Like a well-tended garden, a great and fulfilling career life needs constant cultivation. Don’t expect to just wake up one day and have everything you ever wanted out of your professional life handed to you. It doesn’t work that way!
Cultivating a career means forming habits. You need consistent, regular, and repeating patterns of behavior to really maximize your potential. Habits eventually end up turning into mindsets that permeates your subconscious, so make sure that you work on forming positive ones.
Maybe you’re a new addition to the workforce and you’re raring to get some work done. Or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran who feels like you know all the tricks in the book. The fact of the matter is, everyone, benefits from good habits, regardless of experience.
Here are 6 habits to cultivate your career. Try them out, and see the difference in the long run. Incremental changes from positive habits net you the biggest results – you’d be surprised by how effective these seemingly common-sense habits are.
1) Networking as a default state of mind
Let’s start off with one concept that is pretty much a standard in any career growth or business-related course – networking. Networking goes beyond just collecting business cards and having contacts of people on your phone. It’s about cultivating real, mutually-beneficial relationships with people.
The reason why networking is important is that you essentially bolster your capabilities by having connections with people. Maybe they’re more experienced in your field, or maybe they’re in a line of work that is completely off-tangent from yours – we all benefit from having friends in the right places.
Whether you’re in an off-site seminar, or just hanging out during break time at the office pantry, recognize networking opportunities when it arises. Talk to people, and make an effort to really know them, and you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll end up learning.
Make it an everyday practice, and really try to make an honest connection – invite them out to coffee, and really follow through when you say you’ll let them know when you’re in their part of town. The objective is to create a network of people who you can learn from and inspire you, or have particular skill sets that you can use in your professional life.
Make sure to also return the favor – by the bridge and help people network. Refer your contacts to other people that may need their services.
Sharing experiences and best practices deepen your connection with your professional network and make it easier to really get ahead in your chosen career.
2) Be averse to mediocrity
It’s true that you are paid for doing things on the job description you signed. Technically, that’s really all you need to do – nothing more, nothing less. However, going beyond what is expected of you is a valuable habit that would make you indispensable in your line of work.
A commitment to excellence is welcome no matter the industry, and excellent people always shine the brightest.
This is not to say that you should do something that is beyond your job description. This means having an aversion to mediocrity. Sometimes, good enough might cut it, but really, do you want to be the person who is known to be just “good enough”?
Don’t just turn in a report with no errors – discuss your findings with your supervisor to help them improve your department. This shows that you are invested in your work, and you are committed to contributing as much as you can.
Be mindful of the details in your work, and see how people will start to respond positively to your excellent work. Offer help when you think people need it. The point is, with a frame of mind of excellence, you are showing people that you are an integral part of the team. You are showing them your value as a professional, and this makes sure that you will get far in your chosen career.
3) Prioritize your health above all else
A pitfall that most people go through is neglecting the self when they’re pushing and grinding for their career. A healthy work-life balance is essential, and this means prioritizing your health above all else.
Start by recognizing the value of sleep. Sleepless nights fueled by caffeine are sometimes necessary, depending on your industry. However, regularly getting less than adequate sleep is not only damaging to your health – it also hampers your productivity the following day, making you less effective at your job.
Respect sleep, and aim to get around 7 hours of it per day. This ensures that you have enough energy every day, and this will greatly boost your productivity.
Try to eat healthily, and avoid skipping meals. Stay hydrated. Get some exercise, or at least stand-up and move around every 30 – 60 minutes if you haven’t yet. Very basic health tips, but crucial in the long run. You can’t be the best at your career if you’re sick.
There’s also a thing called “presenteeism”, or people who show up to work even if they should be in bed resting. Aside from being the person who might end up infecting everyone in the office, you are not at 100% efficiency, and you’re prone to making mistakes. Use your sick leaves, and nurse yourself back to health instead of showing up to the office.
Your mental health is also something that you need to take care of. There is no shame in taking days off if you really think you need it. Maybe you need to go to therapy, or maybe you really just need to talk to a friend – it starts with just acknowledging the fact that mental health is as crucial as taking care of your physical health.
Bottom line is, taking care of yourself is probably one of the most important habits you can ever cultivate. Having a healthy mind and body means you are at peak condition to ensure that you take your career where you want it to go.
4) Be organized, and stay in your lane
Sometimes it’s a good idea to pursue variety in your career. However, there is such a thing as spreading yourself too thin.
You need to focus in order to be excellent – attempting 3 completely unrelated things at the same time means running the risk of just being average on all of them. This applies to major projects (like business ideas) or just everyday tasks. Set a course, stay on that lane, and see it through to the end.
Multitasking is a myth. It seems like you’re doing more, but studies show that we actually achieve less when we split our attention by trying to do multiple things at the same time. You run the risk of slowing down – or worse, making mistakes – when you attempt to do two or more tasks simultaneously.
Instead of multitasking, why not try “single-tasking”? Focus on one thing, and see it through to the end. There’s a concept called “flow”, or bouts of productivity that happens with an intense focus on just one thing. Allocate a certain part of your day on single-tasking – switch off your smartphone, close all your irrelevant browsers, and focus all your headspace on just one thing. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll accomplish.
5) Let go of perfectionism, and start communicating instead
Sometimes, people get too fixated on the idea of perfection that they don’t realize that perfection is relative – it really depends on the situation.
There’s a thin line between making sure that everything is correct and being too concerned about the details. Sometimes, that fixation on perfection is even a cause for procrastination – instead of just turning it in, you’re asking to buy more time. This is counterproductive, especially for time-sensitive tasks.
Instead of focusing on being perfect, focus more on communicating with people. The problem with perfectionism is that you are enforcing your own idea of what “perfect” is – most of the time, that is not what people really need. Fussing about the details is useless if you fail to keep in mind the purpose of the task at hand.
If you think about it, fixating on perfection is the most imperfect thing you can do. You really just have to let it go and manage your expectations with yourself and the people you work with. A collaborative mindset is way better than an obsession with being perfect.
6) Be courageous; don’t be afraid of risks
Throughout your career, you will be confronted with uncertainty – make it a habit to embrace them.
Not being afraid of risks does not mean being reckless. Courage and boldness is an integral part of career growth. Take calculated risks, and reap the rewards.
Being afraid of risks means being afraid to fail. But really, the process is more important than the result. Assess the roadblocks, tweak your strategy, and try again. Through this, you grow and acquire new skills that you can use to further your career.
It is when you are uncomfortable that you grow the most. Think of like going to the gym – “no pain, no gain” is literal, as the only way for muscles to grow is to allow it to tear and give it time to grow stronger. The truth is, it really doesn’t hurt to try because greater risks mean potential greater rewards.
Hopefully, these 6 habits help you in cultivating your career. Do them often enough, and they will eventually be ingrained in your everyday life.
It doesn’t hurt to try – these simple habits are proven to give you the most results. Try it out, and see what works for you.