Managing or Planning Your Career 1: Become known as good performer

When people start thinking about their career and how to improve it, they usually think about future jobs or the next promotion. While it is good to be future-focused and to have an idea of what should come next in their career, the actual starting point for managing one’s career is one’s current job. To stand a good chance of promotion in one’s present company or to obtain a more senior position elsewhere, it is essential to become known as an above-average performer.

But what does this actually entail? How does one move from being considered as “an ok worker” or one of the general group of workers who are deemed as ‘average performers’, to being perceived as ‘above average’ or an excellent performer?

Here are some approaches to improving your work performance reputation:

List out the key requirements for doing your job well. To find these requirements, dig out the job description and/or person specification for your position. You probably had a copy of these when you applied for the job. If you can’t find it, ask your boss or the HR department for a copy. Sometimes you won’t be able to obtain a copy of these as they simply might not exist! If that is the case, don’t despair – it’s not difficult to create them yourself!

Do a Google search for three to five advertisements for the type of job you do – it doesn’t matter if the ads are a few years old. From these advertisements, what skills, qualifications and experience are commonly required? These will be most of the key requirements for doing your job well. To these, you may need to add one or two requirements that are specific to your particular employment.

Rate yourself honestly against this list of key requirements – do you possess them all? If something is missing, plan how you are going to obtain it.

Next, clarify the KPI’s (key performance indicators) for your particular job and for your section or department. As “what is measured, gets done” is a quote that applies to nearly all organisations and sections within them, it is probable that your department is meeting its KPI’s. But what can you do to improve this performance either for yourself and for the department? If you can identify this and do something positive about it, you will be known as a good performer.

However, you need to go further. Ask your boss for a meeting about improving your performance. Ask him or her what factors exactly are you being assessed on – these may be your specific KPI’s, but there may be other aspects you haven’t thought about. These factors you need to focus on in future.

In this meeting, tell your boss you want to perform excellently within the next quarter, or half-year, or annual appraisal period, and ask what you need to do to be considered as an excellent performer. Write down whatever they say and later send them an email asking if your list is correct – this way you have an agreed record of the discussion.

Now, between the key requirements to do the job well, the KPI’s for yourself and the department, and, more importantly, your boss’s judgement about how to perform excellently, you have a list of what you need to focus on. So pay attention to these factors above everything else, and before long, you will be considered as an excellent worker!

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