Going through my Instagram feed, I always come across various quotes about working hard. Captions like “work hard until you don’t have to introduce yourself” or “work hard until your idols become your rivals” seem to be everywhere. But I actually find this philosophy quite misleading, and here’s the reason why.
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I do agree that you have to work hard throughout your academic (if applicable) life and at the beginning of your professional path. You can’t expect to start anything with zero experience, and chances are you need to make a lot of sacrifices to build up your résumé. But once you create a stable and solid base, let’s say after five years into your career, it’s crucial that you shift your strategy and transform the “working hard” component into a “working smart” way of life. The sooner the better, of course.
I’ve met and interviewed many employees who’ve been very dedicated to their career. They’re often the first people to show up at the office and the last ones to leave at night. Being very efficient and productive, they often end up as over-doers. But they have remained in their job because they lacked certain know-how to reach the position they truly deserved. Sounds like anyone you know or work with? These are the kind of people who don’t think out of the box and take their assignment as it is on paper by basically applying their job description from A to Z.
Once you create a stable and solid base, let’s say after five years into your career, it’s crucial that you shift your strategy and transform the “working hard” component into a “working smart” way.
However, if you take a look at those who reach the highest positions, they’re the type of personalities that seek to invest their time in adding value. And this added value, in most cases, comes from communication and socialising.
For instance, the “smart” individuals tend to work on promoting themselves versus their peers and hence increase their visibility in their professional milieu. This is what we like to call networking your way up. They are always on the lookout for an opportunity and the next big thing, whether inside or outside their company. Such people don’t like to keep it traditional because they understand the traditional rules of the game very well – they also know how things can turn if you start breaking these rules.
And while these strategies may not be part of the declared job mission, they’re the key to reach a higher status and climb up the social and professional ladder. Some tips from high-level professionals would be to attend the after-work events; yes, you may not feel like socialising with your colleagues but it could be your only way to break the ice with your peers. Also consider scheduling coffee breaks, lunches and even meetings to meet people outside your direct team. This might sound odd, but I’m a genuine fan of the business style of management strengthened by simply walking around (MBWA) – if you can, leave your office as much as possible.
However, it’s fairly difficult to shift your focus from simply working hard to working in a much more productive manner. The solid work people do doesn’t always bring them the results they want, but working smart always does.