Your professional life is so important. Not only does it determine your income, but it also determines where you will spend most of your waking life. Therefore it stands to reason that in order to truly be successful, we need to enjoy our work.
Yet the overwhelming majority of people don’t. A recent global poll by Gallup showed that only 15% of people are fully engaged at work, meaning that 85% of people struggle with wanting to be there. How did we get here?
There are probably a lot of reasons. Most of us don’t know what we’re good at or why we’re here, making it difficult to position ourselves in something we’d find fulfilling. Others are simply chasing money or security at the expense of purpose and feel disillusioned as a result.
However, I’m convinced that there are people who are determined to live with purpose and are willing to work hard for their money and simply need some guidance to advance professionally. Here are 7 principles that will enhance your professional life. These principles will help you stand out, climb the right ladder, and become part of the 15% of people who find true joy in their work.
1. Be Authentic
Everyone wants to be treated with honesty. No one likes being lied to, and no one wants to engage with people they don’t trust. That’s why people are drawn to authenticity, and it’s one of the easiest ways for you to stand out from the crowd.
2. Know Your Value
No one else is like you. That means you bring unique power to the table that no one else does. Grasping this fact and using it to your advantage will change your life. “But I don’t know what unique value I bring,” you may be saying. Fair point, and there’s things you can do about that.
First, write down everything you think you’re good at. You don’t have to be a pro, you just have to be competent. Rank these skills in order of how confident you are in them. Do the same thing with the things you enjoy, but in order of what you would spend the most time doing if you had complete freedom.
Second, select a small number of close friends, colleagues, and family members that you trust. These must be people that you trust and who have spent significant time with you. Then draft a personalized email to each of these people and ask them to help you identify your strengths, passions, and unique qualities. Focus on identifying the following things:
- What gets you most energized
- How you tend to make people feel
- When you seem focused
- What you do better than other people
- Skills that you excel in
Next, take whatever it is that they say and gobble it up. Receive everything positive in their feedback. Pay especially close attention to the things that surprise you, the things that resonate with you, and the patterns that emerge.
Finally, take the JPI personality assessment and compare the results with what you and others have said about you.
Doing all of these things will skyrocket your self awareness and conviction of your worth. Take notes of the weaknesses, but focus and meditate on the positive things you discover. These are what will advance your professional life.
3. Sharpen Your Value
Once you discover your gifts and abilities, stop at nothing to use them more than you are currently. If you can’t use them in your current job, create a 3-12 month plan to transition into one that will either involve those skills directly or give you more flexibility to do them on the side. Find something that you would do for free and find a way to get paid for it. If possible, find ways to offload the things you hate doing to other people who are better at them. Above all, don’t spend your time on things you’re bad at. Focus your energy on what you’re good at.
4. Find Your Ideal Marketplace
No matter how enterprise-oriented you think you aren’t, there is probably an industry that will resonate with you. You’d be amazed at how a little bit of interest in the subject matter of your work can make you enjoy it, even if the work itself isn’t directly related to the product or service.
For instance, you may be working in corporate finance for a company that sells accounting software and hate your job. Such a situation may make you think that you hate finance. But what if you found a job doing finance in an industry that interested you? Are you a foodie with a passion for plant-based diets? Reach out to some companies that you buy from and ask if they have any finance jobs available! Contributing towards something that matters to you can completely change your satisfaction with your professional life.
To identify your ideal marketplace, just start paying closer attention to what you’re interested in and the companies you buy from. Imagine doing what you currently do for them instead of who you’re working for now. Then do some research and see what’s out there!
JFK famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I would say the same thing about your professional life in whatever company you work for. The reality is that your job doesn’t exist for you. It exists for the customer and company that you’re serving. Few take on this mindset, but when you are genuinely grateful to have work, you become a prize to your employers. Simply asking your supervisor what more you can do (and being prepared to follow through) will gain you a lot of favor, appreciation, and visibility.
6. Advance with Integrity
You will be tempted to do things when no one is looking that would benefit you in the short run at the expense of your coworkers, employees, boss, and customers. Don’t. Weigh every action you take as though those people were watching you. If you jump at the thought of these people seeing what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Not only does following this principle keep you from a lot of unwanted stress, but it also will increase your reputation and keep it safe. A damaged reputation will kill your professional life, and it’s very difficult to come back from it.
7. Communicate Well, Even When Others Don’t
Most people don’t follow up, check in, or clearly state their intentions and perceptions. More often, people assume they are being understood when this is a very dangerous thing for relationships. In other words, don’t expect people to communicate with you the way that you would like them to.
Nevertheless, strive to be clear, courteous, and thorough in your communication with others. Practice empathy and seek to understand others even when they aren’t doing the same for you. This can be painful and will push your patience, but it’s worth it. Even when they don’t say it or show it, people notice when they are treated this way and remember you well for it. Furthermore, you’ll find more people trying to be more like you the more you practice these things. You will become a leader no matter what your position is, and you will earn the respect of many.
Invest in Your Professional Life with JPI
Right now we’re giving away free E books with actionable next steps to enhance your career. We at the Journey Principles Institute wrote these to help hardworking people like you stop spinning their wheels and get the professional life they deserve. You lose nothing by grabbing these resources, so take advantage of them while they’re still available.