Opportunity Knocks: Make Sure 2013 is Your Year for Big Change

Looking back, you feel like you did everything right in 2012. You worked long hours. You were at the boss’ beck and call. And yet, everyone around you seemed to get richer and to gain more success, while you stayed stuck in the same old cubicle. It’s time for that to change. The first step is to hold up a mirror and really examine what you’re putting in at work. Long hours don’t always mean you’re more productive than everyone else. If you are working longer hours and still getting nowhere, it is important to objectively assess the value of your output. For example, how much time do you spend complaining? Do you have to discuss every issue ad infinitum no matter how small? Are you a high maintenance or low maintenance employee? Are you stealing time from the company to manage your personal life and counting it as work? Figure out how to become truly productive and to continuously make progress toward project goals. The success you seek will follow.

Go boldly after your BIG goals. When is the last time you set a goal and really went after it? Identify their “Big Things”—those goals that connect to their passionate vision. Then choose one to schedule their day around. For example, your Big Thing might be to get promoted. So today you might agree to take on a high-profile work project in order to put you in the running for that promotion. Set a target date for each of your Big Things and begin working steadily toward achieving each of them. Start strong and you’ll experience genuine elation from achieving real goals and solving real problems.

Settling for less than you’re worth is a big mistake—even in the wake of the Great Recession.

Don’t underprice yourself. You’d love to ask for more money but frankly, you’re afraid to.The economy still isn’t great so I’d better lie low, you reason. This just seems like common sense.  In fact, if you’re in the running for a new job or promotion, it might even cost you the opportunity. When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves because I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.

Make sure you stand out. Many people get stuck in ruts at work because they become viewed as commodities. Commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job—whether you’re an employee, a leader, or an entrepreneur. After all, if the people you’re working with know that others share your skill set, they won’t have any reason to pay you more or give you advanced opportunities. They’ll be in control, not you. Do everything you can to ensure that you aren’t seen as interchangeable or dispensable.

Network with big players. Generally, we tend to gravitate toward people who are similar to us: people who think similarly, who find similar things fun, and who are in similar walks of life. That’s fine when it comes to your friendships, but you need to aim higher when it comes to networking. More than 60 percent of people find jobs through networking, for example, and you can bet that most of them didn’t achieve this goal because they knew someone at the bottom of the pecking order. Make every effort to meet people who are a rung or two higher than you on the professional ladder. If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent to yours.

Turn off cyberspace. There’s no greater blow to productivity than breaking your concentration to reply to an email as soon as it hits your inbox. Remember, no award will be handed out at the end of the day for the person who responded to the most emails the fastest. If you’re doing nothing but responding to email, you’re bouncing around like a pinball. If you let it, it will absolutely distract you from more important tasks. If you can’t bring yourself to close your email box, at least turn off the sound alert and pop-ups so you won’t have the annoying ‘ping’ sound and flash notification every time a potential time-waster drops out of cyberspace and into your mental space.

Have confidence in your abilities. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach any goal you set for yourself if you don’t believe with your whole heart that achieving it is possible. Among other things, you won’t be confident enough to take calculated risks if you don’t believe that the limitations in front of you are surmountable. Stop feeling guilty and stay true to your goals. Surround yourself with friends, family, and peers who support your vision. Discard all discouraging messages. These are your passions and goals, not anyone else’s.