Setting long-term goals and creating a plan for achieving them are important for career growth, but small changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on your professional prospects, too. Following are nine simple — yet often overlooked — actions that can help you advance professionally.:
Actively participating in office discussions demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest in the company. Before you attend meetings, review the agenda and prepare a few points of interest on the topics to be addressed. While you don’t want to talk to hear yourself speak, do not hesitate to share your ideas when you have something valuable to add.
2. Sit in the ‘hot seat.’
Did you know that where you sit in a meeting can determine if you get a plum assignment or not? Choosing a seat near the meeting leader signals your support and helps ensure you’re seen and heard. And by placing yourself at the center of the action, you’re likely to participate more.
3. Exercise your bragging rights.
You may have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But in the office, it often comes down to who knows you. Imagine the executives in your company are having a meeting to decide who will work on a high-profile project. Would anyone in the room mention your name? If not, you’ve got some self-promoting to do. E-mailing a weekly status report to your boss detailing major accomplishments or volunteering to present your group’s milestones at a meeting are easy ways to increase your visibility.
4. Go beyond the call of duty.
Another way to raise your profile is to assist colleagues with their workloads or take on tasks outside your job description. You might, for example, volunteer to serve as a trainer during new-hire orientations, lead the internship program or help organize the company’s annual team-building event. These types of duties may not seem glamorous, but they’re often near and dear to executives’ hearts, and they force you to move out of your comfort zone.
5. Accept credit graciously.
When someone compliments you for doing a good job, how do you react? If you typically shrug it off and say, “It was nothing,” you may be leaving the door open for someone else to steal your thunder. Try instead, “Thank you. I’m glad the hard work paid off,” or “Thanks. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, too.” Just be careful about accepting credit that’s not yours — it’s a sure-fire way to create tension and animosity among your teammates.
6. Shoot the breeze.
Did you know the gift of gab can lead to improved work performance? Forty percent of workers polled by Robert Half International said water cooler conversations increase productivity by providing opportunities for employee bonding. In addition to engaging in occasional chit-chat with your co-workers, be sure to partake in company gatherings, such as the annual picnic or holiday party, and team-building activities. Through these informal events, you can develop camaraderie with other employees and make valuable new contacts within the organization.
7. Eat, drink and demonstrate proper dining decorum.
The business lunch is becoming increasingly common, so it’s in your best interest to learn proper dining etiquette. Being rude to wait staff or arriving late, for example, may cost you; these were cited as the top business blunders a professional can make during a lunch meeting by executives surveyed by Robert Half. Ordering the rib platter (or equally messy foods), constantly checking your cell phone or broaching business matters before orders are placed can also be a recipe for disaster.
8. Make more meaningful connections.
Conferences and industry events are great opportunities to network, and there are a few tricks to help you make good first impressions. For example, wearing your name tag on the right side, near your shoulder, makes it easier for others to see and remember your name as they shake your hand. Using the back of people’s business cards to write information about them, such as their interests, also will help jog your memory after the event and provide motive to follow up.
9. Give thanks.
If someone recently helped you — perhaps your neighbor alerted you to an employment opportunity or a friend proofread your résumé — let the person know you appreciate the support. Take a few moments to write a short, sincere thank-you note. The respect, kindness and personal touch will create an indelible mark in your recipient’s mind and improve the chances he or she will help out again.