If you're trying to get ahead at work, one of the key people you want to impress is your boss.
Your boss is the person with the greatest potential to improve your work life, since he or she has the most direct control over your day-to-day activities. There are basically two ways to get ahead at work: 1) You can improve your current job (such as being the right-hand man or the guy who gets the best assignments); or 2) You can be transferred into a new, better job. Both of these moves are handled by your boss. He hands out the work and the extra projects, and if he has any plans to be promoted, he is grooming somebody to take his position. To avoid being too general, this list assumes that you're already working hard in your job and are fairly competent at what you do; most people in the workplace don't struggle to get their work done, they struggle for more recognition and new challenges. Read on for 10 proven ways to impress your boss.
No.10 Complete the tasks everyone forgets
There are little things in every workplace that everybody forgets, from specific work processes that get overlooked to maintenance issues like turning the fans on in the morning. We're not saying you should be the one who cleans up the coffee station every morning, but you can pitch in and take some pride in your work area. Looking for an easy way to implement this? Learn how to unjam the copy machine. Check out the steps online, and next time you head over to the machine and discover that one of your coworkers has thoughtfully jammed it in zones A, B and C without clearing it, you can roll up your sleeves and solve it. It won't take long for this type of etiquette to be noticed.
No.9 Highlight relevant industry innovations
Even if you're in an industry that you don't plan on being in forever, you should know your business. It's what you do every day, so you may as well be the best at it. This includes knowing the industry. When a news story covers your industry, clip the article and e-mail a scan of it to everyone on your team, boss included. Showing that you're aware of your business' place in the larger world shows you have your eye on the big picture -- that's a good message to send to your boss.
No.8 Keep a clean work space
This one is a bit of a balancing act. Basically, you want your space to look worked in: not too cluttered, but not totally bare. If you have no paper on your desk, it doesn't look like you're working. But if you have no desk visible under all that paper, it doesn't look like you're working either. Why is your work piling up on you like that? We know, we know, you need all that paper. Well, if the stuff you have out is that important, it's worth having it organized and usable. Put your filing cabinet to work or, if it's really bad, look into getting a document scanner and digitizing your files. Lastly, when you leave work for the day, take 60 seconds to spruce up your area.
No.7 Come in early and leave late
Hear that? It's the sound of your fellow readers frantically scrolling down to the comments to whine, “It's not about how much time I put in at work, it's about the quality of work I do!” That's a valid point. Quality is more important than quantity. Know what else is completely true? As long as the quality's there, the quantity helps too. Nobody's asking you to stay an extra four hours. In fact, don't do that as it can actually make it look like you're falling behind or not managing your time correctly. Instead, look at it from your boss' perspective: Two employees are due in at 9 a.m. One arrives at 8:40, the other slides in like clockwork at 8:59. The second employee is at work because he “has to be.” He is following the rule, true, but the boss may well assume that if the rule wasn't there he'd be late every day. The first employee, on the other hand, gives the impression that he's excited to be at work and is there to tackle his goals. Not a bad return on 15 minutes of your time.
Yes, read at work. We're not talking about putting your feet on your desk and reading the latest Sports Illustrated. But do keep a relevant book or industry magazine on hand, and pull it out whenever you have a few minutes of downtime. Read a few pages after you complete a task as a short break from work and you'll find it easier to refocus on your next task. Are you working? No, not in the strictest sense. You are developing your mind and your outlook, though, and turning yourself into a more valuable employee. So, you are developing one of the company's assets (you), and done in moderation, this is an incredibly efficient way to increase your value.
No.5 Dress up
You know the old adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? No? Well, learn it well. Look at what the boys on the next rung of the ladder are wearing, and dress like that. Even if you're not trying to get promoted, but just want to expand the job you have, dressing well and grooming properly is a nice way to do it. You want to give the impression you're pleased to be at work and take it seriously. Wearing a belt that should have been retired years ago just gives the impression that you don't care. If you're clean-shaven, shave daily. If you have facial hair, keep it groomed.
No.4 Save the company money
Ever wonder why your company is in business? To make money. Oh, you work for a nonprofit? It's trying to make money to give it to people and causes that need it. Either way, making your employer more money is a contribution to the central goal of your company (it is, quite literally, the bottom line). Just like your personal finances, a company can have more money in two ways: 1) Earning more; and 2) Spending less. While you can contribute to the company's profits in many ways, you have direct control over cutting expenses. Keep an eye peeled for ways the company can spend less, and share your ideas early and often. Found a cheaper vendor for one of your company's needs? Share it! The day may come when the company passes the savings on to you in the form of a larger paycheck.
No.3 Have an informed opinion
This is pretty straightforward. Know the state of your division and know the state of the marketplace you work in. Then, develop an opinion about how to improve -- realistic ways your team could try something new. Having an opinion is the most common thing in the world in business, but having an informed opinion is depressingly rare. If you take the time to develop a viewpoint, you should also share it when it's appropriate. A great way to share your opinion with your boss? When you're having a one-on-one discussion about something, say these magic words: “I disagree.” Politely and sincerely present the information you have and your interpretation of how your company could act on it. Of course, if your boss overrules you, abide by his decision. Sharing your opinion (your informed opinion) shows your boss you're not just a "yes" man. As a bonus, once your boss knows you don't automatically agree with whatever he says, the times you do agree will carry more weight.
No.2 Come prepared
If you're showing up to work prepared to work, you are on the right track. You should show up prepared and you should stay on top of your work throughout the day. You should be prepared with all the information you need for each meeting or project. The least you should have done is the prep work to understand what additional information or resources you need to move forward. Consider this: A promotion or expansion of your current job are both ways the company gives you more responsibility. If you're not handling what you have on your plate currently, how do you expect to be given more?
No.1 Take the initiative
This is the logical extension of No. 2, and it's our No. 1 recommendation with good reason. Like we said in the intro, most people in the workplace don't struggle to get their work done, they struggle for recognition and new challenges. If you see a new project, go after it. If you see something that needs doing, do it. The higher you go in a company, the more you're steering the company, and that means taking risks. Fortune favors the bold. So, as long as you're handling all of your current duties well, overstep your boundaries a little bit and start a new task that's valuable to the company. Let your boss know what you're working on. They may take the task away from you, but they won't forget your vision.