If you’re fortunate enough to have a job you love or are well-paid, going above and beyond what is expected of you in the workplace is key to not only keeping your job, but potentially getting a promotion and a raise. Sucking up to your boss doesn’t exactly do it and may actually cause more harm than good, not only with your supervisor but with your co-workers. No one liked a teacher’s pet in high school, and no one will like you for brown-nosing the boss and getting an undeserved promotion either.
Unfortunately, the other fact is that the quality and quantity of your work aren’t the only factors that matter. Personal impressions and public perceptions of you, based on reality or fiction, do affect your career prospects. In the end, managing your career is a lot like brand management. Impressing your boss takes time, effort, and most of all, presentation. Even if he or she is like a character straight out of the Horrible Bosses movie, the following tips and tricks can help you learn how to impress your boss and get a promotion.
Keep Your Workspace Spotless
First things first: if you have a cluttered desk area, even the most absentminded boss is likely to notice after a while. “But it’s my space!” you might argue. It doesn’t matter. If your boss or even your co-workers occasionally stop by your workspace, you want it to look as clean, organized and professional as possible. Photos of friends and family are acceptable, but don’t put up pictures of yourself with red cups, bloodshot eyes or that new expensive luxury car you just bought.
Fast food wrappers from when you cut your lunch break short to finish a project and papers with coffee, ketchup or soy sauce stains scattered haphazardly around your desk? Not so much. If you don’t already have one, get a small waste bin and keep it under your desk or out of sight. If organization isn’t your strong point, go to an office supply store and get a paper organizer to keep the top of your desk free of clutter. Or spend 10 minutes every Friday before leaving work to tidy up. Every little effort counts, and even if they don’t verbally say so, your bosses and co-workers will appreciate it.
Manage Time Effectively
Just because you work a regular 9 to 5 doesn’t mean you should be counting down the seconds before you can clock out right at 5 o’clock. Unless company policy dictates that you can’t work overtime for whatever reason, make “arrive early and leave late” your new motto. While the rest of your co-workers stampede out the exit, your boss will likely be pleasantly surprised to find you still working after-hours. This doesn’t mean you should come in an hour before everyone else and leave an hour later, working 50 hours a week. Arrive early and leave late means come in 15 minutes before your boss shows up and leave 15 minutes after he/she leaves– that’s really all you need to implant the idea in his/her head that you are hardworking and dedicated to the job.
To take it a step further, attempt to beat every deadline you’re presented with. Have two weeks to finish a project? Aim to finish it in twelve days or less. Your boss may not notice at first, but when you start submitting work earlier than the rest of the employees, while maintaining a high level of quality, you’re more likely to stand out.
Plan The Work, Work The Plan
Bosses love self-starters and employees who are motivated. People who are presented with a challenge then immediately set off to find a way to overcome it without the boss coddling them along the way – who doesn’t want these individuals working for them? Even if you don’t exactly love your day job, setting your mind to a task and staying focused throughout the workday is a great way to not only catch your boss’s attention, but potentially get a promotion later on down the road.
Additionally, be sure to keep track of your work. When it comes time to have your annual review or discuss a salary increase or bonus, you’ll want to have documentation of your quality work and output. Explain and give examples of how you have improved since your last performance review and how you have contributed to the team’s projects and contracts.
Pick Up The Slack, Don’t Turn Down Assignments
Some of your co-workers may only do the bare minimum required to keep their job. They arrive on time or late, take as long a break or lunch as they can, browse internet memes when they’re supposed to be working, and visibly chat up other co-workers around the water cooler several times a day. Don’t be that employee. Instead, take the high road and pick up the slack. After a while, your boss will start to notice the different levels of output between employees and either your lazy co-worker will be reprimanded or you’ll be rewarded.
However, this doesn’t mean do the work and give it to your co-worker to present or turn in to the manager. Let’s face it – you’re nice, but don’t be a saint. If your supervisor offers you an additional assignment, don’t turn it down by saying “that isn’t in my job description” or “it’s not my responsibility, talk to …” If it is something particularly important to your boss or crucial to a project, accept the assignment and re-prioritize. Make sure to do exceptional work because your boss will actually care and remember your performance on this task.
Keep Your Personal Life Separate
Gossip and drama are usually reserved for your life outside of the office, though it would behoove you to cut it out of your life completely by avoiding individuals who cause it. Otherwise, try to be a step ahead of the pack and refrain from discussing too much about your personal life, especially with co-workers you do not have a personal relationship with.
Unless you’re on break time, you’re there to work, not tell everyone about the darnedest things your kids say or discuss your co-workers’ latest dating disasters. By keeping your personal and professional lives separate, you’ll be able to maintain a higher level of professionalism in the workplace and no one will ever be able to use your personal life experiences against you at the office.
Lastly, never use your personal life as an excuse for job-related performance issues unless you have a tragic family emergency. As far as your boss is concerned, the ideal employee is completely dedicated to the job and no manager wants to be inconvenienced by a colleague’s personal drama.
Be A Good, Well-Informed Communicator
Several recent studies indicate that one of the most valuable skills employers want to see in their staff is good communication. This involves good conflict management, interpersonal skills particularly where the customer is concerned, pleasant phone conversation abilities, and the ability to effectively listen and follow directions. Quickly understanding how your boss wants you to communicate with him/her will help you have a tension-free working relationship and make it significantly easier to ask for a promotion.
Keep Up With The Industry – Do Research
Bosses also want you to be well-informed. There is little else more impressive than an employee who not only does in-depth industry research above and beyond what the position requires, but can also present the information and their opinions on pressing matters in a logical, concise way. By reading trade magazines, networking outside of your company, joining industry groups, attending seminars, getting certifications or taking continuing education courses can make a good employee start to look like a real leader.
Be Honest and Trustworthy
Honesty is always valued. Bosses are usually impressed when you report a customer problem or honestly convey a co-worker issue, even if there could be negative consequences for you doing so. Maintaining a strict standard of integrity for yourself solidifies your reputation as a quality employee and lowers your chances of getting caught up in a lie. Once that happens, what stops your employer from questioning everything else? Don’t destroy your credibility.
Dress To Impress
Consistent punctuality won’t matter much if you look like you just grabbed a shirt and mismatched socks from the hamper on your way out the door. Even if you work in a casual office environment, that’s no excuse to get “too comfortable” and dress like a slob. Although, at the other end of the spectrum, don’t show up in a full suit and tie if you’re only expected to wear a nice t-shirt and slacks. Overdressing is not always key to impressing and can actually make you look like you are trying too hard or full of yourself.
If you don’t know how to iron shirts then learn now. You may not think anyone notices those little wrinkles, but why risk looking less than your absolute best? Buy clothes appropriate in style and size for a professional work environment and don’t substitute deodorant and cologne or perfume/body spray for regular showers. This seems like basic hygiene 101, but you probably had or have a co-worker that fits this description. Impressing your boss requires more than mere work output; attention to personal appearances is a must.
It may seem like it takes a lot to impress your boss, but bosses tend to notice even the slightest changes in your appearance and productivity, even if they don’t mention it outright or immediately. Why settle for being the average employee when you could go beyond what is expected of you and potentially reap the benefits of a raise or promotion? But don’t expect a heap of compliments after one week of hard work. Be consistent and your diligence, determination, and professionalism will not go unnoticed. Worst comes to worst, you’ve just padded your resume for your next job opportunity.