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Tips on how to improve your career in 2023

 A woman working on her laptop. (Courtesy)
Make your CV great

Increase the readability of your CV by making it relevant and as short as possible. Get rid of date of birth, marital status, religion, and move your education to below experience unless you’re a recent graduate with no work experience. Get rid of abbreviations that are only understood in your field - they are confusing and even worse, tracking software might miss them out.

Restrict your bullet points to a maximum of six. Anything longer than that and the reader will skim over them without reading. Make the bullet points as short as possible while at the same time ensuring they make sense. Read over your bullet points once you’re done and get rid of overused words, substitute any word that appears more than once in the same section.

Be specific. If you have some work experience, it is not enough to just list your accomplishment in generic terms any more. Which of these statements would make you view a candidate more positively? ‘Exceeded my sales target for the year’ versus ‘Achieved sales of Sh1.8m against a target of Sh1.5m, increasing customer retention by 30 per cent in the year 2017’.

As much as you can, use specific figures and percentages and quantify your achievements and accomplishments.

Get more done

Most important first. The Eisenhower Box, a diagram that has four boxes that categorises tasks between important and urgent is used by many people who are seeking to become better at time management.

It’s backed up by starting the day with a list of your most critical tasks in order of importance. Once you have clarity on the top half of your list, then it is easier to knock off at 5pm without guilt.

This does not mean that you don’t not work late when you need to, but it should not be a daily habit that becomes the norm.

Break some rules

Nice guys/ girls finish last. And they pay a price for being good. Rule followers almost always don’t progress much in their careers. Why? Because most things in life, especially roles of great responsibility, have a bit of a risk.

And how are people going to see your creativity. So if you have a brilliant idea that you think works, raise it, don’t second guess it because you think it doesn’t follow the norm.

Handle criticism better

Lisa Quast, author of ‘Your Career, Your Way’ proposes taking a different tack. Unless you have proof to the contrary, criticism at work is not personal.

But the severity of the criticism can sometimes leave you feeling as if the punishment far outweighs the crime. In this case it could be that your boss just got a dressing down from their own boss and is only passing on the anger. Or they could be experiencing some other kind of frustration totally unrelated to work.

However, if you are regularly facing tantrums and criticism that you have proof of being unfounded, it may be that you’re the subject of bullying which is wrong.

The question is how to approach or resolve the behaviour. Do not try to confront the bully by yourself, rather go through HR and ask for the conversation to be kept confidential until you come up with a resolution road map.

Don't use emojis in official communication

In a world that communicates digitally more than face to face, a study showed that using smiley faces (emojis) in written communication (such as e-mail, SMS and WhatsApp) has a negative effect on your professional impression.

While in person, smiles have numerous benefits, using the same in written communication could actually be more harmful than useful. Experiments conducted on this study found that on virtual first-time interactions, smileys do not increase or create any perceptions of warmth. In fact, it was found that they infer a certain level of incompetence.

The study also showed that when incompetence was suggested, information sharing was also severely diminished, resulting in barriers in building a relationship. Where an emoji was omitted, e-mail responses were ‘more detailed and included more content-related information’.

Quitting your job? Do it right

If not sure how to break the news to your employees, stick with the standard response 'I have accepted a position with another organisation and this will be my last month.' Do not, by any means, break the news to your team over email whether you were heading one or part of one.

It does not matter how unhappy you are with your current employer, boss or team members. Express gratitude for the opportunity to work in the organisation and for how much you learnt.

Show that you are a professional and give adequate notice period, you never know who you might need help from in the future and if you act improperly, it could come back to bite you in the future. Word tends to get around fast in certain circles.

It will not take long for other people to hear about unprofessional behaviour.

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