Despite winning Grand Slams, a successful tennis coach recently admitted there was one skill he couldn’t teach. Sure he helped students perfect their forehands, backhands, and serves. He worked on their footwork and their speed. The one thing he couldn’t help them with? Discipline. No one forced him to get up early and stay late. There was never a parent telling him he had to practice. Working hard came naturally.
If you wish you could be smarter or more talented, you’re hardly alone. Yet studies show those two qualities aren’t the key to success. What is? Hard work, of course, and grit –– what psychologist Angela Duckworth describes as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.” If you keep doing something for long enough, you’ll improve. You might even become one of the best. It’s important to like what you do –– otherwise all that hard work will be tedious. If you’re interested in learning how to be a successful employee, there are ways you can stand out.
Raise your hands in meetings. Ask questions at conferences. Don’t be afraid to talk about an innovative sales tool in the lunchroom. The people who get promoted are often the ones who talk the most. Chances are your boss is an extrovert but that doesn’t mean you have to be one. Introverts are often uncomfortable advocating for themselves. So make it a point to champion a colleagues’ brilliant idea. Don’t talk just to hear the sound of your own voice. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answers. Learn all you can from those around you. Be curious, not judgmental.
Dress for the Job You Want
In this laid-back era, it’s easy for casual to become sloppy. Plus, many of us may be remote for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean you should give up completely. There’s no way that’s the message you want to send. “I don’t understand what’s so great about effortlessness,” actress Mindy Kaling said while discussing the wardrobe choices made by both her and her character Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project. “I think showing up means you care. So, for me, I’m very effortful, and my character is very effortful… If you come in with jeans and a T-shirt, great, that looks great and is a very L.A. way of dressing. [But] I happen to disagree.”
We all notice details about how people look –– would you trust your taxes to someone in a threadbare suit? Or your hair to someone with grubby fingernails? So, invest some money in a few well-made wardrobe staples. Then spend a little more on a good tailor so that they fit perfectly. There will come a time when you’ll want to look the part of an executive even if you aren’t one yet. Remember, many of the people in a position to promote you came up in a different office culture –– one where men wore ties and women wore dresses. You don’t need to pander to stereotypes, but looking polished and professional can help you succeed.
Become Comfortable with Leadership
It’s not all about the surface. To succeed you need to actively seek more responsibility. If you’re curious about how to be a successful employee, one key is to embrace a leadership position. As you take on most tasks, you may find yourself running teams. You should also be learning more about your work and your company as you do so. As you become comfortable with leadership, make it a point to get comfortable with your company’s leaders. Say hello when you bump into them at the local coffee shop or the in-house fitness center. You won’t become popular delivering an elevator pitch while they’re laboring on the Stairmaster, but when you have an opportunity to introduce yourself, take it.
As you become more successful in your job, it’s possible your next logical move will be outside of the company. Loyalty is a valuable trait but you can often earn more money by leaving your company rather than being promoted within it. Moving on is even more important if you think you’ll gain new skills working for a different company.