10 Strategies to Excel at Work and Fast-Track Your Career

Whether you’ve just landed your dream job or want to take your current role to the next level, there are some simple strategies you can employ to become more successful at work.

Illustration of people climbing steps

Gone are the days when you’d simply show up for work, do your job, and wait a few years to get a promotion or a pay raise.

Today, if you’re serious about your professional development and leading a successful career, you need to take a more direct and methodical approach to reaching your goals, whether it’s impressing your employer, moving up the ranks, securing a new job or diversifying your skills and talents.

What’s the secret?

That’s easy: it’s excelling at your job. And these 10 sure-fire strategies will help you do just that.

1. Understand the company’s goals

The first step to ensuring you succeed in your job is understanding your employer’s goals, and the company’s vision. The worst thing you can do for your career is to spend years with a company without ever knowing what they’re all about.

Make it a point to inform yourself of the company’s goals by reading up on the company’s mission statement and asking supervisors and colleagues for their input.

This will help you understand how your role impacts those goals in the grand scheme of things – and what you can do to better contribute to these goals.

2. Take initiative

If you’re always waiting for tasks and projects to come your way, you won’t get far in your career.

Excelling at work is all about going above and beyond your basic job responsibilities and finding ways to contribute to the company’s success without waiting around for instructions from your supervisor.

Taking a little initiative (whether it’s anticipating what work needs to be done, improving processes and procedures, or identifying and solving problems), you demonstrate a strong work ethic, independence and a can-do attitude – all of which are highly valued traits in the workplace.

You’re also able to quash workplace boredom when you’ve got nothing else to do.


Read more: Ways to Take More Initiative at Work


3. Be a team player

Scan any job listing, and the phrase ‘team player’ is almost guaranteed to come up. And that’s because teamwork is an essential component to any company’s success – not to mention your own.

Being able to work well with others – whether it’s with members from your own team or colleagues in another department – not only fosters positive working relationships but also boosts overall productivity. When this happens, employers take notice of your efforts – leading to a wealth of career opportunities, both within the company and beyond.

There’s no room for a ‘do your own job’ attitude in the workplace (there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’, remember?), so make it your mission to offer your help and advice to your coworkers at every opportunity.

4. Ask questions

Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but it won’t do you any harm in the workplace.

In fact, being curious and asking smart questions about why and how things work will only help you gain knowledge about the company and industry, and effectively position yourself as an enthusiastic employee – getting you one step closer to a promotion.

Of course, don’t overdo it by asking questions for every little thing – especially things that you should already know. You don’t want to come across as unprepared or incompetent, and you certainly don’t want people to feel like they’re being interrogated or undermined.

Your questions should be specific and thoughtful. For example, instead of asking ‘How exactly do I write a performance report?’, ask ‘Are there are any examples of performance reports I can look at?’.

5. Keep learning

Technology keeps making advancements, workplace processes keep changing, and company needs keep evolving.

We need to adapt and adjust accordingly to these changes by taking a strategic and systematic approach to the development of our skillsets.

Whether it’s getting a quick refresher on Excel basics, earning an industry certification or simply enhancing your soft skills, lifelong learning is key to your success at work and in your career. In doing so, you’re able to bridge gaps in your skills and knowledge, thereby making you a valuable asset to your current company as well as more employable for future opportunities.

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6. Meet deadlines

Deadlines are often the bane of many people’s working lives, but they exist for a reason. If we didn’t have deadlines to meet, our productivity levels would take a hit and business would stall.

Hitting – better yet, exceeding – deadlines is a sure-fire way to excel at your job.

Always keep your word, no matter how difficult the task at hand might be. This makes your boss trust you more, which is especially important at the beginning of your working relationship. When they trust you, they’ll be confident in giving you more work and responsibilities – and this could be a sign they’re preparing you for bigger projects and a potential promotion.

Meanwhile, if you feel a particular deadline isn’t reasonable, make sure you speak to your boss about it and ask for more time. After all, getting an extension is always better than missing a deadline altogether!

7. Don’t gossip

There’s always plenty of material for gossip in the workplace – whether it’s Jane from accounting being caught embezzling company funds, Liz from legal having had a liposuction or Will from marketing getting a promotion after sleeping with his supervisor.

But engaging in gossip – whether it’s actively spreading rumours about someone or simply taking a participating role – isn’t the innocent pastime that people make it out to be.

Not only does gossiping hurt the people you’re gossiping about, but it also hurts your personal and professional reputation. You’ll quickly become the office outcast. And when this happens, when the people you work with lose their trust in you, you’ll blow your chances of ever moving up the ranks in the company.


Read more: How to Survive Office Politics


8. Be punctual

Punctuality is a valued trait in any culture – and more so in the workplace.

Beyond demonstrating professionalism and a strong work ethic, it also shows that you care about your job and that you respect your colleagues’ schedules – nobody likes that person who arrives 10 minutes late to a meeting!

Ask yourself who is more likely to be promoted: the employee who arrives on time for work every day or the employee who is always running late?

Spoiler alert: it’s the former.

So, always arrive on time – better yet, 10 to 15 minutes earlier – for work and your professional engagements. Of course, life has a funny habit of throwing you off your schedule (like your car unexpectedly breaking down on your way to work or an unscheduled phone call from a client) – in this case, you’ll want to inform the affected party as soon as possible.

9. Speak up

Got something to say in a meeting? Thought of a solution to a problem? Speak up!

It might feel intimidating and you may fear rocking the boat – particularly if you’re new to the company – but by making meaningful contributions to the discussion, you’ll increase your visibility as an employee. After all, no successful person waits for permission or an invitation to speak – they just do it.

Be confident in your ideas – even if they’re a little ‘out there’. Remember: some of the best ideas are controversial ones.

10. Dress for success

By now, you’ve probably heard the saying ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’ at least half a dozen times.

No matter how tired you are of hearing it, though, it really can make the world of difference.

Dressing professionally is one of the keys for success in the workplace. Indeed, what you wear to work can affect how your colleagues and managers treat, respect and perceive you, and this will certainly come in handy when it’s time for a promotion.

Essentially, by dressing for the job you want, you signal to your employer that you belong in that job.

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Final thoughts

Going the extra mile at work isn’t really a suggestion – it’s a necessity, particularly if you’re determined to succeed in your job and in your overall career journey.

The strategies we explored above will help you do just that – and effectively position yourself as the perfect employee. This leads to all sorts of benefits, including job security, advancement opportunities and salary increases. No employer will want to lose you, and they’ll do everything they can to keep you on board!


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Got a question or perhaps another tip for excelling at work? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 1 August 2018.