A great way to differentiate yourself in the workplace is to “Brand” yourself as an effective, reliable, trustworthy, and hard-working professional. It’s about more than being productive—it’s about building a reputation as someone who gets things done, can be relied upon and who is considerate of others’ time and effort.
You might not consider your attitude, your interpersonal skills, or even your conduct as factors of productivity, but they are important considerations for employers. Branding yourself as an effective and professional employee can be a significant advantage in advancing your career, regardless of whether you have the most experience, or the most talent: you can ensure that you’re recognized as being one of the most dependable candidates out there.
This might seem awfully basic, but if somebody leaves you a message, return it. Call back or send an email—whichever you prefer—just as long as you do it within an acceptable time frame (24 hours is fine, or a few days at the most.) Respond even if you don’t have the answer: it’s better to admit that you don’t know something than to ignore the message.
This should actually be part of the first tip, but phone tag is so annoying that it deserves its own section. The typical “call me back,” message is not effective. Instead, explain the reason for your call, what you need in return, and the best time to call back. This allows the recipient to gather the information for the return call and leave a response if necessary, thus avoiding the unnecessary back-and-forth exchange.
Be realistic when setting or agreeing upon deadlines; if something comes up that will make it impossible to meet the deadline, inform the other party of the delay and agree on a revised due date. The familiar business saying, “under-promise and over-deliver” is a good strategy to keep in mind.
The concept of “inbox zero” may seem overwhelming, but make an effort to clean up your inbox each day. The average American worker sends and receives over 100 emails per day, and though your own volume of email may vary, the principal remains the same. Not staying on top of your email leads to missed opportunities and frustration for both the sender and the recipient. The acceptable time window for returning an email is usually even less than with voice-mail, and it’s both a frustrating and a waste of time for people to have to fire off a reminder email to follow up on the previous one.
Set aside a period of time each morning (30 – 60 minutes) to take care of your inbox emails, and do so again in the afternoon. If this seems impossible, it’s likely that you’re either receiving too many emails, (reduce newsletters and notices, and if possible, suggest to your team that they not copy everyone unless necessary,) or you’re not processing your inbox efficiently. (Hint: Use 4D’s method – Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer.)
When a task or project has been completed, send a brief email to confirm that the required action has been taken. This may be as simple as a quick email just saying “Task done” or a summary of actions completed.
Take on additional responsibilities when possible, such as volunteering for projects or taking a leadership role if appropriate. When you do more than what you absolutely have to, you demonstrate motivation and effectiveness. Most importantly, do a great job: don’t take on something that you don’t think you can do well, as excellence is far better than adequacy.
The ability to get along with co-workers and be a part of a team is a valuable asset. Excellent interpersonal skills will help you stand out from the higher-maintenance employees, and will also increase the likelihood that you will be given a leadership role, thus improving your chances for career advancement both with your current employer, and future ones.
Branding yourself as an effective, reliable, productive employee is one of the most valuable strategies to advance your career. You have to do the work anyway, so why not save yourself time and build trust along the way? Doing so will pay off in success dividends later on.
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