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The Best Career Advice You Didn’t Ask For

Lesser known tips that you should take to heart in your career journey.

To excel at work, you need to be more than just good at what you do. You may not have heard these eight tips but they can guide you towards true job happiness and success.

1. Embrace “failure” as a life lesson

Even if something doesn’t go your way, it’s important to think of it as an experience or life lesson, says Paul Heng, founder and managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group.

“If you take this approach, then there are no wins or successes, no failures or mistakes; only life lessons. And whichever way things turn out, you get something from the experience by reflecting on what went right or wrong, what worked and what didn’t, what you can change, and how you can improve.”

2. Find the value in criticism

“Everyone needs a mirror to allow us to see what we can’t see,” says Paul. “When you’re criticised or given feedback, think of it as receiving valuable information about your actions. It’s all about perception. You may think you’re doing the right thing or behaving the right way, but the people you work with may think otherwise and they may not be afraid to tell you so. If your mind is closed to their feedback or suggestions for improvement, you hold yourself back from doing better or making positive changes.”   

3. Do what you say you’ll do

Make reliability a part of your brand. “A good example might be meeting a deadline or showing up at a specified time,” Paul explains. “If you say you’re going to do something by a certain date or at a certain time, do it. This demonstrates responsibility and a respect for other people’s schedules. Once again, perception is important. If you’re known as someone who can be relied upon to keep his word, it’ll become your brand. Perceptions, once formed, are difficult to undo.”

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up

Paul says it’s good to ask questions, to disagree with your bosses or colleagues, and to admit you don’t know something. This is how we learn, grow and thrive in a job. It also doesn’t hurt to let others know what you think or feel about a particular subject, as this encourages discussion. Most of us are hardwired to remain silent at work, for fear that our opinions will be rejected, but speaking up can help promote innovation. Plus, you may be seen as proactive, influential and a problem solver.   

5. Never stop learning

“Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and in today’s fast-changing world, refusing to learn can hinder you from progressing,” Paul says. “Read and research extensively, even about things that have nothing to do with your career. Ask questions and learn from others. Knowledgeable people don’t just know more; they also stay relevant for longer.”

6. Set and manage others’ expectations from the start

When starting a new job, Paul says it’s useful to decide what expectations you want others to have of you. For instance, if you work for a multinational company, you may not want your colleagues in the overseas locations to contact you after Singapore office hours. If they email or message you after office hours, they shouldn’t expect to hear from you until you’re back at your desk the next day.

“It’s different if they need you to respond urgently, of course, but over time your colleagues will learn what to expect or not expect from you,” says Paul. “With so many people now working from home a few times a week, it’s important to draw boundaries between your job and personal life so you don’t burn out. Your colleagues should understand this, too.”

7. Find a mentor and be a mentor

When you need advice, it’s good to turn to someone with more experience than you. But that person doesn’t have to be your boss; you could approach someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in what you do. You can also “give back” by agreeing to mentor someone if asked.

“Mentoring is a two-way street,” Paul points out. “Mentors can learn from mentees if they are good listeners and willing to ask questions. A healthy mentor-mentee relationship has at least three components – mutual respect, a willingness to share, and a commitment to allocating quality time to meet each other regularly.”

8. Build bridges

Building close relationships with your colleagues is about finding common ground, imparting values to one another, and sharing ideas and opinions, says Paul. It’s about forming alliances without any agendas and engaging and connecting with one another – so you know that when the going gets tough, those people will have your back and stick up for you.

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