EVER wonder why certain people are ahead more than you even if you have the same or even better qualifications and skills? The fact is, recruiters and hiring managers often evaluate you based on the documents you have submitted. But once you are hired, you need to show that you know how to navigate the organization and fit in, and at the same time stand out by showing you are worth more than what is on your résumé.
A skill you need to learn is adapting to different personalities. As you grow in your career, you will be dealing with people of different temperaments and proclivities. Remember that you are in the workplace and that you were hired for results. You will not be able to deliver unless you know how to work with others. Even if you are an individual contributor, your success relies on knowing the right people to get the information or resources to get the work done. Learn how to read people and adapt to their personalities so you know how to position yourself.
The best way to know others is to ask for their help. It may seem counterintuitive but asking for help, even as simple as borrowing a pen, gives the other person a reason to trust you subconsciously. By being in a position of vulnerability, people are more likely to trust you because you need their help. Use that as a springboard to get to know them better. Nurture that trust by offering your help when they need it, or by spending a few minutes just talking to them.
I have been working for a long time and I discovered that complimenting people on what they do best, or when they do something remarkable, goes a long way in establishing good working relationships. Catch them doing good and praise them publicly for their work because, sometimes, that is the only recognition they will ever receive.
Part of knowing people is discerning when they are taking advantage of you. You will have colleagues who will exploit your willingness to help especially if you are new to the team, or if it seems you will do whatever they say. Learn to say no to abusive co-workers who pass on their workload by informing your manager. There are ways you can tell your manager without being a snitch. One way is when your manager assigns you a project, you can flatly tell them that you are helping your colleague with a task while doing the project. This will alert your manager to take action.
As for your own work, strive to be consistent and reliable. One of the tricks I learned from fellow managers before was to underpromise but overdeliver. This just means taking on an assignment but cautioning your manager that you can only achieve a realistic level while doing your work above expectations. This will temper your manager’s expectations and leave you a little room to look for creative solutions and possibly impress them.
Even when you are not in a leadership position, it will work to your advantage to demonstrate leadership abilities like taking the initiative, being resilient, having foresight, and using problem-solving skills because these will help you develop the needed skills to further your professional development.
Speaking of development, keep an open mind for learning better ways of doing your work. You need to adapt quickly to learn and unlearn new skills so you can be efficient and more productive to have more time for other tasks. One of the most frustrating mindsets is the thinking that “this has always been how it is done around here.” In an age where you can practically learn anything through the Internet, some people are just too lazy to research and update themselves.
Part of improving yourself is to focus on finding solutions rather than finding someone to blame. It can be frustrating to work in a team especially when one is not pulling their own weight but human error will always be a factor in process improvement. What you can do is to examine the process and reduce human error as much as possible. Whenever there is an issue at work, look for solutions in the way you do things and see where it can be tightened.
If you are at fault, learn how to take criticism as a means to identify what you need to improve. Feedback and comments from others serve as indicators that they are still invested in your improvement. Take advantage of it by proving to them that you can do better. I know someone who was told that he was already improving, and he took it negatively because he thought he was already doing well. Some people think highly of themselves that they are oblivious to their faults. Take every criticism as a chance to improve yourself and the quality of your work so people will notice your commitment to personal development.
Much as you need to adapt to people, you also need to adapt to situations. Know how to read a room and determine how you can best contribute. Every time I join a new team, I make it a point to observe people and identify their affiliations and expertise. This provides me an opportunity to understand the social dynamics of the team and identify the informal hierarchy. This also helps me understand how I can best position myself and who to ask for help.
Lastly, take the time to evaluate your own progress and take note of important milestones and achievements in your career. During the evaluation period, make sure your manager notes those accomplishments. Also, every organization is different so take note of who gets promoted. This will help you understand what you need to be promoted—i.e., involvement in engagement activities, number of projects handled, or even the people they talk to.
Before you can manage others, you need to manage yourself. The reason why some people seem to have it together is because they do. They take the time to listen to people they work with, keep their head down, and let their work speak for itself. You might be the most highly decorated person in the room but if you do not know how to work with others, you will always find yourself being left out.
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