Five Things You Can Do to Get Ahead at Work

When you do not think you’re reaching your potential, the grind of the workweek can wear you out. Have you ever wondered why you are not getting the recognition at work you think you deserve? Or why one of your colleagues always seems to be acknowledged by management? Why does your effort not stand out like you think it should? Here are four ways to help you stand out at work according to Harvard career advisor Gorick Ng and author of “Unspoken Rules.” 

Help Others and Build and Strengthen Allies in Your Workplace
It can be tempting to turn the spotlight on yourself and trumpet your accomplishments but you can also stand out by giving credit to someone else. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?  So how does this approach benefit you and what does an example look like?

Rather than you presenting a new topic during a staff meeting, tell your manager the idea and let her present it. She will look good in the meeting and if she feels good and looks good; she will reward you for having done so. 

There are also ways that you can make someone look good or feel good even if you have to hold them accountable for a mistake or an omission. Apply a variant of the Golden Rule: Praise in public but criticize in private. If you are in a virtual meeting, use private chat as a way to correct someone or to clarify something. They will appreciate that you did not call them out publicly. This will help them feel good and not look bad. On the other hand, if someone does something good, make sure and praise them publicly. Doing so will help you build and strengthen your relationships, leading to more allies at work. 

Find the Balance in the Workplace Between When to Lead and When to Learn
There’s a time to listen and learn and there’s a time to lead and it can be difficult for people to decide when to do which one. When you’re a more junior or less experienced employee, it’s best to listen more often than to push the envelope. Trying to lead too early, before you have established your credibility, can backfire and have lasting repercussions. You may become thought of as a “know it all” or a “climber.”  

So how do you know when to learn and when to lead? For starters, evaluate who is in a meeting with you. Are there people who are more senior? More experienced? More knowledgeable? Then it’s probably a listening opportunity. It’s not always about seniority, though. If you’re the most knowledgeable person about a particular topic, then that’s an opportunity to step up and lead. 

Pay Attention to Feedback You are Receiving
Are you receiving mostly positive feedback? Negative feedback? Or little feedback? Obviously, hearing good things from your supervisor is an indication you are on the right track. However, negative feedback can be a gift. Negative feedback can show that your supervisor thinks enough of you that they want you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.


Take Initiative When Opportunities Present Themselves
Ng says to “carve out your own swim lane.” What does he mean by this?  He describes this as “looking around and observing problems that have yet to be solved.”  By taking initiative you are building trust which can lead to more responsibilities. 

So how can you identify opportunities? Ng suggests observing the priorities of the people above you. If something matters to your boss, it should matter to you. By taking on projects or issues that matter to your boss, you will matter more to them. 

Having issues at work but don’t want to discuss them with a supervisor or colleague? Consider career counseling. Shultz Career Consulting offers a free 30-minute session. Talk to us and we’ll let you know, with no obligation, how we can help. No hard sell, just a supportive ear, and our pricing makes our services a value to people in all stages of their career path.. Call us at (502) 819-5881 or email us at