5 simple tips about success at work

Yesterday, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, posted a great blog piece on career advice for young marketers. I was reflecting on her comments and thinking about some of the things I learned working up through the ranks in communications. If you’re just starting out, here are five very simple things I learned about achieving success. It may be a sort of “things-your-mom-told-you” list, but, based on my experience, it needs repeating.

Photo by Quentin REY

Lucky charms. Anyone who says they made it all happen based on how hard they worked or how smart they are isn’t looking at the whole picture. Our success in work is a mixture of abilities, grit and just plain being in the right place at the right time. I got my first job because I happened to go to a university overseas for a post-graduate degree. Don’t be fooled. It wasn’t the post-graduate degree that won my employer over. It was the fact I went to school in Scotland where he was born and raised. Sure, I didn’t fail the interview but that “Scotland experience” tipped the scales in my favour. That first job gave me the know-how that ultimately led to the next job.

It’s what you do with ‘luck’ that makes all the difference.

Photo by Hannah Morgan

Dress up. It is cliché. I get it. But everyone I know who dressed for the job they wanted, did in fact, get promoted. Not one of them was wearing a midriff top, teeny mini, t-shirt, scuffed shoes or hipster toque. Yes, I know that work environments have adopted a new casual atmosphere and people are not as fussy about the suit and tie anymore. And yes, there are industries where midriff tops and toques are okay, say, for example, the fashion world. But outside that, it would be an outright lie to think that people are not seeing what you’re wearing and drawing conclusions about your capability for the next job up. Though, if you’re already the boss (think Gary Vanyerchuk), go ahead and toque up.

Photo by Brooke Cagle 

Positivity please. I worked with a lot of different people – a lot of very smart people, in fact. But one big thing set the successful people apart from the others – they were truly optimistic, hopeful, positive and…wait for it….smiled! There is nothing worse than working with someone who is a Debbie Downer. That is not to cast shade on depression, a very real and serious issue. I mean people who refuse to find an ounce of joy at work and who constantly complain out of habit. Ugh. We all have bad days. But if every once and awhile you can’t find something to smile or laugh about with your coworkers, you’re probably not going to go too far.

Talk to me. Don’t text, don’t tweet, don’t email, don’t Facebook, don’t message. I mean, open your mouth and actually speak. Nowadays, it’s too easy to hide behind technology. Time to grab a coffee with the client, employee or coworker and go over what’s working and what’s not.

Photo by Pavan Trikutam

Our human need to connect is often best done in person or, at the very least, by phone. This is particularly important when you have something bad to say. Years ago at the communications agency where I worked, a team member was upset with the client. Instead of walking down the hall to vent her frustration, she made the mistake of forwarding me an email with some nasty comments. The only problem was – she didn’t send it to me. She sent it back to the client. Oops. Had she simply walked down the hall and talked to me, she would have been spared the embarrassment.

Client service them. This applies whether you’re working in a service business or not. It is equally applicable whether your client is external or internal. It even applies to a job search. In my first PR position, I made a name for myself with reporters on deadlines who needed great stories and quick access to spokespeople. One of those reporters passed my name along to my next employer.

Maybe it’s because I worked in a client service position but we’re all just working to help each other, aren’t we? Where you can, putting other people’s business priorities at the top of your list – your employer’s, your co-worker’s, your client’s – and effectively addressing those needs will propel your career forward and show others you are someone who makes things happen for them.

Photo by Ben White

All these things won’t lead to success in absence of skill and determination. But, in combination with talent, they’ll promote your progress and put you on a path to success.

What have you learned at work?




2 thoughts on “5 simple tips about success at work

  1. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and I would say don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask why are we doing this? What is the goal? How else can we do it? And then you can start to develop new ideas that help you stand out among your colleagues.


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