Do you want to be really good at your job?
It comes with many benefits: salary raises, respect from the people around you, being proud of your results, and self-satisfaction, just to name a few.
However, the journey to that point may seem long and hard, especially if you started working recently.
In this article, you’ll learn how to get better at your job. You’ll notice that tips on how to do that are divided into 3 levels (like a game, because this doesn’t have to be stressful and boring).
- Easy level, which requires just taking action;
- Medium, which builds habits;
- And hard, which requires a change of your mindset.
If you’ve already implemented the majority of things from one level, feel free to proceed to the higher one. If you want, you can incorporate a point system too, maybe even sprinkle in some rewards – anything that will motivate you is allowed.
Table of contents
- Level one
- Level two
- Level three
Level 1 is mostly based on what actions you can take to get better at your job.
This almost goes without saying; you have to be professional. What does that entail?
- You’re polite and respectful, but assertive;
- You are dependable and your coworkers can rely on you;
- You are punctual and don’t miss deadlines;
- You are competent;
- You possess honesty and accountability.
If you want to be good at any job, you have to master the art of problem-solving. Everyone says that it’s important, but not many explain how to do that.
The exact solution depends on the problem itself, but here are a few general steps to follow:
- Identify what the problem is as clearly as possible. Determine its cause.
- Understand everyone’s interests. What are the needs that should be satisfied by a chosen solution?
- List all of the possible solutions and evaluate them. Weigh each one out: what are the pros and the cons of each one? Don’t go for the first thing that comes to mind, unless the issue is very time-sensitive.
- Choose the best option in agreement with everyone who’s involved.
- After implementing the chosen solution, monitor its progress and make adjustments if needed.
Additional tip: it’s best to write everything down, if possible. Having all the information and notes visually in front of you will make it easier to choose an objectively best option.
Long and complicated projects are often overwhelming. They can make you lose track of your progress or make it seem like you haven’t achieved anything of significance despite your hard work. If you don’t stay on top of your workload, you may even miss the deadline.
That’s why you should set milestones. Break your project into smaller parts so it will be easier to know what you’ve already done and what you are yet to do. In addition, achieving smaller goals will give you a sense of satisfaction and keep you motivated to achieve the big goal.
You can even gamify the process: set challenging (but achievable) small goals. If you decided to set a point and/or reward system, incorporating milestones is a must: give yourself a certain amount of points and a reward for each milestone you manage to reach.
Sometimes you have to seek feedback yourself, instead of just waiting for it (it may never come, or come too late). It’s not always the most pleasant thing to do, but there are significant benefits to it:
- It provokes growth;
- It helps to avoid major mistakes (or to catch them as soon as possible);
- It’s motivating, if it’s properly given.
Learning how to give proper feedback is a good skill to have, too. It’s important not to blame or judge, but to offer constructive ways for improvement. The person you criticized should feel motivated afterward, not like they lost the will to live. The general rule of thumb would be that if you sound like Gordon Ramsay in the Kitchen Nightmares, you’re doing it wrong. (If you’re not familiar with the show, “This squid is so undercooked I can still hear it telling Spongebob to f*** off” is an example of his critiques.)
Learn to communicate better
Good and effective communication is crucial in every aspect of your life, and a workplace is no exception. Do your best to:
- Communicate clearly and concisely. Have you ever had the experience of looking for a recipe online?
You click on the first result, which happens to be a food blog. First, you scroll and scroll through 1000 words of a blogger’s life story and a detailed description of the mountains they used to visit every winter as a child, with no recipe in sight… until, just before giving up, you finally find it.
Well, that’s how it feels when a work email has more than 5-6 sentences.
- Include everyone and make sure everyone has a chance to speak and share their input.
- Be a good listener. It’s an underrated, but very valuable skill. Active listening involves listening carefully, asking clarifying questions, and, if needed, rephrasing what the person is saying to ensure understanding.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant (even though it’s usually attributed to Aristotle)
If we are our habits, then we should form habits that the best version of ourselves would have. In this case, a version of ourselves that is good at our job.
Keep up with the news in your industry
Make an effort to stay up to date with the latest news in your industry. If you’re out of the loop, others won’t need a lot of time to surpass you.
Some of the ways to keep up with what’s happening are:
- Subscribing to blogs, youtube channels, and magazines where you can read and listen about the topics relevant to your industry;
- Networking: know what others are up to;
- Getting social: social media are a resource of real-time news, so if there’s something important going on and you’re not there in person, social media is the next best thing.
I wouldn’t advise being glued to the screen 24/7, though – checking what’s new once or twice a day is more than enough.
Track your time
Getting into the habit of tracking your time will improve your time management. It will help you:
- Be more productive and minimize procrastination;
- Organize your time and make an optimal schedule, as you will have a clear overview of how you spend it;
- Estimate more accurately, as you will have a lot of data to rely on and make an educated guess;
- Bill more accurately;
- Review your performance or performance of your team;
- See what areas need improvement.
Time tracking may be a little boring, but it’s fairly easy and it takes just a couple of minutes. In most cases, the benefits outweigh the annoyance of having one more task.
Make an effort to learn something new every day
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, at the age of 87.
It doesn’t have to be something related to your job, it can be related to any of your interests or even something about yourself. The thought behind this is to keep expanding your mind and make you more confident; constantly coming across new concepts and perspectives can also inspire innovation and promote creative thinking.
What is more, getting familiar with a wide range of subjects will help you get better at seeing things from different perspectives and thinking critically.
💡Have you already learned what MBTI type are you? If you did, check out How to increase productivity based on your personality type.
Level 3 is a mindset change; it takes more time to implement changes of that nature, as altering your thought pattern is not an easy process. (It’s worth it, though.)
Be open to growth
“Intelligent individuals learn from everything and everyone; average people, from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers.” – Socrates
The best way to improve is to be open to learning new things, building new skills, and having a growth mindset.
If you have a growth mindset, it means that you:
- Embrace challenges and see them as an opportunity to grow;
- Don’t let obstacles stop you from achieving your goal;
- Love learning new things;
- See effort as a path to mastery;
- Learn from criticism;
- Find inspiration and learn from the successes of others.
As opposed to that, there is a fixed mindset: it assumes that our character and abilities are what we are given at birth and can’t be changed. To those who have it, failing is not something that inevitably happens to everyone, but an affirmation that a person who fails is a failure; for that, they avoid it at all costs. Having a fixed mindset also means avoiding criticism, giving up easily, taking negative feedback too personally, and feeling threatened by the success of others.
Guess which one you should have if you want to better yourself and succeed?
Go out of your comfort zone
Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, think outside the box, and try new things (I realize that saying “don’t be afraid!” won’t make fear magically disappear, I’m just asking you to try).
If you want to be better (at anything), sometimes you have to try doing something different from what you’re used to. It won’t feel as good as the inspirational quotes about letting go of fear may lead you to believe, at least not in the beginning.
I have a rule that every so often I have to do something I’m afraid of b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶I̶’̶m̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶a̶s̶o̶c̶h̶i̶s̶t̶ as a way to overcome my fears.
I was asked to speak on a panel a few years ago. I am not good or versed in public speaking, I’m better at writing. On my way there, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I got myself into and if it was too late to cancel. Before it began, I felt like I’m going to pass out.
However, contrary to what I had thought, I did okay. I even had a good time. Not only is it a nice memory to look back on, but it boosted my self-confidence – if I managed to be okay at public speaking, I can do everything else.
Acknowledge (and work on) your weak spots
Unfortunately, the only way to get better at something is to become aware of everything you’re doing wrong and to make an effort to improve yourself in the areas you’re weak in. I know, I don’t like it either.
Jokes aside, working on your flaws is not easy – growth is uncomfortable. Going out of your way to improve yourself is a path less taken. It requires you to put your ego aside, ask for help, and take accountability for your mistakes. Acknowledge your weak spots (without judging yourself) and start working on them.
Be adaptable to change
“The only constant in life is change.”- Heraclitus
A “well, that’s the way I’ve always done it” mentality won’t get you far in a competitive workplace, especially in industries like IT, where things constantly change.
There are many examples of businesses that had to close their doors because they failed to adapt. Blockbuster was a provider of home movie and video game rental services. They had an impressive number of movies and games, which made them better than their competition – until the market changed, and their business model didn’t. On-demand streaming services such as Netflix were on the rise, but they refused to go digital – which resulted in slowly going out of business.
Another example is Polaroid and its instant film and cameras. They held the patent to their instant photography process, which was one of the contributing factors to their huge success. However, just like Blockbuster, they didn’t think that going digital was the right move, and Polaroid Corporation was declared bankrupt in 2001.
Whether you have your own business or you work in a company, keeping up with the news in the industry and being open to change is essential. Being flexible and adaptable without losing your essence is not something everything can do, but those who can will probably be successful.
An exact set of steps to get better at your job differs from position to position, even from industry to industry: it could be taking some action, developing new habits, or maybe even changing your mindset.
However, some things are universal – whatever your job is, characteristics like being a problem-solver, adaptable to change, and willing to learn will always get you far.
✉️ What level are you on? Have you tried using any of this? How did you get better at your job? Let us know at email@example.com.