Do you feel like no matter what you do, you just can't seem to get ahead in the workplace? Do you see your colleagues give presentations and get promotions and wonder how they can possibly have such natural confidence and success? If this sounds like you, don't worry, success and confidence aren't innate characteristics, but rather states that can be achieved through hard work and dedication.
If you want to become smarter than your coworkers, you need to implement these steps:
- Continue education
- Keep your mental health at the highest levels
- Gain professional and social skills
But dedication to what exactly? Dedication to attaining the hard skills necessary to improve one's career. Simply put, all that is required of an individual to get ahead in their vocation is a desire to improve their inner self. This is accomplished by working on three broad categories of self-improvement: continuing education, mental health, and the development of professional skills and relationships.
All three areas are somewhat interconnected, and each is essential to the success of this process. So, don't worry, if you thought that you were resigned to being second-best at work, there is hope yet for progress. While the process may sound overwhelming at first, as we take it step-by-step, you will soon find that improving your career prospects and passing your coworkers can be accomplished with a little simple work, education, and mindfulness.
Be honest with yourself, are you possibly being passed over for promotion because your skills aren't up to snuff? If you haven't invested in your professional education in years, this could be part of the reason why. Because if it has been decades since you last stepped foot in a lecture hall, your professional and intellectual skills have most likely atrophied in the interim. Education is a lifelong pursuit that clearly will have an impact on your job opportunities now and in the future.
Don't fret if this sounds like you, luckily the educational component is one of the easiest aspects to catch up on. This is because of the wealth of professional education opportunities that have sprung up in recent years, many of them are both surprisingly affordable and flexible for non-traditional students. An example of such growth would be the proliferation of online learning platforms, places where students can take courses, often for free.
These courses, depending on the specific platform, can be designed specifically to help students in furthering their careers. Thus, students would be silly not to take advantage of such opportunities, as the University of Georgia has shown that continuing education is a very effective way to increase your potential earnings. If you have found that you are consistently being passed up for promotions at work, it might be time to look into continuing education opportunities.
A couple of such online learning options are detailed below:
LinkedIn's own online learning platform offers a fully-featured educational experience that professional users of their social network will find particularly useful. This is because students can take courses for course completion credentials called certificates. These certificates can then be added to student's LinkedIn profiles, which can help anyone trying to network or stand out on the world's most popular professional social network.
If you would like to learn more about LinkedIn Learning certificates, and if they are worth it, be sure to read our helpful article here. LinkedIn Learning also has an affordable subscription model that any professional should consider if they want to ensure their own success. If you would like a more in-depth review of LinkedIn Learning, be sure to check out our review here.
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If LinkedIn Learning sounds like something you might be interested in, it should be noted that LinkedIn offers a great value in the form of a free one-month trial, available to everyone, that can be canceled at any time before they charge, no questions asked.
Coursera is a rival platform to LinkedIn Learning that has its own unique benefits and features. What differentiates this platform from its competitors is its educational partnerships with leading universities and companies it relies on to develop the content for its courses. This means that students can be assured of receiving a high-quality educational experience. Students also often have the ability to receive a digital badge accredited from a world-renown university that can be similarly helpful as LinkedIn Learning's certifications.
Coursera also has groups of courses that can be taken together in sequence, named specializations. These specializations can be a great way to build skills fast, if you'd like to learn more about Coursera's specializations be sure to click here.
Coursera also offers its own subscription model called Coursera Plus (Build A Better You In One Year With Coursera Plus), which allows students to take as many classes towards as many specializations as possible. If you would like to know more about Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, and specifically how the two compare, be sure to check out our full breakdown here.
An underrated aspect of professional development is one's own mental health, particularly confidence. While this can be a sensitive subject for some, it need not be. Especially when we focus on the positive outcomes we are hoping to achieve for both our careers and life in developing a more confident persona. While confidence may seem like an arbitrary aspect of mental health to focus on, it actually has an outsize impact on both one's career prospects and larger mental hygiene.
This is because multiple academic studies have shown that an interviewer forms their opinion of you and whether you are the right candidate for the job, in as little as four minutes. In those four minutes coming off as confident can be all that matters. Harvard has also shown that confident men are more likely to ask for and receive raises than their unconfident coworkers are.
At the end of the day, this just proves we are all social creatures. So, what are some ways that you can put into practice a more confident demeanor?
While not full proof the following tips should prove useful under a professional setting:
- Take pride in your personal appearance. Besides being good professional practice, grooming yourself will release endorphins that will make you feel good and give you more confidence.
- Make eye-contact to emphasize your point. Eye-contact is a powerful social tool and being willing to hold others gaze will signal to them that you are confident in both yourself and the subject you're talking about.
- Adopt an active listening posture. Position yourself so that your body is erect and open to whomever you are speaking with, this will make you seem like a more empathetic listener.
- Take time to compose your thoughts before you start to speak. Doing so will not only naturally give your words more gravity, but it will also help your brain keep up with what you want to say.
Of course, the above advice may be easier said than done for someone who can perfectly compose their thoughts but has no control over physical phenomenon such as nervous ticks or shaking when speaking. For such people, a few simple meditative practices may prove useful.
If you find yourself nerve-wracked with social situations, try the following to imbue yourself with confidence:
- Head to the bathroom before your next big presentation or interview and try adopting “power poses” in the privacy of a stall. These poses have been shown to trick the body and mind into forming a more confident posture which can be calming and an effective anti-anxiety practice for some.
- Focus on being present in your body. Remind yourself of the stakes of the situation and know that even if you make a mistake most people will be kind and forgiving and you will end up being okay.
- Feel free to write and keep notes in front of you for easy reference, this will show others you are prepared and serious about the task at hand, while also giving you something to do if you find you need a moment to compose yourself.
- Simple breathing exercises, such as cycles of inhaling slowly for seven seconds and exhaling for three seconds, have been shown to reduce anxiety.
- Try to remember that almost everyone is more concerned with their own personal appearance in any given moment than that of your own.
- Practice what you are going to say and possible questions you may receive ahead of time. Even if you don't get any of the questions you prepared for, the practice itself should help to calm and reassure yourself in your abilities.
Professional Skills and Networking
But what if you now feel like you are just as skilled and mentally capable as your coworkers, but you still can't seem to get ahead? This result can often be attributed to hard to define soft professional skills and networking. This doesn't mean that nothing can be done about the matter, on the contrary, this is another area that can be improved upon with effort.
It is helpful to remember that while your professional relationships may be transactional in nature, it is best for all parties involved to take office politics out as a factor in your career advancement. In short, it helps you advance your career if people you work with like you. So, if you are wondering why you still seem to be struggling to achieve that promotion, it may be due to a crucial lack of these soft professional skills.
Networking is an often-crucial factor in how a job opening gets filled these days. These professional networks aren't solely based in your physical world anymore either. As we discussed above, LinkedIn's professional social network is one of the best tools a job seeker has at their disposal. This advantage is compounded if users also take courses on LinkedIn Learning. Succinctly, this is because of the networking advantage students have in showing off their skills digitally. If you would like to know more specifics on how LinkedIn Learning can help almost any job seeker, be sure to check out our guide here.
The following can be useful to consider when trying to improve such professional skills and networking abilities:
- Be open to learning from your coworkers. For example, if a colleague has just given a presentation you found useful, offer them praise and ask them questions you may have about any specific details. This will show them that you are a receptive collaborator who appreciates others' hard work and talents.
- Try to be cognizant of other people's feelings and backgrounds, even unintentional offense can be lethal to a promising career.
- Work to find solutions to problems everyone knows exist. If you are able to solve something everyone will notice, you will surely improve your career prospects in the process of doing so.
- Don't pass up a chance to socialize with your coworkers outside of office hours. If you find that you always pass on work parties or dinners, this may be a crucial reason why no one thinks of you when it comes time to consider promotions.
- Come in early, stay late, alternate. Everyone's work schedule is going to differ, by varying the times that you come in and leave work, you show a dedication to your job to every possible array of your coworkers and supervisors.
- Take advantage of educational opportunities from both inside and out of your company. This could include options such as attending professional association conferences, gaining certifications, or improving your skills on learning platforms such as Coursera or LinkedIn Learning.
As you have hopefully come to agree, the skills required to impress your bosses and pass your coworkers for your next job promotion aren't unattainable in the least. In fact, with a little bit of application and work, the necessary skills and education can be had by anyone willing to apply themselves. While it can be disheartening to be passed over for a job you felt overqualified for, hopefully now you are aware of some of the possible reasons why, and common-sense solutions anyone can employ to overcome them.
We've talked about the importance of education to career advancement and how attainable such skills now are thanks to online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera. We discussed the importance of developing healthy mental habits, that when practiced correctly, can lead to a more confident and career-attractive you. And lastly, we touched on some of the common professional roadblocks faced by those with poor soft professional or networking skills. We hope that you enjoyed our three simple tips to help advance any career and be sure to check us out at IQ Unlock, for more great career advice.