Do you dream of being the world’s most awesome coworker? You might have your sights set on climbing the career ladder, earning promotions and becoming a leader or department director someday, but few people recognize that the path to greater advancement starts right here and now: by being the best peer and the most reliable teammate in the office. Before you can become the world’s greatest boss, you’ll need to become the world’s greatest regular employee. Here’s how.

Pull your weight

When you’re pulling your weight, it FEELS like you’re pulling much more than your weight. This is a secret that great team players already know and everyone else has yet to figure out. Don’t be taken advantage of (especially not by your boss or the company itself), but when a fellow team member needs a hand, seems to be carrying a heavy load, has a question, or gets overwhelmed, step up. It won’t go unnoticed. This also applies when a big burdensome task sits like an elephant in the middle of the room, unclaimed and unowned. Step up and own the task! Take on the hassle and you’ll also take the credit that comes with it.

Know how to read the room and the situation

Some moments call for leadership. Some call for stepping back and letting someone else lead. Some call for obedient following. Some call for following but chiming in on the direction and method of approach. Sometimes leadership and teamwork are both required almost at the same time. Learning to read the nuances of a situation and sort out which hat to wear at which time can be the true test of your value as an employee—and as a person.

Keep the goals in mind at all times

Most of us have two sets of goals during any team endeavor: The team’s goals and our own personal goals. The team may want to create a winning proposal and land the new account. You personally may want to contribute great material to the proposal, so you can impress your supervisor and land a promotion. Both goals are essential, and both goals are more important than the minor diversions and distractions that arise along the way. Keep them both in mind during the entire process.

Recognize when something isn’t about you

You might be tired, or hungry, or itchy, or bored with the meeting agenda or irritated with one of your team members for non-work-related reasons. You might want everyone to recognize a special skill you have or the patience you’re struggling to show in the face of a certain frustration. But if the discussion isn’t about you, then it isn’t about you. Try to keep your own issues out of the conversation and off the table. Don’t let your personal demons, desires, bad habits or tendencies get the best of you. Stay focused on others.

For more on how to put the team first and yourself second, turn to the career management experts at Extension.


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