7 Ways to Be Better At Your Job in 2014

Business people looking at adhesive notes in conference room
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By Aaron Guerrero

With 2013 nearly in the history books, some employees may regret their work performance over the past year. Others may have turned in a respectable performance but came up short in receiving a promotion.

While you may be unsure about where your career stands heading into the new year, you should feel optimistic as you plot out new ways to accomplish what you want.
"The new year's a time when you can set new goals," says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a Generation Y consultant firm, and author of "Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success." The new year is also a time for companies to provide guidance on what employees should strive for in their positions, says Janette Marx, senior vice president of Adecco, a worldwide employment agency.

"In many companies, it's the time to reflect on how you performed over the past year and what you can do to capitalize on even greater productivity in the year to come, or capitalize on your strengths and get more out of what you do well," she says.

To ensure a better professional showing in 2014, follow the tips below.

Embrace your performance review.

Some companies may kick off the new year with a performance review. Understandably, employees might dread the prospect of their boss picking apart their work from the past 12 months. Respectfully and calmly express what you think you've done well, and try to find the middle ground between any dueling perceptions about your performance. Marry the differences between the competing visions, Marx says, and "realize what you need to do to be even better in the next year."

Strengthen your relationship with your boss.

Exchanging feedback with your boss shouldn't begin and end with a performance review. If your schedules allow, book a weekly meeting to address administrative hurdles and prevent miscommunication and friction from bubbling up. "Employees who have a favorable relationship with their supervisors – a relationship in which they feel safe and supported – may be more likely to go above and beyond what is required of them," according to a 2012 report by the Society for Human Resource Management. The report, which surveyed 600 employees, revealed that 94 percent of respondents believed the relationship with their supervisor was either important or very important to job satisfaction. For your boss's part, he or she should also instill a sense of mission about your job and your role in "achieving the goals of that department and of the company overall," Marx says.

Form new relationships with colleagues.

The Society for Human Resource Management report also found that 91 percent of employees believe relationships with co-workers was either important or very important to job satisfaction. As the report noted, "Forming positive relationships at work may make the workplace and work more enjoyable and increase job satisfaction and engagement." If you isolated yourself from colleagues in 2013, aim to increase your outreach efforts and develop a give-and-take rapport with those around you. "If you surround yourself with positive colleagues, people who really make an impact in the business, and you give to them and help them on what they're working on, you'll find that you get that back even more," Marx says. If you prefer a more exclusive mentorship, ask a colleague if he or she is open to regular confabs.

Master your time.

The quality of your work may be overshadowed by the tardy fashion in which you're submitting it. Too much time spent responding to personal emails or surfing social networks may be throwing you off course. To conquer your distractions, use technology specifically geared toward keeping you organized, Schawbel advises. He recommends Evernote, software that helps you make to-do lists, set up reminders and keep important meeting notes and tasks synced across all your devices. Or, he says, "use any type of software that can help better lock down what you need to do and when you have to do it by, in a level of importance of each task."

Branch out.

Out of fear or laziness, you may have passed on assignments outside the purview of your job description, and as a result, lowered your chance of earning a promotion. According to a 2013 CareerBuilder study of 2,076 hiring managers and human resource professionals, 71 percent of employers reported passing on promotions due to employees saying "that's not my job." However, if you've ably performed in your position, "ask for more work or identify opportunities where you can connect your skills to different problems," Schawbel says. Taking a more proactive approach shows your boss that you're serious about earning a promotion and pay raise, he notes.

Make yourself indispensable.

While you may be a decent employee, you've failed to demonstrate that the company would be worse off without you around. "There's a lot of things you can do to help a company and showcase just by your very presence that they're better for having you onboard and on their staff than they are when you're not there," Marx says. Some of those actions include showing up early and staying late as needed, double- and triple-checking your work, submitting work on time or ahead of schedule and using your extra time to help others around you.

Be productive outside your office.

Your job shouldn't begin and end at your desk. During your downtime at home, track down authorities in your field on social media and follow them. They may provide pithy tweets or Facebook posts that inspire you to change work habits that are holding you back. To keep up with your industry and where it's heading, regularly read related blogs, Schawbel advises.

Also, if you're struggling with a particular aspect of your job, Schawbel suggests visiting online educational sites such as the Khan Academy and Skillshare. Khan Academy offers thousands of free lessons on a host of subjects, including computer programming, economics, finance and math, while also allowing you to track your learning progress. With instruction from professionals, Skillshare offers numerous cost-friendly lessons on everything from social media strategy to the basics of Adobe Photoshop. Let the sites serve as a substitute mentor if your boss or colleagues are too preoccupied to share their expertise. Joining professional associations can also help you gain "more knowledge of your industry and relevant content that you can bring back into the workplace," Schawbel says.

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