The best part about growing and making progress is that, no matter how far you have come in your journey, you will always have an experience to share with others on the same path.
I dove into the corporate environment at the age of 20, when I first started writing, and have been at it ever since.
Along the way, I have been shaped and influenced by my managers, colleagues, company cultures, and working environments (probably in that order).
If I could go back in time and do things again, I’d probably do everything pretty much the same, but some nudges in the “right” direction would sure have done me good.
Thinking back on all these years, this is probably what I would have advised my younger self.
1. Stand up for yourself and your views
A yes-man syndrome pervades many workplaces today, and that’s the best way to curb any new ideas and enthusiasm at work.
If you disagree with someone’s views in a meeting, don’t hesitate to share your point of view and the reasons for it. If you feel like you are being bullied, report it to your manager and whoever else possible immediately.
Many years ago, I was talking to business communication expert Shari Harley, who told me: “Everyone around you treats you the way that you train them to treat you.”
Being candid is the base for any great relationship – sure, it’s not always smooth sailing, as sometimes you may have to better time your candidness.
But it’s so important because it helps you build your image and your opinions, it gives you a voice at the workplace, but it is also what people associate you most with.
2. Work hard to fill in your boss’s shoes
A good manager will always groom you to be just as good as him or her. And, that can only happen if you’re ready to learn as much as possible. New skills and experiences are your best friends at work.
Being good at your job is usually not the hard part, if you’ve got an environment that allows you to be productive.
But it is your personal skill-building efforts that help you grow as a person, and ultimately you realise how much more value you are able to add at work because of that.
3. Don’t hesitate to build relationships
Reality TV is replete with contestants affirming: “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win.”
Throughout my career, I’ve managed to make some wonderful friends at work, without sacrificing on my ability to win.
Having a support system at work is good for you in so many ways – a tea break with them keeps you going on the long, rainy afternoons, and catching up with them is the reason you end up coming to work before time.
Besides, taking the time to know your colleagues helps you work with them more effectively on projects, after you’ve been able to understand what kind of competencies each of you brings to the table.
4. Grab your mentors (and never let them go)
Off and at work, I have been fortunate to have a mentor by my side constantly. Having their support has encouraged me to make the hardest decisions, and follow through in times when I have held back.
The interesting thing about having someone like that is that you don’t want to disappoint them, and often, that thought enables you to achieve things which may have looked hard at first.
The bottom line is that mentors are valuable in many ways, and if you’re fortunate to have someone like that guiding you, hold onto them.
5. Define what work-life balance means for you
Getting enough sleep, working on your hobby, and spending time with loved ones is a constant struggle. But if you are able to prioritise, you may be able to define what mix of work-life works for you.
When I was speaking to Aileen Tan of SingTel, she preferred to use the concept of work-life integration, which is about focusing on the quality, not the quantity, of the time spent at work and at home.
Being clear about what’s most important to you, at each point in time, will help make that decision about where to spend time just a little bit easier. (Notwithstanding the specific conditions of one’s home and work environments).