Shirley's Articles / Personal Effectiveness

And The Winner Is…

Seven secrets of successful office professionals

Everywhere you look on the Internet, you can see ideas for improving your life or achieving your goals. Regardless of what those goals are, it’s likely they somehow relate to being more successful…at school, at home, and even at work.

Any goal you might have can be reworded as “I want to be more successful with…” Let’s say you want to lose weight. That would be, “I want to be more successful with my self-image and fitness.” Or how about getting that promotion at work? “I want to be more successful with my job and my boss’s opinion of me.”

The big question is how do you become more successful? For work, you’ve probably thought of goals such as a promotion or a raise. Or perhaps your goal is to be given more authority or responsibility. No matter what your goals are, here are seven tips for achieving them:

1. Set concrete goals

No one, especially your boss, is going to be able to help you be successful if you don’t know what you want. Don’t say, “I don’t want to get bored,” or “I wish I could make more money.” Instead say, “If I take more responsibility for accounts payable, I should be able to convince my boss that I deserve a raise.” The key is the very specific goal of taking responsibility for accounts payable.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

Only compare you to your past self. If you happen to overhear your co-worker on the phone saying, “I got that 4% raise I was hoping for,” don’t get all bent out of shape because you only got a 2% raise. Instead look at where you where you are now and where you need to be to get a 6-month raise of an additional 2%. Or what can you do to make next year be a 5% raise?

3. Don’t over-think

If you are considering taking on the added responsibility of, say, accounts payable, don’t spend all your time figuring out exactly what you will do with it and how you will change it. Just spend some time doing the job. It may be that something you want to change really isn’t the key issue you thought it was.

4. Learn something new each week

Again, be specific. If you are in charge of accounts payable, learn one thing about how the accounts receivable unit is run. Or if you want to move into management, take 5 minutes to chat with a division manager at the coffee machine. Ask her why she wanted to be in management or how she communicates with difficult people.

5. Be patient, but not too patient

You know how business works! Almost everything takes time, especially changes. Know that you probably aren’t going to ask your boss for a promotion today and get it tomorrow. So hang in there and keep on keeping on. Work hard and show them what you can do, but also set a reasonable time limit. If you time limit is three months and nothing has happened after four, then you should arrange an informal meeting to see what’s going on.

6. Speak up

Take risks and speak up when you think you have something valuable to add to a discussion. Don’t worry about what people will think. Even if your idea doesn’t work in this case, management will still notice that you took the initiative to make suggestions.

7. Listen carefully

Of course, I saved the most important tip for last. Remember always that communication is two-way. You are not going to know how to phrase a comment or suggestion unless you understand the other person’s views and opinions. I have seen far too many people working out their next statement in their minds instead of actually listening to what is being said. This is the most obvious gaffe you can make when communicating.

Nothing can guarantee you success at work, but certainly by using these seven tips, you have a better chance of achieving your every desire. Okay, perhaps not every single one, but you will likely be more successful at achieving your goals.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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