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3 Ways to Elevate Yourself at Work

I constantly challenge my team to elevate themselves professionally. I want them to bring new, innovative and even disruptive ideas to the table in addition to their regularly scheduled responsibilities. I want them to feel comfortable trying things, even if they fail, so that we can all learn together. I want them to minimize their busy work and maximize their truly impactful contributions to our organization.

I firmly believe that this is critically important to the careers and professional development of all employees at any company. But it can often be a difficult nut to crack. In today’s action-oriented workplace, how do you find the time to rise above the day-to-day and start exploring your true potential?

Let’s look at 3 ways you can elevate yourself at work, sending your career possibilities skyward:

Think Strategically Instead of Tactically

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in your career, especially when you’re first starting out, is spending 100% of your time thinking tactically. For young professionals, it’s often all they can do to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities, leaving little time for professional reflection and deeper, longer-term understanding of the impact of their work.

But once you feel you’ve got a handle on the execution, you need to practice and demonstrate the ability to think strategically in order to get ahead in your career. The ability to think strategically, focusing on “thinking” instead of just “doing,” is what separates out the future leaders of an organization.

More books have been written on this subject than I can count, and I could toss out any number of time-worn clichés about thinking outside boxes and seeing big pictures. Instead, here are a few first steps toward strategic thinking that can help you get started:

  • Research your company, industry and competitors to better understand the strategic landscape you’re working within.
  • Organize your efforts within the larger team and company. Where does your work fit into the company’s overall goals?
  • Reflect on what you learn on a daily basis, and keep notes on the insights you glean from your colleagues and superiors.

Learn to Play Well With Others

Regardless of your role or team structure, there’s a common thread that connects all employees and businesses in today’s work environment: collaboration. Everyone has to work with others in order to be successful, whether it’s colleagues, vendors or clients. Successful collaborators are more visible within an organization and are much more likely to be elevated throughout their careers.

It also exposes you to a wider variety of workstyles, expertise and opinions, allowing you to soak up the insights of others and use them to broaden your own knowledge.

The best way to become a better collaborator is to remember that everyone collaborates differently. Identifying your own unique collaboration style is one of the keys to your professional development. It allows you to play to your strengths and work with others in a way that’s most beneficial for everyone involved.

Make Yourself Known

Finally, if you’re really looking to get ahead, people need to be looking for you. You need to be comfortable asserting yourself, making your contributions and knowledge known and expanding your sphere of influence. This is not a question of extroverts vs. introverts; it’s about confidence and willingness.

In essence, it’s about making yourself known, which can take any number of forms:

  • Engage in email discussions or comment threads, but only when you have something meaningful to add. Constantly chiming in with “I agree!” does little to help you stand out.
  • Meet regularly with your manager or other mentor about your aspirations and career path. Their experience is an invaluable tool that can help guide your decision making.
  • Attend trainings or other optional company events to demonstrate your commitment to improving both yourself and your organization.
  • If you feel you’re ready to take on a new project or responsibility, even if it’s outside your job description, have that discussion with your manager. Even if they turn you down, you’ve made it known that you’re ready and willing to tackle new things.

If you truly want to rise above, you have to be willing to challenge and change yourself. While everyone’s career path is different, these three key areas—strategy, collaboration and influence—are all essential steps along the path to professional elevation.

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you – tweet me @seanobr or leave a comment below.

About Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien is PGi’s Chief Administrative Officer. He oversees the company’s Legal, HR and Program Management organizations and manages Corporate Development, M&A and Acquisition Integration. In addition, Mr. O’Brien leads Corporate Strategy, Executive Communications and Global Facilities Management.

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