So you’re a few months deep into the new gig and doubt starts creeping in. Are you meeting the promise of your perfectly formatted resume and fawning references?
Here’s the good news: Self-reflection is healthy. If you’re in a position to question your job performance at all, you’re already on the right track. Now you just have to breathe, look back on your past and plan for your future. As you reflect, you might find a few opportunities to pat yourself on the back for all the things you’re already doing right.
Click through to see what it takes to climb the career ladder.
You Negotiated Your Salary
Before you signed on, you knew the average starting salary for your position, you prepared a pitch that spoke for your job experience and maybe you even made a counteroffer or worked out non-salary perks in a compensation package. If you use these negotiating tactics, you’re not just getting yourself more money, you are also proving that you’re savvy, strong and growth-oriented.
In 2017, 57 percent of respondents to a PayScale survey said that they’d never negotiated salary in their current field. If you did, that already gives you a leg up on more than half of your peers. You’re the cream of the crop.
You’ve Made Yourself Visible
Oftentimes, being the new person means laying low, but laying low doesn’t invite collaboration. If you contribute to pitch meetings, make a positive impact on projects, volunteer from time to time or even just raise your hand a lot to offer additional insights, you’re already making yourself visible.
And when it comes time for leadership to consider raises or promotions, being at the forefront of your boss’ mind will definitely come in handy.
You’re Learning New Skills
If your time on the job has netted you a new skill or two, you’re making progress, but you shouldn’t stop there. “Look for courses, training, volunteer opportunities or educational resources,” said Nancy Anderson, job search coach of Blackbird Learning.
As Central Connecticut State University’s Continuing Education Center points out, learning new skills on the job means that you’re increasing the production of performance-increasing brain chemicals and likely making valuable new connections along the way.
Click to get tips on how to land your dream job.
Your Social Media’s On Point
It’s critical you maintain a work-friendly online presence. As former corporate communications director at IAC Justine Sacco infamously learned, just one off-color joke to a mere 170 Twitter followers can wreak havoc on both your career and your personal life.
If you already have your LinkedIn totally on-brand, make sure your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are free from past and current gaffes. By doing this, you’re actively securing your present position and future opportunities. Take Harvard Business Review’s advice: “The more that posts are tailored to specific circles in a social world, the less risk there is that they will cause offense or embarrassment.”
You Feel Challenged
Let’s get this one straight: Feeling challenged at work isn’t always a bad thing. Melissa Thompson of Inc. called complacency “the world’s worst mentality” while “challenging yourself is the best thing you’ll ever do.”
Feeling challenged on the job means that you’re motivated, you have the self-confidence to take on important projects and you’re willing to take the risks that will move you and your company forward — all good things.
No matter how new you are at your job, we bet you’ve met a few people along the way. Don’t forget to count that among your victories.
Organic networking is crucial to personal and professional growth, so don’t sleep on the connections you’ve already made. Writing for Totaljobs, Claire Young, founder of the UK-based “School Speakers” business workshop agency, said that building your network is the number one most important thing you can do to advance your career. Kudos if you’re already doing it.
You Took a Pay Cut
If you’re beating yourself up over accepting a pay cut, stop. There’s a very good chance that that pay cut was a smart move that’ll make your career a little richer in the long run.
If you’re taking a little less pay in order to enter a new industry, make a lateral move, reap the rewards of better benefits, or even just take on a position that’s a little closer to home, you’re looking out for yourself and your future. As Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldman said in a 2016 Freakonomics podcast, plenty of professional women, in particular, not only prefer temporal flexibility to cash, they often leverage that flexibility into stronger careers.
In a 2017 Inc. column, Lamson Consulting CEO Melissa Lamson said that the absolute most important quality an employee can possess is agility, the ability to “react and respond to changing needs and customer desires and to the moving parts in our global business world.”
Have you flexed your usual pipeline to meet a customer’s needs? Have you reprioritized your work to accommodate a new strategy or test? If so, that’s agility, and your employer appreciates it.
You Ask Thoughtful Questions
When it comes to cutting yourself some slack, don’t forget the small stuff. CloserIQ CEO Jordan Wan told GOBankingRates to “Go beyond shallow questions” and “let your intellectual curiosity take over” at work.
Good questions do more than just show that you care — they do that, too, though. Avoiding stock questions means that you’re also avoiding stock answers, and in turn, you’re helping your collaborators think outside of the box. Like Odgis + Co President Janet Odgis said to HuffPost, “asking the wrong questions can produce the right answers.”
You Don’t Compare Yourself
Tom Schin of AccuStaff recommended ignoring what others are doing in the office. “Someone else may have a better work friendship with this person, or that person. Someone else may have gotten away with taking a longer lunch break than you. Who cares?”
If you’re already avoiding the minefield of constant comparison and focusing more on what you’re doing than on what “they’re” doing, you’re off to an admirable — and productive — start. Schin continued, “Just go about your business, be a team player, and contribute more than what’s asked of you.”
You Stay Positive
Are you a downer at work? If you answered “no,” congratulations — you’re already doing it right. On a personal level, staying positive and being an office cheerleader is one of the best jobs you can have.
Take it from the University of Minnesota’s “Work Attitudes”: “Satisfied and committed people are absent less frequently and for shorter duration, are likely to stay with a company longer, and demonstrate less aggression at work. Just as important, people who are happy at work are happier with their lives overall.” You’ll experience incredible benefits just for having the right attitude.
You Pay It Forward
Just like being positive, the importance of simple, humane and just plain nice gestures in the workplace can’t be overstated. Whether you’ve bought your office buddy a latte out of the blue or made it a habit to plant vegan donuts in the break room once a month, you’ve earned a pat on the back.
Speaking to U.S. News and World Report, workplace psychology expert Melody Wilding said, “We’ve all experienced the boost that happens when we lend a helping hand to someone else … [which is why] giving back to your team is a surefire happiness hack.”
You’ve Got a Game Plan
Settling is never the key to success. You’re doing something right if you’ve already got your sights on advancement.
That said, desire isn’t enough. Give yourself props if you know exactly what the route toward advancement is and you’re making moves toward it, such as participating in training programs or prepping a detailed roadmap to a particular position.
You Focus on Your Strengths
Think back on those project meeting minutes. When designing the newsletter came up, you jumped at the opportunity to finally put your graphic design minor to use. Or maybe you just volunteered to make a few fundraising calls because you worked as a canvasser one summer. Whatever the case, you’re playing to your strengths, and that’ll take you far.
“A wealth of evidence highlights the potential gains of a strengths-based approach both for the individual and the organization,” said Lead Academy founder Robert Rosales, noting that focusing on and owning your individual strengths leads to lower stress and improved work performance.
You Shoot the Breeze
This isn’t a summer job at the movie theater, so don’t worry about your manager berating you for a little socializing. According to Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace report, having a sub-par relationship with the manager is the number one reason employees feel disengaged at work.
Just making simple efforts to engage your boss and peers in a little chit-chat — not gossip or long monologues, mind you — isn’t slacking off, it’s actively making the overall work experience more enjoyable and engaging. Good job on that one.
You’re in It for the Long Run
According to 2016 data from the Society for Human Resource Management, every new hire costs employers an average of $4,129. So if you’re not planning to jump ship this year or the next, you’ve already made yourself a good investment for your company.
More than that, job-hopping could make you miss promotions or leave a scarlet letter on your resume in case you do need to find new work in the future. Your stability isn’t a given to take for granted — it’s an absolute asset.
About the Author
Dan is an honors graduate of western Kentucky’s Murray State University and has been a freelance writer and full-time creative since 2009, in addition to co-founding and co-owning two active media production businesses – one for the west coast in Los Angeles, California, and one for the east in Cincinnati, Ohio. As an independent creative professional with a scroll-like resume of both blue collar and white collar experience and a longtime business writer, Dan has been fortunate enough to publish with the likes of Chron.com, Fortune, The Motley Fool, Career Trends, Bizfluent, MSN Money, Legal Beagle, San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, USA Today, Builder’s Capital, Salon.com and Zacks.com, among others. He’s also offered his words to such diverse brands as ASUS, Kellog’s, Discover, Sony Pictures, Samsung, Linksys, LIVESTRONG, Office Depot, Canon Inc., Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation and Verizon, as well as frequently writing in the fields of entertainment, travel, fitness, lifestyle and fashion.