How to Reach Your Potential at Work

Do you ever feel like you’re wasting your talents? Particularly at work—you know your job and you know the company backwards and forwards. You feel like you should be able to rise higher or earn more, but something’s holding you back. How can you reach your full potential at work, in order to achieve your career goals? Here are a few tips.

List Your Strengths

The Greeks said, “Know thyself.” Harvard Business Review says it, too. They recommend beginning by taking stock of your current skills in your job and the things you do well. Just list the two or three biggest or most important ones on a piece of paper. What is it that makes you good at these things? What can you accomplish with these skills, both now and in the future?

List Your Weaknesses

Write down your two or three biggest weaknesses. What do you struggle with? What do you need to work on? This one is a little tougher. It can be difficult to admit there are things you can’t do, or problems in your job performance. It might help to talk to your coworkers and superiors about it. Once you’ve got your list, figure out how to improve your performance by fixing these issues. It might require coaching from a professional. Whatever it takes, do what you can to conquer your weaknesses and improve your work overall.

Identify Your Goals

What is it, exactly, that you’re trying to accomplish? Do you want a promotion? More money? A better job at another company? A position that offers better hours, or an opportunity to travel? Write down where you want to end up, and what you want to be doing. Include both long term and short term goals: what you want to be doing in five or ten years, but also next week and next month. Then break down exactly what it’s going to take to accomplish those goals, and turn those steps into new goals.

Create a Timeline

One of the biggest obstacles to reaching your potential is thinking in too broad of terms. You want to be Executive VP—great! But there’s a difference between having an idea of where you want to go and actually working towards getting there. Now that you’ve got your list of goals, motivate yourself by creating a timeline of how (and when) you’re going to achieve them. Then, once you have your basic timeline in place, of goals for the next five or ten years, get more specific. Create a timeline for the next month, and then one for the next week. Every day, at any given moment, you should be able to identify what it is that you’re doing right now to achieve your goals and reach your potential.

Get a Mentor

Nobody ever achieved anything all on their own. Talk to the people above you. Let them know what it is you want within your company and ask what you need to do for them to give it to you. In particular, find someone whom you respect and ask them to help you on a more personal and individual basis. Get them to mentor you and help you improve. Not only will this make you a better worker, but it will give you an ally in the company who will be more likely to consider and recommend you when it comes time to discuss promotions, raises, etc.

Reaching your full potential in the workplace is an ongoing process. Once you’ve achieved your goals, there will be new goals you can work towards, in terms of both achievements and performance. Never stop striving for excellence. That’s the best way to succeed.

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