20 Small Things You Can Do Today to Elevate Your Career
Public Service Announcement to all of you 20-somethings out there: the older you get, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it. It’s essentially a law of physics.
A couple of months ago, I was drowning in my to-do list. I was working a full-time job, running a blog on the side, house-hunting for my first standalone rental property, and preparing for my boyfriend to officially move into my place. Granted, I had done this all to myself, but damn it if I didn’t have goals that I wanted (and still want) to slay. You can’t blame a girl for hustlin’.
However, I began to recognize how heavy the world was starting to feel – the stress from the weight of that never-ending list was taking effect, and I knew I either had to give up something or come up with a better solution. And of course, I chose the latter.
Thus, I vowed that just like those who want to be successful in any other aspect of life, I was going to start small. 15 minutes small.
I challenged myself for that first month to just wake up 15 minutes earlier and tackle one or two small things on my to-do list, like ironing a few shirts or planning my social media for the day. It was an unnoticeable change in my sleeping pattern but an undeniable one in every other way. Even though it was just 15 minutes, it made me feel like I accomplished something, lifted my stress, and supercharged my productivity for the day. Um, win-win-win? Yes, please.
Moral of the story? Sometimes the best results can come from the tiniest of actions, and ladies, it’s no different in your career. People notice not only when you’re doing the big things right, but when you’re also killing the small things as well, and this list is comprised of 20 small things you can do right now to help you amplify your career. Again, unnoticeable, small steps to you but undeniable to those around you.
Hone in on just one that you can attack in the next 5 minutes, and get started towards that next promotion. Your boss will never be more impressed.
1) Update Your LinkedIn Profile
A new headshot, better job descriptions, education history…give your profile a little makeover. Even if you’re loving your current job, you never want to pass up a great opportunity.
2) Help Your Co-Workers
Being a team player is important, so when you’ve finished your workload, ask your co-workers if they need help with theirs. It’s a quality every manager or executive wants from someone on their team.
3) …Or Your Boss
They probably have a lot on their plate and would love to delegate some of their workload. Tell him or her you finished your project early and ask if there is a task you could take off their plate. It will again show you’re a team player and get you good face time with the boss. Just do it in the least ‘suck-up’ way possible. Please.
4) Take a Webinar
For the successful, learning never ceases, which is why you should always consider yourself a student. Take the time AFTER work hours to research, find, and take a webinar that will help you gain expertise in one area of your job. It will make you more valuable to them and future employers.
5) Listen to a Ted Talk
I personally love Ted Talks to brush up on my soft skills – public speaking, networking, confidence boosting, etc. Find something you want to work on, and listen to it while you complete a menial task, whether at your job (like data entry) or at home (when you’re folding laundry).
6) Brush Up Your Skills (For Free) – Excel, Photoshop, etc.
I literally just did this the other day.
If you work in a specific type of software or potentially could in a future position (think Excel, Photoshop, etc.), go online and find tutorials on how to better use it. These skill types are highly marketable, and the more you know, the better your chances of climbing that career ladder.
7) Subscribe to a Podcast
Today, there are podcasts on everything, and you need to utilize that fact. Find one that relates to your career, and listen to it at least once a week on your morning commute or during your lunch break. You’d be surprised at what tips and tidbits you pick up.
8) Design a Project
Even though things may be running smoothly, there’s always a better or more efficient way to do something. Identify the holes in your department, and propose the project to your boss. Even if they don’t want to pursue it, it will show that you’re capable of thinking analytically.
9) …and Then Lead It
Boss on board? Two claps for you. Now is the time for you to take the lead on the project and see it through from start to finish. Identify the information and support you will need to accomplish it and get the ball rolling. And once it’s rolling, don’t let it drop – you don’t want your first chance at demonstrating leadership skills to reflect poorly on you, especially when it was your idea in the first place.
10) Become Well-Rounded
People are attracted to interesting and likeable people, and when you’re up against 2 other individuals for your dream job, you want to be one of them. Make sure that you’re not one-dimensional, meaning your life is about your job and your job only. Have hobbies. Read the news. Be relatable. All of these will serve you well whether you’re just starting your career or well into the midst of it (and especially when doing #13).
11) Do Something Career-Related Outside of the Office
It doesn’t have to be anything major, but doing something centered on your profession outside of your 9-to-5 illustrates your passion for what you do. Join a professional organization, volunteer for a charity, do some freelance work, or run a blog (wink, wink). These not only help you achieve #10 but are great resume-builders as well.
12) Schedule Breakfast with a Mentor
The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve learned in the years since graduating college, and I’m so eager to pass it along (hence the blog). Others are as well, and the knowledge you can gain from the people in your profession you admire will be invaluable. So reach out to someone you respect, offer to buy them breakfast, and then come prepared with some questions to pick at their brain. They’ll more than likely love the opportunity, and it’ll be worth the $10 investment in bacon and eggs.
13) Network Your A$$ Off
When they say it’s all about who you know, it really is all about who you know. Get out there and meet people, even if they aren’t in your career niche and even if it’s not at a professional networking event. You’ll never know when or where you’ll meet someone that can help your career. Case in point: I got my current job because I ran into the CFO of the company (also the
dad of one of my college best friends) at a Zac Brown Band concert. I mean, you can’t come up with a more fun networking event than that.
14) Find a Better Way to Do Something
Even if it’s a small change, anything that helps the company become more efficient or profitable will be seen as valuable. It will also show that you’re always looking at ways to make things better, another great marketable skill.
15) Be Visible
No one is going to put you on the fast track if they don’t know you’re there. Make sure you get in front of management or the executive team every once in a while so that you don’t just blend into the background. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know, have interesting questions to ask them, and then move along so that you don’t monopolize their time. A minute or two conversation is all you need to get on their radar and be recognized. Heck, even if you have to pretend to go to the storage closet for office supplies so that you can walk past their office and say a quick hello, do it. Just make yours a face they know.
16) Be Personable
Ever had a pessimistic co-worker who, no matter what happened, was a bear to work with? Yeah, don’t be that co-worker. Because just like you don’t want to work with them, managers don’t either. Even if their rock stars at their job.
17) Always Be on the Lookout for Opportunities
Hence why #1 is so important. You may love your job with a capital L-O-V-E, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay with that company or in that position for your entire career. Sometimes there isn’t room for upward movement, sometimes your goals change, and sometimes there’s a tangible shift in culture, and you find you want something different. Always be looking for your next opportunity because even if you don’t take it now, it may lead to a connection that could get you something great in the future.
18) Identify Your Goals
Wanting to elevate your career is a wonderful aspiration, but you first need to identify what you actually want. Are you more concerned with making a higher salary? Or job satisfaction? Or work-life balance? Figure out what you truly want your end goal to be, and then you can start developing a plan to get there.
19) Ask to Be a Part of a High Profile Project
And by high-profile, I mean something that is going to get the attention of management/the executive team. Not only will it get you noticed, but you’ll be able to work with a lot of knowledgeable people and learn from them through the process. I mean, the worst they can say is no. And even at that, they’ll know you want to enhance your career and are willing to take on more challenging work.
20) Put Down Your Phone
Do what you want on your breaks or during lunch, but for the most part, avoid being on your phone during work hours. Your manager sees you on it, and they automatically think you’re wasting the company’s money and/or lazy, neither of which are qualities you want associated with your name.
The competition within the job market can be fierce, so doing whatever you can to set yourself apart is vital. Doing one of these things per week (and some of them all the time…like not being an a$$hole) will help you do just that, and you’ll be amazed at how many others aren’t willing to do even these tiny steps to give them a leg up. But hey, it just means more opportunity for you. I’d wish you luck, but with these in your arsenal, you won’t need it.