A step-by-step guide on how to be successful at a job

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You can take various techniques and approaches to succeed at your job. Employers value certain core skills and attributes that invariably lead to success across different roles, industries and organisations. If you can master these approaches to your work, you can build a rewarding career. In this article, we look at ten steps that explain how to be successful at a job, including some techniques you can try.

What does it mean to be successful at a job?

If you're wondering how to be successful at a job, it's important to quantify what success means to you. People judge success differently based on their background, experiences, personal needs and goals. Here are some examples of how success looks for some:

  • working to the best of your ability and having pride in your output

  • maximising revenue and profit

  • consistently achieving promotions to higher roles

  • achieving set targets

  • being praised by customers, team members and managers

  • managing a department or company that brings in a bigger profit each year

Related: How to measure success at work: a step-by-step guide

How to be successful at a job

It's important to realise that people don't become successful by accident. What may look like luck and talent is usually down to hard work and effort. While some of the markers of success may vary from one industry to another, some common attributes contribute to success in all its forms. If you can master these qualities, you can succeed in your role and become known as a reliable, high-performer.

Some of the most common steps on how to be successful at a job include:

1. Understand how the company works

The onboarding process is the perfect opportunity to see what success looks like within your new company. You can usually get an idea of this from the company's culture. See how people dress, communicate, behave, and how managers interact with people. Work hard to make an excellent first impression by being positive, helpful and responsive. Speak to as many people in the company as you can to learn about the various obstacles and opportunities.

2. Understand your role

Understanding the company is just as important as knowing your role in it, so take some time to review your job description in detail. Be completely clear on what your job entails, what other departments depend on you and who to seek support from. This gives you a clearer idea of your role's core deliverables and priorities, so you're less likely to focus on the wrong things. When a colleague offers feedback, learn from it and demonstrate this awareness in your approach to your work.

3. Be a strong team player

One of the most powerful things you can do in any job is to earn a reputation as a supportive, collaborative team member. Dedicated team players support their colleagues, enjoy collaboration, inspire others, are friendly, and share credit for work well done. They lend a hand without needing direction and are considerate. Team players are also open, reliable, accountable and possess high emotional intelligence. Research suggests that team players gain more recognition from managers. They're also more likely to get promotions and raises.

Related: Team meeting strategies (plus how to organise team meetings)

4. Find a business mentor

A mentor is a senior and trusted colleague who can help you develop in your role and succeed in your field. A mentor provides valuable experience and insight and can help you stand out in your position. A good mentoring relationship can also help you fast-track your career goals. Many companies offer mentoring programmes to support internal professional development. If there's no formal programme, you might want to approach a senior leader in your business and ask whether they would be interested in becoming a mentor.

For senior colleagues, mentoring also offers the chance for professional development so that the relationship can offer mutual benefits. You might also look at a peer mentoring relationship too. Identify a colleague whose work and professional approach you admire, even if in another department or team. They can offer insight into decision-making processes in another part of the business, organisational politics and other views with a fresh perspective. You can give your opinions and perspectives on a reciprocal basis.

Related: How to find a mentor: a useful step-by-step guide

5. Work at managing your time

Being late or missing deadlines impacts others, so understanding this and managing your time can help to keep things flowing smoothly in your department. You don't need to impress your manager by working late but by prioritising which tasks require the most dedication or level of urgency.

If you seek to finish your day on time by being organised with your to-do list and priorities, it reflects well on you and means you're more likely to handle unforeseen tasks easily. Simple productivity tips like the Pomodoro Technique and Eisenhower Matrix can help you prioritise jobs and manage time effectively.

6. Show your best side

When you come to work, be upbeat. Everyone has bad days, but try to keep personal difficulties separate from your work. Show your best side to motivate and help others. Be a good listener, and try to help others with their challenges. Part of showing your best side also involves being authentic and honest. This means being yourself in different situations so that people know who you're dealing with. Try your hardest to be your best and most authentic self each day. Hold yourself in high esteem, and you're going to find that others do so too.

7. Work hard and smart

Successful people make their achievements look easy, but they have worked hard throughout their careers. Think about how much you respect the best people in your profession. To achieve that level of knowledge, contacts, expertise and skills, you may have to consistently work hard, put in the effort and challenge yourself.

This doesn't mean endlessly plugging away at any task that lands on your desk. Focus your efforts on the work that is central to your role and your objectives. Where you have spare capacity, volunteer for extra work that offers some value. This could be value in terms of skills development, profile or organisational value, for example. Work hard but think smart.

8. Improve your communication skills

One good way to succeed at your job is to become an adept communicator. The first step is to become a great listener and to listen to people you meet and engage with actively. You can understand what people tell you and pick up on hidden messages by actively listening. Listening helps you to grow your understanding. As these skills develop, you can become a more effective communicator, using spoken and written skills to become a better team player, colleague and leader.

9. Focus on your goals

It's very easy to let office gossip, politics and procrastination affect our focus. One good way to succeed at work is to keep your eye on the bigger picture and your objectives. Try to stay focused and schedule regular reviews with your manager to evidence your progress and achievements.

By keeping focused on your goals and delivery priorities, you can channel your energy in the right direction and continue to achieve. This isn't to say that you can't nurture good relationships with colleagues. See these interpersonal relationships as a positive enhancement to your work rather than a distraction.

10. Manage yourself well

Apply management techniques to your work. Set yourself objectives, deliver what you need to do, review your performance and evaluate where you can improve and develop. Don't rely on your manager to do this for you. You and your manager can have regular meetings to establish your progress and performance, but make sure to manage your career using a proactive approach. Always have your own set of clear career goals and invest in them. You may want a one year and five-year plan, for example.

Look for training and development opportunities, build your network, contribute beyond your immediate responsibilities and look for ways to be visible to your seniors and peers. Think about your personal brand and invest in it to build a solid and positive reputation as a consistent, high performer and trusted individual. Always seek to learn and to take development opportunities. These challenges and opportunities can bring new experiences your way and help you become confident and adept in your role. These multiple experiences make you a highly valuable, sought-after professional in your field.

Explore more articles