You are absolutely ready for the next step in your career. You’ve done all the right things, overachieved with precision on the things that make you stand out, and have established your network of advocates who have helped position you to take the next step up the ladder (or onto the next ladder). You feel like 2020 is going to be your year – but how can you get that locked in to know the new decade is going to bring new levels of success? 

There are five habits that successful professionals cultivate to reach their potential – and grow to levels they never imagined possible. Focus on these five things, and whether your professional goal this year is getting a promotion at work or landing your dream job, you will be well on your way.

Bring Your Best You to Work

One of the things that people come to me most often about is how to deal with difficult people at work: the mean girl who hasn’t realized you’re a team, the surly coworker who refuses to be helpful in any way, or the boss who has questionable leadership qualities. 

Your coworkers are who they are and you can’t change them. But you can decide who you are going to be at work, and create great days and great weeks.

The easiest way to navigate office politics, workplace gossip, and difficult colleagues is to become the person no one wants to say bad things about. This doesn’t mean you have to be Suzy Sunshine, bringing the office treats – in fact, Suzy Sunshine probably struggles to be taken seriously. But you can make a conscious decision to be someone that people want to work with and have only glowing things to say about. 

It begins with cultivating a positive attitude at work. It can be as simple (or as challenging) as choosing not to complain about work to colleagues, not participating in office gossip, and finding positive things you are grateful for each day.

Build Your Brand

You might be rolling your eyes, because talk about personal branding is so cliché – and why would you possibly need a personal brand when you’re an employee at a company? 

This is one of the biggest opportunities for you to skyrocket your career to wherever you want to take it, and if you are not intentionally cultivating your personal brand you are missing a huge opportunity and making a huge mistake. Your personal brand exists whether you create it or not. It’s what people say about you when you leave the room, the problems that you’re top of mind to solve, and the areas of expertise everyone knows to consult you when they need input.

If you don’t know what your personal brand is, you cannot be intentional about what you’re known for. And that often means you don’t stand-out for anything and struggle to get noticed for your work.

Begin with knowing what you want to be known for: what is your superpower at work? Figure out what the thing that you do better than anyone else at your company, and maybe even in your industry. Once you know what that is, start demonstrating your expertise. Give your opinion in meetings, curate content and share your commentary on sites like LinkedIn. 

This doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, but spending a small amount of time each week to grow your personal brand will open doors at your current company, and maybe even your dream company down the road.

Find the Open Path

If you’ve been doing all the right things and you’ve hit a wall (or glass ceiling), you need to determine if there is an opportunity where you are for you to achieve the professional goals you have.

This can be a hard one, because sometimes you need to adjust your strategy, but sometimes the path is legitimately a dead end, and differentiating between the two can be incredibly difficult.

If the growth opportunities are there and you keep getting passed over for promotion, dig in and be really honest with yourself on the reasons why. One of the obstacles I see frequently is women overinvesting effort and overachieving, but they aren’t overachieving on the right things. In cases like this, adjusting your strategy and daily tasks can have a dramatic (and fast) impact.

However, there may be other factors, and we cannot shy away from the fact that not every workplace is female-friendly. As much as I believe all barriers can be broken, unnecessary friction can have a negative impact, like burnout. If there is truly a hostility towards women at your company, and your gender is deeply impacting your potential there, it’s time to find a path with less resistance.

Don’t Under Estimate Yourself

I haven’t done official research, but I can tell you that nearly every woman I know underestimates herself. 

You’ve probably heard the statistic that women need to meet 100% of the criteria to apply for a job, while men only need to meet 60%. I would place a wager that the blindspot in the study is that many women don’t give themselves credit for their experience and accomplishments, meaning they don’t just need to meet the criteria, they need to be proficient to count a skill or experience, while the men would overinflate.

I recently posted about this on LinkedIn and got several messages from women who finally realized how guilty they are of underestimating, and subsequently underselling themselves. The advice I give my clients is this: take ownership like a white male. I know it sounds snippy, but it’s an honest question. If we want to be held to the same standard as the dominant group, we need to hold ourselves to that standard in all regards.

This habit takes regular effort – it’s so deeply entrenched for most of us. But it will make a huge difference in your career, and your life.

Stop Judging Yourself

Here’s a secret that is going to change your life: no one is judging the way you are judging yourself.

While this may have been validated if you have ever come across the mean girl at work I mentioned earlier, chances are no one at work is going to be a bigger critic of you than you are of yourself.

A few weeks ago, I posted about an email I got from someone, whom I suspect to be the captain of the grammar police, about typos in an email I sent. Of course, I wrote about it publically (probably with typos), and it sparked a great conversation with one of my clients. She had been beating herself up about an email she sent to a client with a hilariously disastrous typo; it was an obvious auto-correct fail, and her message was still clear, but she had spent days judging herself for it. When we dug in, two realities surfaced: she never judged others for their typos, and her executive leader sends moderately coherent messages (at best) on the regular – and no one judges him.

When you find you are judging yourself or having negative self-talk, it’s an opportunity for you to explore why you have that feeling and begin the process of letting it go.

Prioritize your Growth

Over the last year, I have spoken with countless professionals who have been trying to get to the next level in their careers but are struggling. The two things most people cite as their obstacles are lack of mentorship from their manager and limited training opportunities.

There is a presumption that managers are coaches who invest in their team’s growth, and that all companies provide numerous resources to help you grow.

The reality is starkly different – especially if you work in a startup or smaller company. Growing companies often lack the infrastructure to offer robust learning and development programs. In fact, most don’t have a person dedicated to this role until they have reached at least 200 team members (and often much more). Compounding this, many managers have limited people management experience, and they also lack the learning opportunities to become leaders who have the tools and knowledge to provide the mentorship their team members crave.

Even in large companies, there are bad managers and antiquated training programs that won’t help you navigate your career and grow your skills.

You have to take ownership for your own growth and success. If you don’t invest in yourself and commit to your own growth, you can’t expect anyone else to. 

The great news is, we live in the digital age, and there are so many resources available – many of which are both extremely valuable and totally free. This site provides you endless opportunities to learn and grow, and there are many other resources like books, YouTube videos, podcasts, LinkedIn articles, webinars, and Facebook groups.

Seriously, do a quick google search on what you’re trying to learn and I can guarantee you that you will have tens of thousands of results at your fingertips. Begin with investing your time into growing yourself.

If you have been utilizing free and low-cost resources and have taken them as far as you can, consider investing in conferences, courses, and mentorship. Many companies will reimburse at least a portion of your professional development expenses – talk to your manager or HR if you are considering one of these amazing resources.

Make learning a daily habit – go out of your way to find the right resource to acquire the knowledge or skills you need to grow into the professional you aspire to be.

What it All Comes Down To Is This…

Ultimately, if you want to expand your career success, and real your big lofty professional goals this year and beyond, you need to focus on yourself and commit to knowing and growing your awesomeness.

Once you realize how exceptional you are, and how much potential you have, other people are going to realize it as well. You deserve to have the career you want. Now go make it happen.