How to Excel at Work

We reveal our top tips on how to excel at work with the top 9 skills and habits you need to impress your boss. Learn more and earn that much-deserved promotion.

The pandemic saw one of the most candidate-driven markets in history, where the number of job vacancies greatly outweighed the number of applicants. This led to record-high starting salaries, healthy pay rises and plenty of opportunities for promotions. However, the market is now beginning to stabilise and applicants no longer hold all the power. Job candidates now need to work that little bit harder to stand out from the crowd, negotiate higher salaries and earn promotions.

Maybe you’ve been in the same position for a few years and are looking to take the next step, or you’ve only just started in a new role and want to fast-track your career. Whatever stage you’re at, it’s only natural that you want to progress. But, the question is: how?

There is no one trick when it comes to knowing how to excel at work, but there are a few things you can be doing to get the attention of your employers and support your professional development. The key is not to compare yourself to others, but instead, take action and make positive changes to better yourself and improve the value you bring to your team.

We reveal the top 9 skills and habits you need to impress your boss and excel in your role.

Our top 9 tips to fast-tracking your career progression

  1. Adopt a business mindset and understand your company's vision
  2. Build a good relationship with your boss
  3. Be a good team player
  4. Demonstrate excellent communication skills
  5. Maintain a professional attitude at work
  6. Take initiative and set a positive example
  7. Be open to feedback and don’t be afraid to ask for help
  8. Expand your knowledge and skill set regularly
  9. Be confident in yourself

1. Adopt a business mindset and understand your company’s vision

One of the first steps to succeed in your role, is to understand exactly what your employers expect from you and how this feeds into the wider business. It is only once you’ve adopted a business mindset and truly underpinned what your company’s goals are, that you can contribute fully to meeting these objectives.

We recommend that you take the time to read up on your company’s mission statement, get to grips with its values and ethos, and identify how you can help realise those ambitions. You need to ask yourself: what is my company trying to achieve and how does my role impact this?

If you require more information, don’t hesitate to ask others in your organisation or get in touch with your boss. Most likely, they’ll be happy to help, and will be impressed by your curiosity and commitment!

Jenna Dubasia is an FDM Consultant who joined our team in 2021. In just under one year, Jenna was promoted into a senior role as Project and Business Manager in a financial institution. Jenna tells us a bit more about her role and what helped her excel so quickly at work:

Jenna Dubasia, FDM Consultant

“I would describe the field I am in as fast-paced and motivating. I find my current role interesting and also rewarding, as I can see month-on-month the changes that are occurring due to the work that I contribute to. There are constantly new challenges to be solved, which definitely makes the role even more interesting. The initiative I am currently working on was fairly new when I first joined, so I have been able to see the difference between where the project was then and where it is now.”

Jenna Dubasia

2. Build a good relationship with your boss

We’re not telling you to become best friends with your boss, however, it is important to foster a good relationship with them. We recommend getting to know their likes and dislikes, their preferred ways of working and what motivates them. This way, you can understand what your boss values and what pleases them, and use this to your advantage.

If you want to work on your relationship with your boss, there are a few things you can try, such as arranging regular catch-ups, fostering more open communication, asking for feedback and getting to know them on a more personal level.

A bad relationship with your boss can be detrimental to your professional development and could make your working life miserable. After all, your boss will have control over your daily tasks, performance reviews and your opportunities for progression. A good working relationship is a must-have!

3. Be a good team player

Teamwork is an essential quality for any employee, but what does it really mean to be a team player? Just like your relationship with your boss, it’s important to understand your teammates and what they value. This way, you can build better relationships with your team members, making collaboration much easier and improving everyone’s performance.

Although it can be difficult, you may also need to put your coworkers' needs before your own sometimes. Be that staying late on occasion to help them meet deadlines, taking time out of your day to help someone stuck on a task, or switching shifts if needed. Collaboration and flexibility are sought-after skills, and your teammates will certainly respect you for it. Just remember to respect your own boundaries and don’t let teammates take advantage of you!

4. Demonstrate excellent communication skills

Communication is a top priority for most jobs, whether that’s liaising with clients, collaborating with team members or presenting to external stakeholders. Excellent communication skills make it easier to share information without misunderstandings, making the process more efficient.

Yet, communication is not a one-way street. Being a good listener is just as important - active listening, in particular. Active listening involves not just listening to the words people say, but the message and feelings they are conveying. This is another top skill employers look for when hiring managers and more senior roles.

5. Maintain a professional attitude at work

If you’re looking to progress in your role, perhaps into a more senior or management position, you need to earn respect from your colleagues and gain their trust. To do so, it’s best to maintain a professional attitude at work, such as being polite, keeping conversations appropriate and respectful, and avoiding gossip. Your professionalism should extend to your verbal interactions, emails and phone calls.

How your colleagues perceive you can have a huge impact on your professional progression!

6. Take initiative and set a positive example

Attitudes are contagious, so you want to be spreading as much positivity as possible and setting the right example for your colleagues. Taking initiative and tackling challenges head-on, with a smile on your face, will make all the difference.

Employers are on the lookout for candidates who demonstrate initiative and they appreciate proactivity. These two characteristics show that you are committed to your job and always strive to think outside the box and try new approaches.

“Owning the tracker for the project that I am currently working on is something that I am most proud of. Problem-solving in order to overcome any issues that could prevent the project’s deliverables from being achieved this year is part of the tracking and project management role.

Being given so much responsibility at such an early stage has increased my confidence significantly in terms of communicating with, and reporting to, senior stakeholders within the business.”

Jenna, on how increased responsibility helped her grow professionally

7. Be open to feedback and don’t be afraid to ask for help

How you respond to feedback tells a lot about you as a person. Being open to feedback and taking on constructive criticism shows that you are willing to learn and take on new perspectives to better your work. This is a desirable trait to have, particularly in leadership roles.

Everyone makes mistakes and no one is expecting you to get things perfect all the time, especially if you’re new to your company. So, it's important to ask questions when you’re stuck and ask for help when you need it. People will not view you any differently, nor will it hinder your chances of getting promoted.

“FDM provided me with a placement where the team is very driven and very supportive of progression and development. The team are very willing to provide support where needed, but also encourage a learn-as-you-go approach, which I believe has allowed me to pick things up at a faster pace. Throughout my year at client site, my line manager has provided me with a huge amount of guidance and advice in terms of my career progression path.”

Jenna, on how FDM’s support helped her excel in her career

8. Expand your knowledge and skill set regularly

When it comes to how to excel at work, another top priority is expanding your skills and continuously learning. It can be useful to identify all your strengths and weaknesses, and see where you have any gaps. Many employers will be happy to provide you with internal or external training to fill these gaps, or cover the costs for you. However, you don’t necessarily require formal training to expand your knowledge and skill set. We also recommend learning through experience and immersing yourself in as many new projects as possible, which gives you the added benefit of hands-on practice, too.

Jenna agrees:

“Having carried out numerous different roles during my year at client site, I have been able to develop a wide range of skills, as well as working closely with many internal stakeholders of all different seniority.”

9. Be confident in yourself

Confidence is a virtue that many people struggle with. Imposter syndrome is becoming increasingly common in workplace culture as self-doubt takes over, and many people feel like they are ‘tricking’ people into thinking they’re good at their job. Surveys reveal that 60% of executives say imposter syndrome negatively impacted their ability to lead confidently.

However, confidence is key to being a successful leader, developing healthy working relationships, taking risks at work, working under pressure and so much more. It is a crucial soft skill that many employers look for when it comes to hiring new staff and handing out promotions.

Confidence doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s important to remember that you got to where you are through hard work and you are deserving of your achievements.

At FDM, we are firm believers that hard work pays off and it deserves to be rewarded. We offer a range of support programmes and learning opportunities for our consultants to help them take the next step in their careers and achieve great things. Find out more about the FDM Graduate Programme and the opportunities on offer.

About Preeta Ghoshal

Preeta is a content writer with over 10 years’ experience across print, digital and broadcast media. She has worked extensively in multi-media content creation. Her work reflects a mix of subject matter research and storytelling to produce content that is both informative and easily digestible. She is presently providing content support to each of the FDM programmes and the wider marketing team.

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