How I wish I hadn't made some mistakes when I started my career. Thankfully, I turned around within two years.
To stand out from the crowd is far from being an overbearing personality or being the best-dressed at office. It is a way of thinking and behaving that will naturally supply you with abundance energy and positive vibes to keep you progressing. Strangely, the universe also begins sending you green signals to move in the right directions!
1 Gallop like a horse! – get into the habit of documenting your to-dos for the day. Discipline yourself into bringing down every item from your list at the end of every business day, unless there is a genuine dependency on others. When you write down your to-do list, assign a truthful, objective timeline for completion for each task and be enthusiastic about achieving it. It is disappointing to see the young workforce or even experienced people spontaneously coming up with “not possible to complete this by today” even before exploring possibilities of completion. After buying extra time, it adds to the frustration to see them while away time at office. 15 years ago, I had my Aha! moment about work-efficiency when my father casually told me, “ensure you strike-off every item from your today’s To-Do list before you leave office in the evening. If possible, see if you can tick some from tomorrow’s”. Till date, those words somehow kick-start my mornings and keep me galloping those 9 hours I spend at work, whether from home or office.
2 Dress-up like you are one-level up in the hierarchy – you can dress up to have heads turning to look at you. But the difference is, is it out of distraction or admiration? You make the choice. One simple rule to guide you through this is to see yourself in one-level up in the grade and picking your clothes and accessories accordingly. So, if you are a fresh grad, imagine how you would dress up if you were a senior engineer / executive and how that would impact the way your juniors view you. If you are a Manager, imagine how you would dress up if you were the Dept Head. Our clothes impact our body-language and the way we think as much as how others perceive us.
3 Understand your bio-rhythms – some of us are pepped up in the mornings and we slow down post-lunch; some others get energetic around early evening and stay so through the rest of the evening. So, pack up your important activities according to it. Similarly, women employees need to track their most productive days in a month and ensure to accomplish many important priorities before they begin to feel the low energy and lack of zeal. When we are physically not feeling okay, it can impact our confidence levels. Chances are, we may hate to accept new assignments or roles during this time of the month. Just be aware of this - where possible, buy time till you feel better – and then, give your decision. Most likely, you’ll feel charged up to accept & accomplish more!
4 Self-talk and visualize often - the self-talk we do in our heads is spontaneous and unimaginably powerful in influencing our behaviors. Keep thinking right from a very young age that you were born to accomplish something very great in this life. Tell yourself that there are somethings very special about you waiting to earn wings. Visualize often, about yourself ruling the workplace or getting accolades. If you dance and sing well, visualize having given the best performance on stage and receiving a thunderous applause. Visualize lots of those small and big success moments. Then get up and chase to make those happen. Neuroscience supports this process. In fact, most sports persons do this often before they enter the arena. Use some visual tools like a chart / excel sheet / diary to record how much you accomplished at age 23, then at 26, at 30, 35, 40 and so on...Put every milestone in those charts - a promotion, a best-performer award, Star of the Cultural Show, savings in your bank account, charity made, number of juniors mentored … anything that makes you feel you've progressed in life. Construct a 'Great wall of You' and write down these achievements in bricks.
5 Act as if you own the company - not in the negative sense of bossing around people or throwing your weight around. It's about the way you regard your work. You start seeing your role as extremely significant for the company. You feel, the company's success depends so much on your performance. This works like a magic potion, whenever I have had the temptation to casually bunk office. This does not mean, you never avail leave to feel refreshed. Push yourself hard and accomplish so much that you become an inspiration for others. Regardless of your grade or level in the hierarchy, never get into the mode of, "am just a junior". Within the realm and boundaries of your role, think and act like you own the company. You'll be amazed at your own results and the way your brain gets active leading to new initiatives from your side!
6 Act in a way that even You cannot question your integrity! – it is doing the right thing even when no one is watching you. For example, you are in HR and often hang out with colleagues from other departments (great!). It is quite natural for them to be asking you about someone’s salary, plans, decisions taken by the leadership, appraisal outcomes or lay-offs. Even within the same department, chances are, you may oversee some classified information that your teammate doesn’t have access to. It is not uncommon to be nudged by colleagues to allow them to quickly glance over such information. This is where your test begins! Set the boundary and act true to your work. Get creative or use humor to avoid blurting out the facts just to feel accommodated by others. It is okay to be distanced by a few individuals or not called for outings rather than have your integrity traded off. You will feel proud of your own character in the long run.
7 Be trustworthy, inside-out! Utter that damn truth always! It is so very difficult, isn’t it? Take this, your boss asks you to send out the Offer letter before you leave for the day and you are in no mood to do that. You know it is a small task that can be finished as soon as you come in tomorrow, and so, you decide to tell that ‘harmless little lie’ that you have sent out the letter. (Oh! he is not going to check your emails anyway!) Sun rises the next morning and as luck would have it, your boss walks in earlier than you to office and hears the phone ring on your desk. He answers the call only to hear this candidate-in-context, ask for the very same offer letter! That's the moment, an impression is sealed about you. All of us must have had these blooper moments, but, the point is, don’t ignore these as trivial accidents. These are powerful lessons taught to you by life. Likewise, when caught red-handed, just surrender for goodness sake! Saves that much time for all.
8 Try to avoid saying ‘I don’t know’ when work is assigned, it takes a truly professional mind to find out answers to... what am I doing? why am I doing this? who is this relevant to? what is the impact on my department and organization if I don’t do this? what other variables must I consider before doing this? how can make this world-class?! Often, the millennial workforce of today is comfortable replying “I don’t know” about their own activities. A classic example is this scene from the Indian-movie, 'Singam' wherein the protagonist’s father assigns him a task. The former takes a 360-degree view of the situation and elicits all possible information; while for the same task, the comedian blindly executes what he has been told to. Saddening to note that majority of our workforce has not found the need to expand their thinking. Put up on a post-it in front of you that “whatever you do today will be world-class!” and see this mantra driving your beliefs, thinking and energy levels. Move from ‘I completed what was assigned’ to ‘I exceeded the expectations’…to every single task you do.
9 Become genuinely useful How often do we find someone who gives that 100% shot at work? Go to the nearby supermarket, desperately looking for a product and the salesperson halfheartedly guides you to your product or even atrocious, the lazy fellow may say, “product out-of-stock” just to save himself off some work. Recall any such moment from your life when you were made to feel helpless – at the store, hospital, bank, school, ex-employer or anywhere when you felt you didn’t get the value you deserved. So, in the job that you are in, always remember this Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is the law of Moses and the prophets, and, is portrayed in different ways in every religion. It means, “Do to others as you would like them do to you”. People easily fall into the trap of slipping on their own standards either because of laziness or they are angry about something in their workplace and use this behavior pattern as a revenge. Trust me, this is such a bad idea! Every business day is an opportunity for you to build your skill muscle, whatever work you may be doing in life. It works silently, adding a layer of glue and glitter for everyday of sincere work, translating into chunks of sparkling work experience! Set a daily target of being genuinely useful to all your stakeholders. Money will come trailing behind you, you will not have to run after it. Susan Roane, eminent writer and author emphasizes that, it is not your job title that adds value to your work; it is the usefulness or benefit that you bring about with your actions and behavior. Cultivate this attitude by becoming more and more aware of what you do not know and equip yourself with necessary knowledge and skills.
10 Look for possibilities from your own nature All of us feel some shortcoming or the other in our very nature. We have one of these two choices - either change if its not working OR use it in situations to thrive OR convert the emotion arising out of it into a progressive one. Say, if you are sensitive by nature, believe that there is a reason God has created you so. Choose a career that needs this quality as a core-competency (eg. therapy / counselling / life coaching, etc.) or start demonstrating this as a skill in your current job (eg. employee relations) & flourish. Or, if you are short-heighted and are often teased by colleagues, convert the sadness into challenge - challenge to motivation. Become highly efficient, knowledgeable in your domain, work on your body-language, get assertive and communicate confidently. You will be opening the doors for bigger possibilities in life. But just stop ruminating over being the way you are or you were before, or how bad things happened in the past.
11 Listen to the universe Tune in to yourself and tune out to what the universe has to tell you. We all like to be in a safe, comfortable and predictable work situation. Nothing wrong about this. Keep sailing till you feel satiated. The universe works wonderfully if it has plans to displace you to a better station in life (a new region / new job role, etc.). So, how will you know you are satiated in the current situation? Answer: The time when the universe begins sowing seeds of discomfort, making you squirm in your seat…literally or figuratively. It may be a vital message sent to you which you may be casually dismissing. But, the universe has its way of uprooting you by making things utterly dissatisfying or terrible in the current situation (just ensure, you are not the one causing misery for your own yourself). Follow this omen, don’t limit yourself, start thinking of your possibilities and begin moving in the direction these invisible hands are pushing you from behind.
You will be surprised at how meaningful and empowering your career turns out to be. Importantly, the kind of career path you will never regret about whenever you look back...
i. Ann Betz’ - Our Brain during Coaching
ii. Stephen M R Covey’s – The Speed of Trust
iii. Dr. Robert Hicks’ – Process of Highly Effective Coaching