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50 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career Today

Looking to take your career forward? Here are some ways to take yourself to the next level.

There are thousands upon thousands of articles offering advice for job seekers. But what if you’ve already scored a job and are looking to advance?

Here are 50 ways to build momentum, stand out, and ultimately, move forward. Ready? Let’s dive in.

1.) Show Up to Work An Hour Early

If you’re showing up one minute before it’s time to be at work, you’re standing out for all the wrong reasons.

Those who show up early, and early often, are noticed for all of the right reasons by superiors. 99-percent of the time, it’s the overachievers and bosses who show up during the wee hours of the morning to jumpstart the day.

You’ll also be surprised how productive you are when you get a head start.

2.) Save Those Important Emails as Drafts and Wait Five Minutes Before Pressing Send

How many times have you sent an important email to an important person and have muffed it up? It’s only after you send it that you suddenly catch that spelling error or that sentence that might not be translated correctly.

For some reason while you’re writing it, you miss those things. I know I’ve been guilty of this plenty of times.

The solution? Write that email and save it as a draft. Sit on it for at least five minutes before opening it back up and firing it off. Give it another read. You’ll be amazed what you catch and rewrite.

3.) Tackle Your Biggest Task of the Day First

As Michael Hyatt would say, “Slay your dragons before breakfast so they don’t eat your lunch.”

Tackle your most important task of the day first. Do your best to hold off getting distracted by emails, Facebook, hallways conversations and procrastination-initiated coffee runs.

Once you accomplish that big task, everything else you accomplish will be value-added to your day.

slay-your-dragons-before-lunch

4.) Develop or Chart a Goal

What do you hope to accomplish this year? Do you want to be promoted? Do you want to win over a new, prominent client?

If you haven’t figured out a long-term goal to motivate you on a daily basis, take some time to write one out.

If you have written one out, take some time to brainstorm how you’ll reach it.

If you’ve reached it, chart out another.

5.) Take a Good, Hard Look at Your Facebook Photos

It’s easy to lose sight of the photos you post, and especially, what you get tagged in. I recommend setting up your Facebook account to prompt you before someone’s tag goes public on your side of the equation. This way, if that drunken photo of you passed out under the booth gets out, you can reject being tagged.

Take some time—during your lunch break (with a sandwich in one hand and computer in your other) or after work to go through your account. Delete or untag yourself from unflattering and embarrassing photos. Make sure those photos never see the light of day—especially the eyes of recruiters and/or bosses.

You’ll thank yourself later.

6.) Stop Tweeting Nonsense

Twitter isn’t for your passive-aggressive thoughts about nothing. It’s also not for constant blither-blathering.

Stop Tweeting nonsense. If you’re going to Tweet something, make sure it’s meaningful or helpful.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Inspiring quotes
  • Relevant articles from thought leaders
  • Articles written by your colleagues, mentors or people you look up to

7.) Actually Reply to People (be sure to read number eight)

Whack through the spam and start replying to those people who’ve contacted you and require a response.

Got an email from a colleague? Respond. From a client? Respond. Text from a friend? Respond. Question from a prospect? Respond.

Response time is the difference between those who stand out and those who fade away.

8.) Reply in Bursts

It can get quite unproductive to respond every single time something pops up. Add blocks to your calendar dedicated to replying. You’ll be able to respond more and won’t lose focus.

9.) Avoid Facebook During “On-the-Clock” Hours At All Costs

Unless your job requires Facebook, avoid it at all costs. Facebook while you’re on the clock is a productivity killer. One minute you’re “just checking” and the next you have no idea how you’ve been scrolling for twenty consecutive minutes.

10.) Find a Few Good Facebook Groups to Join

Facebook can also be great resource. Just be sure to utilize this next point when you’re on break or your own time.

There are an abundance of great professional groups you can keep up with on a daily basis. This will keep you in the loop and deliver cutting edge insights right to your Newsfeed.

I’m a part of several groups in the Pittsburgh area. There of all different varieties and keep my mind open to many possibilities. So, while you’re looking for groups, don’t just pick professional development groups. Look for your passions or things you’re interested in. What you’ll learn from these groups is absolutely amazing.

11.) Find or Participate in a Few LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is probably the first place you think of when you think professional groups.

Nowadays, it can be difficult to find a good, productive group that isn’t getting absolutely spammed. Take some time, however, to find that group. When you do, spend a couple minutes there each day scrolling through topics and responses. If you have something relevant to share then be sure to do so.

12.) Find or Participate in an Online Community

You might be pushing it by this point, but do your best to also find an online community separate of Facebook and LinkedIn. The same standards apply—good conversation occurring around a topic you’re industry.

Here’s an example to shine some light on what you should look for.

For me, my go-to online community has been Inbound.org. It’s a place where inbound marketers from across the globe have gathered. Within the site are disciplined sub-groups ranging anything from development, to landing pages, to agency life. I’ve really enjoyed getting insights from others, as well as contributing.

13.) Stick to the Deadlines

Deadlines are important. People rely on them. Stick to them.

stick-to-thedeadlines

14.) Ask People More Questions

It’s too tempting to climb our own soapboxes on a daily basis. This kind of behavior can alienate the people around us. People who are invested in others, and who ask more questions, learn more and are better liked by their peers.

There is so much to discover about your colleagues. Ask more questions. Be sincere. Follow up. Rinse. Repeat.

15.) Be Kind to Everyone You Run Into

You seriously never know who that person sitting across from you on the bus or standing behind you in Starbucks is. Be kind to everyone you run into to work, at work and from work.

You never know who you’ll end up seeing in the future or how they’ll play into your journey.

16.) Look the Part

What’s the dress tone of your office? Take it up a notch!

Don’t ever let your appearance fall by the wayside. Stay groomed. Stay healthy. Stay fashionable.

The way you look influences how you perform. It also influences how people view you.

17.) Sincerely Reach Out to Someone in Your Network You Haven’t Talked to in a While

Who is someone in your network you haven’t talked with in a while? Drop them a line. Ask how they’re doing and what they’re up to.

If the last time you chatted they mentioned a shiny new job, follow up and see how it’s going.

18.) If You’re Confused About Project Details, Ask Up Front

“He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever” – Chinese Proverb

That proverb could not be more true. If you have a gray spot in your details, or what you’ll be doing, don’t be afraid to ask. If you walk away from that project kickoff without clarity, you’ll struggle with clarity for the rest of the project.

19.) Prepare for the Next Step

Just because you might be working a dead-end job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing for the next step.

Pursue professional development opportunities. Workshops, certifications, courses, etc. Keep yourself sharp and forever moving forward. This will come in handy if you’re up for that promotion or looking at that new job.

20.) Suck It Up, and Take Feedback as a Gift

Feedback can really suck. It can hurt, especially if someone tears into your work.

But, suck it up. Feedback comes packed with teachable lessons. Look for the lessons and don’t focus on the pain.

21.) Step into a Mess

Is there a chaotic situation in your office?

Maybe an employee left unexpectedly leaving clients and work behind. Step into the mess and vow to make things better for your team.

You’ll stand out, gain more experience and lend a helping hand.

22.) Work Ethic is Literally Everything

Give your 110-percent every, single day. Work ethic is noticed and what separates those who make it from those who don’t.

23.) Solve Your Own Problems

This is different than number 15. You should have project clarity. If you don’t then definitely ask.

But what happens if you encounter a snag, challenge or obstacle? Instead of running to your supervisor for a solution, come up and research your own solution.

Note: It’s definitely worth overviewing the problem to your supervisor before implementing a solution fully, but always come to the table with a solution they can yay, nay or add onto.

Resourcefulness should be an expectation you hold yourself to.

24.) Be Positive

Keeping a positive attitude will give you a better outlook on everything. Life isn’t all green pastures, but approaching problems with positivity will keep your mind open to every possibility.

25.) Get Exposed to Something New

Success is Exposure. 

It’s not hard nowadays to get exposed to something new.

Eat out at a different restaurant—I mean really different. Like a different-part-of-the-world different.

Pick up a magazine you wouldn’t usually read. Read an article online from someone with different beliefs than you. Talk to someone with a different perspective—get their opinion on something.

26.) Start Your Day by Building a To-Do List

Kick-start every day by taking five minutes to put together a to-do list for your day.

Heck, you could even do this while waiting that five minutes before sending that important email.

27.) Always Mentally Review Proper Etiquette

On any given day, you might be put into a situation that can be best served by proper etiquette. Keep best etiquette processes at forefront of your mind as you go about your day. Proper etiquette makes all the difference in today’s business economy.

28.) Don’t Get Weeknight Wasted

I’m a fan of getting a beer or drink as much as anybody. Getting wasted on a weeknight, however, will stunt your career’s growth. Regardless of what you say about your ability to recover from a crazy night out, your work day will be stifled and people will notice. Especially the bosses.

Keep your partying celebrating for the weekends.

29.) Don’t Take Someone for Granted

There always seems to be that one person in the office, or who we interact with on a daily basis, who we take for granted. This could be not genuinely interacting with them. This could also be ignoring them if they need a helping hand. Don’t take this someone for granted as you go about your day.

You never know what battle someone is dealing with. You also never know what kind of impact you can make on their work life just by being more engaged.

You might’ve also heard the old saying, “The toes you’re stepping on today might be connected to the butt you’re kissing tomorrow.”

30.) Be Genuinely Thankful

You know what turns people off more than anything else? A half-hearted thank you.

As you’re handling emails or interactions on a daily basis, there may be an opportunity to thank someone for something. Make sure your thank you is 100-percent sincere.

I’ve heard often from a lot of colleagues that they’ve written off someone applying for a job or asking for professional advice after interaction number one. Why? Because they put themselves out there and offered some resources. The person on the other side of the table, however, either didn’t even send a thank you or sent a half-hearted example.

The bottom line is this—one half-hearted thank you can stunt your career’s growth.

31.) Do What You Say You’re Going to Do

Establish a firm reputation of being someone who does what they say they’re going to do.

32.) Send a Brief Status Update to a Client/Boss

It’s tempting to leave a long silence between when you were assigned something and when you actually complete that something.

Take a moment to send a brief update to your client or boss before they have to ask you to do so. They want to know you’re getting things done for them behind the scenes. They will wonder what your status is regardless of what you’re actually up to.

It’s important to communicate your status rather than letting them use their imagination.

33.) Choose Not to Spread a Piece of Gossip

In any workplace, regardless of size, there’s always gossip.

You don’t have to be rude about how you handle receiving it, but make a conscious choice not to spread gossip. Gossip always has a way of blowing up in the face of those who spread it. It makes you look tacky if you’re spreading it and also reduces your overall credibility.

34.) Say No to Something Unnecessary

There are a lot of possible interruptions to the work week, especially if you’re exposed to a lot of people. It’s important to protect the critical time in your week for what’s most important. Prioritize what’s important for your week and filter out what’s not.

It’s tempting to say yes to everything that pops up on any given week. Every time you say yes to something, however, you’re saying no to something else.

One thing that I’ve made a conscious effort to filter out is requests for meetings from people who aren’t:

  • Existing clients
  • Team members
  • Prospective clients

35.) Group Your Meetings

As you’re scheduling meetings with those who make it through your filters, a productivity hack is to schedule them all for one or two designated days.

Although this can be difficult depending on your position or company, make your best to get to a place where you can do this. You’ll be much more productive this way.

36.) Group Like Tasks

This is a productivity hack plain and simple.

If you know you have three client’s worth of social media to cultivate and schedule, block time on your calendar to hit them all consecutively. You’ll be in the zone, which will optimize your work efforts.

37.) Don’t Complain

As I always like to say, “Complain wasn’t in the job description.”

You weren’t hired to sit around and complain. If you have a task to do, get it done. If there’s a snag, come up with a solution.

dont-complain

38.) Sweat the Details

There is an eternal struggle between two camps—those generalists and those who sweat the details. The details matter. It’s the little things that make an entire project or operation successful. It’s the little details that people might not notice, unless they’re missing or done poorly.

Some people also think that by overlooking some of the specific details that you can save yourself time. Often, this will lead to revisions to refine and correct what’s missed with the broad strokes.

Spend time sweating the details.

39.) Respond to the Boss’s Company Wide Email

Fred Cook is the CEO of Golin—one of the largest marketing communications agencies in the world.

I was amazed about something he wrote in his book Improvise. He would put a lot of time into a company wide email. He’d send it out and watch his inbox throughout the day.

You know how many responses he would get? You’d probably guess at least a dozen, right?

He’d get zilch.

You might think that everyone is sending some positive vibes back to the boss. The truth of the matter is that they usually aren’t. Use this as an opportunity to make yourself known. Offer thanks for the information and an intelligent response to the boss’s email.

40.) Scope Out Something Educational

Whether it’s a blog, or an eBook, scope out something that will give you insights into something.

A prime example of this—Google recently released a full report on how they rank websites. This was something I absolutely needed to get my hands on to make myself more effective.

41.) Scope Out Your Company

What’s one new thing you can learn about your company today? Go figure it out and learn it.

42.) Keep It Simple

Nothing kills a good idea like complexity.

Regardless of what you’re doing—writing an email, report, blog post, etc.—keep things simple. The more digestible, the better.

43.) Pretend Like You Just Got Promoted

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying to be smug.

I’m saying to start thinking like you just got new responsibilities. What are some ideas beyond your job? What are some things that would take the company further?

Cultivate the next big idea and pitch it to the right person.

CEO Marissa Mayer explained to Fortune magazine, “Most people think of a career trajectory as a sloping line. Really, it’s a step function. When you’re ready to take the next step or take on more responsibility, you should start doing your job at the next level.”

44.) If you Finish All of Your Work for the Day, Go Make Someone’s Life Easier

Just because you’re done doesn’t mean you have to be done.

45.) Communicate Better

This is some hard truth. You don’t communicate as well as you think.

Yes, even you communications professionals out there.

I’m no exception. I work in the communications field, and still stick my foot in my mouth almost on a day-to-day basis.

It’s important to review how you’re about to communicate something. How will the other person or audience receive it?

Even an extra moment of thought can prevent you from saying something that someone will take the wrong way.

communicate-better

46.) Don’t Always Go Blazing Out the Door Right At Closing Time

Much like number one—if you’re always the first person out, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons. Stay a few extra minutes. Finish up that idea before it’s time to make the journey home. Compose that email. Glance through that article.

47.) Listen to Something Motivational or Informative

You can either do this to work, from work or both.

I’m all for listening to the latest and greatest jams on Spotify, but mix in some information or motivational content.

At least a few times a week, listen to something that will open your mind or give you a surge of inspiration.

48.) Keep a Log of Ideas

Just because the day is over doesn’t mean your noggin has to be.

If you get hit with an idea while you’re relaxing, or lying in bed, be sure to log it somewhere.

Here are two ways I secure ideas that hit me during the off hours:

  • I’ll place them in an Evernote Note dedicated to them
  • I’ll email them to myself so I check them the next morning

49.) Follow Through

There’s always that one task that we get 90-percent on, but move move on from too soon.

Push yourself to complete that last 10-percent. Push yourself to get through your list and fulfill your promises.

50.) Take Several Minutes to Reflect at the End of the Day

I personally utilize a Bullet Journal format for my end-of-day detox. It’s a great time to recap lessons learned in a very rapid manner.

I’ve found that forcing yourself to reflect for too long, or record those insights for any longer than a couple minutes, leads to eventually skipping the task entirely. Some days are crazy and others aren’t. You need a method of review that you can systematically do, regardless of the day or place.

Now—go tear it up!

Onwards and upwards,

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50 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career Today