I just couldn’t let it go.
“Chris, we both know this isn’t working. We should just cut our losses and kill the project before the contract renews and we spend any more money,” my boss at the time insisted.
“But what if we promoted it more?” I explained passionately. “I can schedule more Tweets and Facebook posts and really drum up the interest we promised we would in the marketing plan.”
“Look, I know you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this, but we’re not moving forward with it,” he declared.
“That’s a huge bummer, but I understand,” I said in surrender.
And, just like that, it was done. The plug was pulled on one of my big projects that I thought would be a huge hit. In reality, it was exactly the opposite. But I was so attached to it that I just couldn’t see the cold, hard truth: It was way beyond time to move on.
Letting go of what’s not working is just one of the 11 lessons I outline below. Because your work life will challenge you in ways you never anticipated. And the lessons you learn will help you grow in ways you never imagined.
It’s time to study up. It’s time to raise the bar. It’s time to get on the fast track to success.
1. Focus on solutions.
Your entire work life boils down to one essential task: Complex problem solving.
The higher-ups will direct you on what to do—drive growth and increase revenue, for example—but how you accomplish those goals will largely be up to you and your peers to figure out. And that will require finding creative ways to solve problems. You’ll have to brainstorm new ways to engage existing customers as well as devise ways to reach and convert brand new customers. You will naturally encounter a variety of challenges and obstacles along the way. It’s your job to not just simply recognize what’s in your way, but produce bold, dynamic ways around those hurdles.
Truth is, anyone can point out all the reasons why something might not work. The real way to add value and stand out at work is to be the person who finds the one way it will.
So, always try to find the solutions instead of just raising more problems. That resourcefulness will pay amazing dividends and help you advance more quickly than you otherwise would.
2. Think like the customer.
It’s not about you. It’s not about your boss. It’s not about the CEO. This is about the customer.
Be the voice of the customer in the room and you can never go wrong.
3. Build and foster relationships.
At the end of the day, we’re all just people who crave connection. The same is true inside and outside of the confines of the office.
Get to know your colleagues across the organization and inquire as to what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. Take the time to listen to their challenges and their hopes and dreams. And, when the opportunity presents itself, help them out. Not because you expect anything in return, but because you are in a position to add value and it’s the right thing to do.
In return, invest in those who do the same for you. Open up to your colleagues and ask for help when you may need it. Then repay the favor when the time is right.
That’s how you can lift others up—and be lifted in the process. That’s how everyone wins.
4. Evangelize your work.
You may be the most productive person in your entire company, but if no one knows about it, it’s like it never even happened.
Hold regular check-ins with key stakeholders. Compile and distribute reports on a consistent basis. Inform higher-ups when key milestones have been reached or new projects have launched and are in market.
This isn’t about creating unnecessary noise around what you do on a daily basis. This is about beating the drum so people hear, know and understand what you and your team are up to and what you’ve been able to accomplish.
Yes, it will require additional time and energy on your part. But tracking your progress and sharing your results is the quickest way to get people to understand and appreciate your impact. And that will help you get ahead.
5. Take time off.
Working yourself to the bone on behalf of a company drains you, builds resentment and will cause you to burn out. Whether you take time off in short bursts more frequently or prefer to take longer periods of time off fewer times throughout the year, you need to get out of the office to rest and recharge.
So, make the most of your PTO! Take the opportunity to disconnect from work when possible. These breaks will help you return with a fresh perspective and reinvigorated energy needed to tackle the challenges ahead.
6. Speak up.
You were hired because of your experience, your personality, your intelligence and your unique set of skills. You are meant to share your expertise with your colleagues and help improve the quality of work however possible. And that includes speaking up and contributing every chance you get.
Don’t understand something? Ask questions.
Need someone to clarify? Tell them you’re not following.
Have an experience that would lend itself to the current challenge or situation at hand? Pipe up and say so.
Your success in the professional world is directly correlated to the quantity and quality of the ideas you throw into the mix. But you don’t get anywhere by not chiming in.
7. Solicit feedback.
As a successful striver, you must understand that in order to improve you need to hone your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. One great way to do that is to ask others for constructive criticism. Then, look for patterns and consistencies among the data you collect. If the same things keep popping up, take note and push further in that direction. That’s where you need to focus your professional development.
8. Embrace change.
The only thing that remains the same in life is that things constantly change. The same is true of your professional life as well. Companies get acquired. People get laid off due to restructuring—or a variety of other reasons. Folks are constantly moving on to new roles either internally or externally. Leadership changes are a dime a dozen.
So, lean in and embrace the changing tides of the corporate world in the same way that you accept what you cannot change in your personal life. It’s the only way to not get bogged down in the nearly constant changes that happen in business.
9. Go the extra mile.
Most people at work want to do the bare minimum or simply meet the expectations that have been established for their role. But the ones who go above and beyond what’s expected of them are the ones who are remembered and rewarded. So, don’t just focus on what you’re supposed to do—step up and take on additional responsibility, put forth new ideas and suggest how the company can push into new territory or directions. That’s how you take it to the next level. That’s how you get ahead. That’s how you prove you’re not just another cog in the wheel.
10. Let go of what’s not working.
In the working world as in your everyday life, you must prune in order to push to the next level. As I described in the opener, this is a difficult lesson to learn—but it’s one of the most important. [For even more essential knowledge, check out 16 Life Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner.] Knowing when to cut your losses and give up on something that’s no longer a wise investment of energy and resources is one of the handiest skills to have, at work and at home. If the ROI of a particular project isn’t living up to expectations, you must switch directions and move on. Period. Otherwise, you risk wasting time and money—two of the most valuable assets afforded to you by your employer.
11. Stay true to you.
Last, but certainly not least, you should always stay true to you—both in and out of the office. In the context of work, it’s important to remember that others can always outperform you or outshine you—but they can never out-be you. Your unique blend of abilities and experience are yours and yours alone. Use that to your advantage.
Which of the 11 tips stood out to you most? What would you add? Tell me in the comments below—or Tweet me @crackliffe.