2. Be a team player
In 1513, the Italian Renaissance philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli advised leaders to weave a web of lies and deception to gain advantage. Don’t follow his advice. This only works for those who already have power (and it often catches up with them). Better to emulate the secrets of social success in hunter-gatherer societies.
In forty-eight studies of tribes in different parts of the world, anthropologists came up with a list of winning social qualities: generous, brave, wise, fair, impartial, reliable, tactful, strong and humble.1
Scientists found those who fail on too many of these qualities get kicked out of the group. A work team is a tribe by another name. Machiavellian schemers are also often ejected. Instead of survival of the fittest, think survival of the friendliest.
3. Build a network
Ensure you are known to the half dozen in your working world that makes the place ‘tick’, including your boss. Seek out a senior mentor to offer advice on your next career move. Don’t forget, especially in large departments, a manager won’t have the capacity know everyone equally.
It’s in your interest to be more than just a staff number. Faceless employees are easy to let go. When push comes to shove, you need to be well connected.
4. Get sh*t done
To be a self-starter, productivity is vital. When remote working for the first time, it’s even easier to get distracted by social media, news reports, household chores, partners, housemates or kids.
The ability to focus – to pay conscious, absorbed attention – for extended periods of time is becoming more difficult to achieve. It’s far more valuable as a result. To get focussed, organise your day with a clear ‘to do’ list and structure. Tackle emails in specific time slots, rather than responding as each one comes in. Taking this approach avoids the pitfalls of multitasking, which is proven to be a myth.
Incorporate regular breaks, hydration, light exercise and rest into your schedule. If you feel better physically, you’ll be sharper mentally. This will help you to be truly present when required.
When many have their nose in their device, be the worker who looks everyone in the eye. No one looks more replaceable than the person who’s glued to their mobile phone.
5. Become an expert
Cultivate one skill where you corner the market. If you want to be truly indispensable, you need to have knowledge or expertise your employer just can’t afford to lose.
Most importantly, don’t be shy in sharing your knowledge around. Offer to deliver seminars to help others. In this way, you’re presenting personal value and helping to support wider learning and development.
6. Have fun
Anxiety is a huge challenge amid disruptive change. Be the person that lets some sunshine into the room. Individuals with a sense of humour experience less stress than people who are more serious, even when facing the same challenge.
Make a person smile and their brain releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin – known as the ‘hug hormone’ – which facilitates social bonding and trust. You’ll also be seen as a leader. Research shows people view those who use their sense of humour at work as being more influential.
7. Offer solutions
In times of change, we desperately need new ideas. Creative-thinking – the ability to generate valuable ideas – is one of the key superpowers to future-proof your career. To ignite your creative potential is initially a simple change of attitude. It’s built on practical and attainable ‘habits’:
- Learn something new every day
- Get very curious about what problems need to be solved
- Ask great questions about these problems to transform them into opportunities.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel you are currently low on some of the attributes. In reality, if you’re nailing half of them, you’re probably seen as indispensable by your boss.
Think of it this way: if you can improve in each of these areas just a little, you’ll be more likely to get a raise or promotion in your current role.
At the very least, you’ll be more difficult to let go. Whatever happens, these winning work habits will help you to forge invaluable connections and skills to secure your next position.