn.
11. Giving back: Making the effort to give back to the community you live in, or work in, helps make a better community. This sounds simple enough but all too often we don’t know where to start or how to go about giving back. Fortunately there are organisations such as Rotary and Lions to name but two that exist in most areas of Canada and the world with the sole purpose of making the community and the world a better place to live. Do some research and find an organisation that feels right for you and make 2012 the year that you make a difference. Chances are you will get back far more than you contribute and will feel better about yourself. Using your skills to make a contribution to your community is something employers look for and many encourage.
12. Upgrade your skills: Make the effort to take a course this year to upgrade your skills. This might be an on-line course or something more time consuming but in the end it will be worth it. Many years ago I gave up one evening a week for 6 months to attend a Dale Carnegie Course and it really helped me. In fact I finished at the top of the class and the Dale Carnegie people offered me a job, which was a nice compliment, but I turned them down.
Conclusion: This is by no means a definitive or exhaustive list, but I hope you will tick off a couple of the ideas and put them into practice. Frankly if you don’t like some or all of suggestions above, take some time and create your own list. The beginning of a new year is a great time to press the reset button and hit the door motivated and committed to becoming a more valuable employee. If you have other suggestions, or would like to share some things that have worked for you please send them to us and we’ll be happy to post them on our website at www.ByrnesMedia.com