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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

10 Little Things That’ll Have a Big Impact on Your Career

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When you think of the phrase “career-changing impact,” your first thought is that serious projects lead to serious results. And sure, some people can brag of big wins like working overtime for three months and then scoring a competitive promotion.

But it’s just as important to remember that to accomplish anything, much smaller (and simpler) tasks add up and also lead to big change over time.

In fact, here are 10 of our favorite “little” things that will ultimately have a huge impact on your career. The best part? None of them too much time or effort.

1. Invite a Higher-up Out for Coffee

It’s no secret that the senior leaders at your company are incredibly accomplished. It should also be no surprise that you can learn a thing or two from their experiences. Looking for a promotion? Need some guidance on how to get to your next step? Ask a higher-up at your company if you can pick their brain for a few minutes.

Oh, and when you get a “yes,” make the most of it with these tips on how to have a great coffee meeting.

2. Document Your Wins

You might be thinking, “No need, I’ll remember everything.” But you won’t! And even if you’re not currently job searching, documenting your accomplishments gives you a clearer idea of what you bring to the table in your role. This is especially important to know (and be able to articulate) when you’re looking for promotions, raises, or even new responsibilities at work.

Need some help getting started? Check out this worksheet that’ll help you keep track.

3. Make it a Point to Get to Know Other Teams

I once joined a company softball team for the sake of getting to know my colleagues. I embarrassed myself a few times and fell on my face once, but ultimately came out with better relationships across my company.

Becoming friendly with other teams might open up opportunities to work on different projects, learn new skills, or develop new passions. It’s as easy as asking someone on another team out for lunch, following up on something you heard in a company-wide meeting with the person involved, or even asking if you can attend one of their team’s meetings.

4. Spend More Time Working on Your Writing

Even if your job isn’t to write, honing your writing skills can help you take the next step in your career.

No matter what your job is, it’ll make you more comfortable sending sensitive emails, creating presentations, and drafting more compelling reports. And when people at your company start noticing the improvement in your work, they’ll start trusting you with even more urgent tasks.

Hate writing? That’s totally OK. These tools and apps to sharpen your writing skills were made just for you.

5. Speak Up More in Meetings

Speaking up feels hard. In fact, it can feel next to impossible when you worry that your ideas just aren’t up to snuff. But here’s the thing—the chances are that if you’re thinking something, there are a few other people in the room who are thinking the same thing.

If you’re willing to speak up more often at work, you’ll grow your confidence and show your colleagues that you really care about what’s being discussed.

Plus, if you do have a good idea, it’ll be remembered.

6. Use Your Time in Between Meetings to Learn

Have 10 minutes to kill in between meetings? You can check social media, but you can also take a different approach and work on learning something new. From watching a TED Talk, to reading industry news, to scrolling through LinkedIn and seeing what people are saying—you can pick up a lot fast, if you want to.

Keep a running list of ways to learn when you have a few minutes and it’ll be a no-brainer to check it out when you have a chance.

7. Create Challenges for Yourself

One of the most common reasons for looking for career growth is boredom. If this resonates with you, create little challenges for yourself, such as reaching out to one new person in your industry every week. Or forcing yourself to change one part of your weekly routine to see if it improves your productivity. Or, you can even spend time creating a list of problems and brainstorming solutions.

You never know what you’ll come up with, but at the very least, you’ll stimulate your brain in ways that will ultimately lead to personal growth.

8. Learn How to Compliment Someone (and Mean It)

Learning how to interact with other people is key to your career growth at any stage. And one of the toughest things about working with other people is knowing how to pay compliments without sounding like a suck-up.

Let’s talk about some specific scenarios:

  • Your Boss: Be specific about the thing she helped you with and what you learned.
  • Your Teammate: Share specific results you saw from the advice he gave you.
  • Your Direct Reports: Single out an accomplishment or positive changes you’ve noticed.
  • Networking Contact: Add a few bullet points about the value their work added to your life.

It’s a little uncomfortable to get into the habit at first, but it pays off big time once you do because you eventually start hearing those compliments come back your way.

9. Assess Yourself

Getting to know yourself sounds simpler than it is. One fast way to get up to speed is by taking a personality test. You might be surprised by some of the results. And then you might be motivated to make a few changes depending on what you learned.

For example, I took a quiz recently and found out that I’m not great at paying attention to details. It didn’t feel awesome to learn this, but it made an growth blindingly obvious (in a good way)!

10. Research Your Own Company

You might know a lot about your organization, especially if you’ve worked there for a few years. But it’s likely always evolving. Spend a few minutes catching up on what your company’s working on and what it offers. I’ve found that as I learn more, I can give better feedback. And when I give better feedback, people come to me with increasingly critical questions.

You can start by taking another look at your company’s website, specifically the About Us or Products pages. Then, identify areas that you don’t know much about and find people at your company who do know more. Invite those people out for coffee, or even just a quick in-office meeting, to ask questions.

Trust me: People will remember that you were curious and it’ll reflect highly on you if and when that feedback gets back to your manager or team lead.

Taking the next step in your career can seem daunting, no matter what you want to achieve. But remember, a lot of seemingly minor things can set you up for a ton of success. As you rack up the little wins, the bigger achievements will come. And you know what, since you’re awesome, I have a feeling it’ll happen more quickly than you think.