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How To Be Successful In Any Job
                                          by Keith Rawlinson
                                                  Volunteer Budget Counselor

Whether you are starting a new job, or you have been in the same job for quite some time, you can be successful in that job.  Now understand that I'm not saying you will become rich or will be promoted to a high position in the company, I said you can be successful.  Most jobs sort of have a built-in limit to how much money you will be paid and how high up you can be promoted, so those aren't the things I'm talking about when I say 'successful.'  

What is success in a job?

To me, success in any job means:

The key to success on the job is to stand out and be noticed.

As with many other worthwhile things in life, success at work is not an easy thing to attain, but this actually works to your advantage.  If being successful at a job were easy, then everyone would be doing it and that wouldn't leave much room for you to stand out.  Doing the things needed to be successful in your job, is hard work, and since most people shy away from hard work, the opportunity to stand out is yours for the taking!

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do." E.N. Gray  'The Common Denominator of Success'

So, what are the things that need to be done to be successful in any job?  Well, first you need to realize that, right now, there is a crisis in American businesses.  That crisis is trying to find conscientious, hard-working, loyal, dependable employees who are willing to work and take their jobs seriously.  Finding good, hardworking employees is very, very difficult to do these days.  I personally know, and talk with, a lot of people who work in management, or who own their own businesses, and I have yet to find even one who disagrees.  So, all you have to do to stand out and be successful in your job, is to be a solution to the problem instead of being part of the problem.  It is very likely that you will be considered a "brown noser" by your fellow employees.  Co-workers may see you as a 'goodie-goodie' trying to make them look bad.  Just keep in mind that you are there for you and for your employer.  Always be polite and try to get along with co-workers, but don't worry if they become angry or dislike you because you are willing to do the things that they are not willing to do to be successful at work.  Okay, here we go, here's how to be successful in any job--these guidelines apply whether you are a cashier, or a CEO, and it doesn't matter if you are working at a fast-food restaurant or a Fortune 500 corporation.


First, and most important, is your attitude.  You have to be pleasant and conduct yourself in a way that says that you want to be there.  If you are one of those employees who constantly complain about your work or your company, you are not going to stand out.  You may think that you are just grumbling under your breath or talking to someone in private, but believe me, word gets around and your boss knows who has a good attitude and who does not.  Here's a good rule to follow:  never say anything about your job, your boss, your company or your co-workers that you would not want getting back to them--chances are very good that whatever you say, will get back to them.  So, when your fellow employees are standing around complaining about their employer, making fun of the boss, or gossiping about co-workers, don't get involved.  Don't make the same mistake they're making.  Just by not being one to constantly gripe, you are already standing out from the crowd.  I don't mean you can never have a complaint, I'm talking about petty griping.  If you have a legitimate complaint or problem, follow your company's procedure for making it known, and do it respectfully.  Also, if it is something that really doesn't matter, then you might want to consider just letting it go.  Save your complaints for important things so you will be seen as a problem solver instead of a complainer.  A good rule to follow when it comes to complaining is this:  try to only complain about things that directly and significantly affect health, safety or your ability to do what is required of you.

Always be respectful to your employer, your co-workers and your boss.  Even if your boss is a jerk (I've known a few of those) you have to show respect.  You don't have to like your boss and you don't have to be friends with your boss, but you do have to respect your boss.  Besides, if your boss really is a jerk, he is more likely to make things hard on you for being disrespectful.  Being respectful to co-workers is just as important.  You have to be around these people every day and that can be a miserable thing if everyone is being nasty with each other.  As with the boss, even if a co-worker is a jerk, you can still be respectful.  That doesn't mean you agree with everything they say, it means that you disagree with them respectfully, you don't get into arguments, you don't call them names, you don't sabotage their work and you don't gossip about them.  And please think very hard before getting into any kind of argument with your boss.  You may be the one who's right, but you have to ask yourself if it is really worth the possible consequences?  If a promotion or opportunity comes up, do you think the boss is going to want to give it to someone who argues with him?  There may be times in business when a disagreement with your boss is necessary, but before you openly disagree with your boss, ask yourself if it's really that important?  Is it something you can possibly just overlook and let it go?  Is it something that is truly worth the risk of getting on the boss's or company's bad side?  If it really is worth it, then of course go ahead; otherwise, it may be best to just let it go for the sake of your employment and your future.

Don't brag about your accomplishments, just wait for them to be noticed.  If you brag about your accomplishments, you may be seen as a showoff, and appear to be insincere and trying too hard.

Don't pretend to know things you don't.  Just be honest and say that you don't know.  If you pretend to know things you don't, you may think you are fooling people, and at first you may be, but sooner or later others will start to see right through it.  After a while, you will likely be seen as an annoying know-it-all by both your co-workers and your boss.  When you do know something, show it by doing it.  When you don't know something, just come right out and admit it, then go learn it so you will know it for next time.

Don't express false humility.  When someone pays you a compliment don't try to be modest by saying things like "It was nothing,"  or   "It really wasn't that great."  or  "I could have done better."  For one thing, your accomplishments may not seem like a big deal to you, but may be quite impressive to others.  When someone tells you that you did a nice job and you deny it, you are basically calling them a liar and making their compliment worthless--not to mention possibly hurting their feelings.  When someone pays you a compliment, just smile and say a sincere "thank you."  That's all you have to do.  They feel good about it, you feel good about it and everyone wins.  Plus, just saying a simple thank you when you are paid a compliment makes you appear to be a more honest and sincere person.

Work hard

One of the most common traits you'll likely see in people who just don't seem to get anywhere in their lives, is laziness.  Just take a look at most companies:  people try to avoid work, they extend their breaks, extend their lunches, come in late and leave early.  You may think they are getting away with it, but usually the boss knows who these people are.  You need to be the one who comes in a little bit early and occasionally leaves a little bit late.  You need to be the one who comes back from break and lunch on time and works consistently throughout the day.  I'm not saying you have to wear yourself out until you collapse in exhaustion, but you do need to do the work that is expected of you and you need to be working consistently all day long.  Trust me, this is unusual in most places of employment and will, sooner or later, be noticed.

"Effective people do two things:  they strive to do excellent work, and they prioritize."  Stephen Covey 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'

Don't just do your work, but really strive to do your work well.  I can promise you that quality work is important and will, eventually, be noticed.  Why?  Because it is so unusual.  Most employees just want to do the least amount of work possible.  They make it fast and easy on themselves by sacrificing quality or taking shortcuts.  Take pride in your work.  Whether you are designing spacecraft for NASA or flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant, put your best effort into it.  Make your work count.  Let your work show that you care and that you are good at your job.  When your work is presented to the boss or to the customer, feel proud that they are getting a quality product because you cared enough to do excellent work.  Your co-workers may make fun of you for making the extra effort to produce quality work, but they are average and you are standing out from the crowd.

The most important person in any business.

The most important person in any business is the customer.  Without the customer, there is no business.  There isn't a single business on the planet that would make it without customers.  I'm sure you've heard the saying  "the customer is always right,"  well, it isn't true.  The customer is not always right; but the customer is always the customer!  What this means is that you have to treat customers as if they are the most important people in the world whether they are right or not.  And why should customers be treated as if they are the most important people in your business?  Because they are!  Smile when dealing with customers.  Make the customer feel like you are truly glad that they are there (as you should actually be).  Try to put yourself in their place.  How would you want to be treated?  Try to make that customer want to come back even if they have a complaint.  And whatever you do, don't take it personally when a customer is rude or contentious.  Be polite, be calm, be professional and take care of that customer as best you can.  Even when customers are wrong, try to be calm and polite when dealing with them.  If at all possible, let the customer have their way.  A repeat customer is a very valuable thing to a business.  If you deal well with customers, they may even start to ask for you by name when coming into your business.  Now that's something that will get you noticed by the boss!

Above and beyond.

Don't be afraid to go a little above and beyond the call of duty.  In other words, be the employee who is willing to do a little extra work when needed.  I don't mean that you should do other people's work for them or that you should let yourself be taken advantage of, but be willing to do a little extra to help out your boss or to help out your employer.  Let your co-workers be the ones saying "that's not my job, that's not my responsibility, I don't have to do that."  You will be the one saying "sure, I can take care of that for you."  And maybe it really isn't your responsibility, maybe it is something you shouldn't have to do--but because you want to be successful and get ahead, you're willing to do it anyway.  That's something that stands out and gets you noticed.  Don't ever forget that, while you are on the job, your time is not your own.  Your employer bought that time from you and it belongs to them--that's why you get paid.  So, as long as you aren't being asked to do something illegal or unethical, and as long as your employer is making a reasonable request, be willing to step in and help out.

Knowledge truly is power.

Now here is some workplace advice you won't see very often:  once you learn to do your own job well, start taking the time to learn other jobs at work--especially jobs that are the next step up from your position, or are jobs you would like to be doing.  If you ask in the right way, many of your co-workers will be happy to show off their skills and show you what they do.  Sometimes, depending upon the situation, the boss may even be willing to help you learn some other jobs at work.  This doesn't mean you have to actually start doing these extra jobs, but it does mean that, when the boss needs someone to fill in for another position and there is no one available who knows the job, you can step right in and take care of it.  It makes sense that if a promotion becomes available for a job you already know how to do, you would be the natural choice to fill that position.  That is exactly what this suggestion accomplishes--helping you to move up and get promotions.  Another thing it accomplishes is making you one of the last people your employer would want to lay off.  Why lay off someone who can already do several different jobs?

Conclusion  (This is important so please read it)

Is doing all of the things we just discussed easy?  Absolutely not!  It is very difficult; but that is why most people don't do it and that is why you stand out when you do.  I'm not naive enough to think that you can do all of these things perfectly every single day.  There will be days you mess up.  When that happens just pull yourself together and get back on track.

It is very important that you be realistic in your expectations when it comes to employment.  Don't expect to start in the mail room at the age of 18 and be CEO by age 21.  It is not realistic to expect to move up that much in just three years.  You should first just concentrate on being the best mail room employee you can be. You also need to be aware that your level of training and education also puts a limit on how far you can go in any particular job.  If you dropped out of high school, it's not fair to expect the same pay and opportunity that high school graduates get.  If you graduated high school, but don't have a college degree, don't get your heart set on moving into a job that requires a degree unless you are willing to first go out and get that degree.  

Don't fall into the trap of saying "I work as hard as the people with degrees do so I deserve the same pay they get."  To be perfectly honest, pay level is most often more about the training, education and skills you have, than about the work that you do.  So, quite honestly, you don't deserve as much pay as someone who has training or a degree that you don't have.  If you refuse to admit to yourself that your level of education and training puts a limit on how much you can accomplish in the job market, you will never be satisfied on the job.  You will always feel like you are entitled to the same things as people with a higher education, when you aren't.  That is why the goal at work isn't to become rich or move up to top management.  The goal is to go as far as you can, and earn as high a wage as you can, for your education, training and skill level.   If you want a better position or more money, then by all means go out and get that additional education and training; then, apply the things you've learned here to your new job when you get it.  It is true that when it comes to opportunities in the world of work, education is important.

Above all, be patient.  This all takes time.  Sometimes, quite a bit of time.  If you really make an honest effort to do the things you have learned in this article, you will be noticed by the management at work--it may take a while, but you will be noticed.  I can say that because I know how rare a good, loyal, polite, respectful, hard-working employee really is.  They are difficult to find, and employers like to hang onto them.  If you are such an employee, you will be given opportunity that others won't, you will be able to earn more pay than your peers can, and you will get more respect and leeway from your boss.  When it comes to being successful at work, just remember this one thing...

The secret to being successful in any job:  
Strive to be the best employee your company has ever seen!

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Please know that all of the thoughts, information, suggestions and techniques given on this site are nothing more than the author's opinion on the matter being addressed.  Do further research before making any decisions.

This article copyright 2007 by Keith C. Rawlinson (Eclecticsite.com).  All rights reserved.
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