Sometimes, you aren’t looking for drastic change. All you need is a few pointers to make sure you don’t lose sight of your goal, or let skills fall by the wayside. In this weekly series, we provide some helpful career tips that you can take with you every day so that you can stick to what YOU want to do. Here’s one for free: don’t let anyone else make your decisions for you.
- Start to think about your ‘personal brand’. It sounds like a cliché, but it isn’t just some slick blurb full of meaningless management speak. It’s a way for you to think about yourself, and how you come across to others, that will allow you to strengthen your priorities. Who do you want to be in the workplace? Are you a conscientious communicator with a knack for design, or are you a hard-working number cruncher who will do anything to get the job done? It’s not about inventing characteristics, it’s about playing to your strengths and recognising who you aren’t, as well as who you are.
- Tailor your CV to every position you apply for. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing the entire job description for each role you’ve had every time; it’s more like adjusting the priorities, so that the relevant information and skills are higher up (and more likely to be seen) than others. For example, if you’ve worked in SaaS project management and want to move further up the managerial ladder, highlight your team leadership and bigger analysis achievements rather than day-to-day organisation detail.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. To inconvenient meetings, to new tasks, to your boss; if what you’re being asked is unachievable, or clashes with something else, then it’s your responsibility to recognise that and push back. If your reasoning makes sense, your colleagues will listen and understand, or your boss may adjust your priorities to help you take on the new task.
- Don’t go in to work when you’re sick. There’s a horrible culture of presenteeism and hero culture in some workplaces, which means you’re seen as not dedicated enough unless you are in all the time, even when you aren’t up to it. But you are an adult; you know when you aren’t well enough to work. If you do go in, you expose everyone you work with to your sickness too, and you don’t want to be responsible for a domino effect! Especially if you work in food and drink service; there are strict laws regarding this, so make sure you’re familiar with them if that’s your industry.
- Own up to mistakes. Immediately. As soon as you spot it, tell who you need to tell, and admit to it. If someone else spots it, and you know it’s your fault, put your hand up. Not only will you get it fixed quicker, but you’ll save those awkward moments at your desk, dreading anyone walking up to you in case they’ve found you out. You’ll also be appreciated for your honesty, and you might get some good advice from senior colleagues on how to fix it. Treat it as a learning mechanism: it will help you to grow as a person.
- Seek out others who are talking about work, even – especially – if it’s not in the same job or sector, and pay attention to what they do. There are podcasts to listen to (Eat Sleep Work Repeat on happiness and work culture, In Good Company for advice and interviews with working women, Good Practice for a whole range of learning and work situations) as well as websites to scroll when you haven’t found that inspiration yet (Vox, Biography and ProductHunt are all great for when you’ve got five minutes to read about something or someone new).
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Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.