Making your workplace work for you.

Everyone knows about Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I have a few suggestions of my own to help you succeed in the workplace.

1.  Arrive earlier than your boss, or at least try to.

One of the best things you can do to advance your career–besides your stellar performance–is being punctual.  Your boss is your boss for a reason and if you have any higher career aspirations than whatever it is you are already doing, showing up early is a great way to show him/her that you are serious and dedicated to the cause.  If your boss usually arrives at 8:30 and you're not due in until 9, it will not only impress him/her that you are there at 8:20, but you'll find you will also be more productive.  (That precious 30 minutes - 60 minutes before everyone else shows up allows you catch up on your emails in peace and possibly have a pow-wow with your boss before he/she becomes too distracted by the day to connect with you.) 

Set your alarm and aim to arrive early a few days a week, and come review and bonus time you'll be thanking me for your promotion and hefty raise.

2.  Dress for the job you want, not for the one you have.

Unless you're suited up everyday on Wall Street or well-heeled working at a glossy mag, a lot of offices can be fairly casual.  You start out in your best duds during your first few weeks, trying to look your best and not too "business casual", and then you get comfortable and break out the wrinkled khakis and polo shirts.  All fine and dandy if if's July 3rd and you're the only one in the office working, or if you're content to never advance from the level where you are, but my guess is that you'd eventually like a bigger piece of the pie, if for no other reason than to make a dent in your student loans! 

Thing is, no one will come out and tell you that your wardrobe looks like something from Little House on the Prairie or from the Gap Outlet.  Or that your hair looks like the ratty pony-tailed shag that it is.  Your image will just become something that is associated with you in the mind of your boss and he/she will never put you in a networking position or give you the opportunity to expose yourself with higher executives of your firm (i.e. business drinks or dinner with colleagues or clients) because he/she doesn't think you look the part to be in such company.  And he/she will be right if you're dressed like a college intern at a radio station.

I had a co-worker once who–I'm sure–was brilliant at her job, but I could never get past the fact that she looked as if she was outfitted from the clearance bin at Dress Barn and that she never wore so much as a lip gloss–let alone lipstick!–to brighten her what I'm sure was pretty face underneath those octagon-shaped glasses circa 1980 and heavy droopy hair.  I knew she could afford to dress much better than she did and I could never understand why she didn't.

Point being, you want to be known for your quality of work and not your lackluster appearance.

I don't have to tell you that image is important and especially so in the workplace.  If you notice that your boss and other executives largely dress in crisp suits or the like, and you aspire for the corner office one day–or even to get out of the cubby–take a cue from those above you and dress the part.  Invest in a few great pieces: suit, jacket, a few crisp button downs, pencil skirts, nice shoes.  (You don't have to break the bank.  A J.Crew jaunt can dud you up just fine.)  You will naturally assume a more confident air, and your performance will improve and you might not get overlooked the next time a promotion presents itself.

3. Be the change.

We rarely hear this in the context of a workplace, but the same theory applies.  If you want for your boss to give you more responsibilities, just start assuming them.  For example, if you have access to your boss's emails and typically don't do more than scan them, start reading them to better understand your company's business and consider the items that are appropriate for you as action items.  If you see that Bob, your CEO that sits in your Chicago office, or that Jean, the CFO in Chicago, have been trying to connect with your boss regarding x,y,z, proactively bring it to your boss's attention and ask if you should try and connect them during a specific window of time that day.  Or if you know your boss has a meeting in twenty minutes and has just received the deck for the meeting in his email, print it and deliver to him/her in case he would prefer to view it that way.  It also doesn't hurt to create your own projects and bring to your boss's attention by seeking his/her advice on the best way for you to execute them, or to ask if you can sit in on a meeting or two to take notes (as an example). 

Basically, if you change your behavior and become more proactive, your boss, and other colleagues, won't help but notice and soon your plate will be full of more interesting things and more will be expected of you, just as you wanted.

4.  Whenever your boss invites you anywhere, at any time, go.

It doesn't matter that you have plans with someone you haven't seen in three months, or were going to catch the latest IMAX release after work.  If your boss comes to you at the last minute at asks if you want to grab a beer or invites you to his kid's twelve year old birthday party, go. 

Because what's happening is that your boss likes you as a person, values you as an employee and envisions greater things for you so you'd better go.  Graciously accept and talk shop over a beer or play pin the tail on the donkey at the party.  This social activity will pay greater dividends in the long run. 

In short, once your boss signals that he/she would like to spend time with you out of the office, make yourself available and recognize it for the opportunity that it is. 

However, when you do seize the opportunity, don't be a drunken ass, boast about it in the office or constantly bring it up to he/she  after the event about how awesome it was (he/she's your boss, not a sorority sister).

These are just a few tips to help you develop your best career.  With the marketplace remaining as competitive as it is, stepping up your game at work can only assist in your career advancement.