As someone who grew quickly from working for a small business to running one for someone, to then owning  my own -I often think about what lead me to where I am today, and I try to find ways to help others to accomplish the same. I worked hard, I put in the time, and above all, I gave tremendous thought to how what I contributed in my job would fit into the bigger picture for  overall success.   Whether you work for a small business, a major corporation, or something in between, I encourage you to consider these professional tips.

Take Responsibility

Your potential for success, much like your risk for failure, is more within your control than anyone else’s.  Yes, there are sometimes going to be things that happen that you hadn’t planned for – an economic downturn that results in a layoff, for instance.  However, taking personal responsibility for your own career is essential for professional success, and can create job stability, too.  Think you would benefit from additional skills training?  Then identify a class or training that will help you excel in your field, and talk to your supervisor about how to get it done.  Tell them how the training will help you be more productive each day, and how it will help lead to more success for the company.  Remember, it’s your responsibility to show your value in an organization.

Be a team player

Remember the old saying there’s no “I” in the word “team”?  This doesn’t ring any truer than it does in a small business environment.  Even just one employee who can’t figure out how to work in a team environment will stand out, and chances are, he/she won’t make it far in that job – or any other, for that matter.  Being part of a team should mean that you take the time to see beyond what impacts you directly, and that you can find a way to show support to others you work with.  Something simple – like picking up a sandwich for your cube-mate who may be stuck working through lunch on a deadline – will go a long way to being seen as a team player.  Next time, you might be the hungry one and on deadline, and they will remember to return the favor.

Show initiative 

There’s no bigger reward at work than being acknowledged for taking initiative (except maybe a raise, or a promotion, which are often both be the result of taking initiative!)  Think morale is a problem at work?  Offer to organize a pot luck or a fun team building activity instead of just complaining to your co-workers about it.  Have a great idea that can make a project even better – draft up a memo outlining the idea and present it to your supervisor for consideration.   Want a promotion at work?  Put together a self evaluation that outlines all of your accomplishments and identifies how you have gone above and beyond what is expected of you in your current position.  Showing initiative is also about proposing solutions, not just highlighting problems. If something isn’t going well in your job, bring it up – and offer some suggestions for how to make it better.  In a competitive job market like the one we’re in now, showing initiative isn’t about showing off, it’s about providing your own job security.

Ask Questions

No one expects you to have all the answers.  But if you want to be a great employee, you need to learn how to ask the right questions.  If you aren’t sure about what’s expected of you, ask for clarification.  Not clear when something is due? Be sure to confirm the project deadline before starting the assignment.  Don’t have all the information you  need to do a good job? Ask your peer – or your supervisor – where you can do a little more research.  Any time you are in doubt about how to complete a task or assignment at work, take the time to ask questions.  Doing so will help you get your project done right the first time, which leads to greater productivity and higher efficiency at work.  Not to mention the fact that asking questions will help you appear more confident, and interested in the quality of your work, to your employer.

Provide quality work

Everyone remembers that one “I know, I know kid” who rushed to get their test done first, only to have missed the back page of the test and then failed?  Don’t be that kid at work.  While it’s great to get an assignment completed in advance of its due date, don’t do it if it will risk the quality of your work. An employer would rather you turn an excellent assignment in on time, rather than an inferior assignment two days early.  Take the time to do the job right the first time.  Leave yourself enough time to check your work, or ask a colleague to review it for you to be sure it’s being submitted error-free.  And if that means you may need more time than originally allotted, don’t wait until the day it’s due to ask for an extended deadline. Show pride in every project you take on, and you’ll soon be acknowledged for it.

Recognizing how you can be a better employee, and taking the steps to get there, will help you be much more successful in business. Your goals may include public praise by your boss, taking on a new project, a raise or a promotion at work, or even one day, running your own business.  No matter your goal, be sure to do three things: find ways to employ the aforementioned tips, maintain a positive attitude, and put in a lot of hard work.  Your future, and your career success, depends on it.