Highly successful business professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs all possess similar qualities.

So, for those of us aspiring to reach the same level, further our careers, or even to just improve our overall work performance, we can definitely make use of the same desirable traits and habits that these people possess and apply.

Keeping lists, delegating and outsourcing routine tasks, defining what success looks like for the day, committing to ‘thinking time’ in your work week, and practising mindfulness and meditation are some of the common behaviours you may have heard of before.

If you want to achieve success and keep your career moving forward, here are five simple and effective ways to improve yourself.

1. Surround yourself with smart people

You are the sum of your parts, and this goes for the company you keep as well. Spend time with intelligent people who challenge and advance your thinking. The ultimate entrepreneur Richard Branson is a big advocate for this, and the famous American industrialist Henry Ford also once said: “I am not the smartest, but I surround myself with competent people.” Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know – and align yourself with people who do. 

Next steps:

Actively seek out passionate, successful individuals. Attend webinars, workshops and events that are specific to your field, and consider joining relevant professional groups. You can reach out to thought leaders or potential mentors through LinkedIn. But be realistic. Choose someone in your industry or function who can commit time to you. Once you have established contact, it’s easy to suggest a quick call or (virtual) meet up. People enjoy offering support and providing advice, provided they are approached in the right manner. By building your own personal community of inspiration, you will put yourself in the box seat to land career opportunities.

2. Visualise your success  

Numerous studies have proven that mental imagery readies your brain for success and increases your performance in real life. If you can see it, you can make it happen. It might sound far-fetched but there is no denying that it works. Many famous athletes credit their accomplishments to using visualisation to help manifest their success because visualising that positive outcome stimulates the same brain regions as you do if you were physically performing the same action.

Next steps:

Set aside a few minutes every morning to see yourself achieving your daily goals and reaching your overall career plans. Close your eyes, relax and imagine every single detail as if it were happening now. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? How are you feeling? Banish any doubts if they arise and allow yourself to dream big. The more often you do this, the more purpose and direction you will have – and the closer you will come to achieving your career ambitions.

3. Hone your skills

It’s as simple as it sounds. Pick one skill to sharpen and make it your sword. Find out what you are good at and invest the time to become great at it. If you can show employers you are an expert in a specific field and can help them corner the market by being their go-to expert, you will go from being an employee to a valuable, indispensable asset to their company.

Next steps:

Identify your top three skills and pick one that you want to develop in the next month. Commit to spending anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes a day improving and developing it – think books, podcasts, classes, et cetera – and put it into practice in the real world.

4. Build your personal brand

Steve Jobs. Oprah. Bill Gates.

When you hear these names, a strong image of their brand immediately comes to mind.

So, what do you find when you Google yourself? The results that appear is what everyone else sees as well. It’s common practice these days to do online research on potential candidates, colleagues and even prospective partners. Your professional standing will increase significantly when people Google your name and discover your presence in relevant forums for your field. Build and maintain your personal brand by sharing your unique point of view – it will not only improve your reputation, but make you easily discoverable by the people and places you want to work for.

Next steps:

Keep your internet presence up-to-date and relevant. Try some of the following:

  • Write your own blog or contribute guest posts on an industry blog 
  • Produce a five-minute YouTube video showcasing your strengths (for example a ‘How To’ video)
  • Use LinkedIn or Twitter regularly to share insights and advice as an industry expert
  • Create and update your own professional website
  • Develop a podcast 
  • Write and post relevant articles on LinkedIn

5. Engage with one new person a day (or reconnect with someone)

Relationships are at the core of all success and happiness. People do business with people they like, and you can never have too many friends. A recent example of this is Melbourne's Kaley Chu, who had a simple of goal of having 100 lunches with 100 strangers. This habit helped unlock her career potential by simply having conversations with people from all walks of life, receiving their lived career and life lessons along the way.

Next steps:

Leave your normal social circle and connect with people you’ve never met before. Connect through LinkedIn or email people who already have your dream job. Clearly describe how you can help them and why they should meet you. You would be surprised how many people are more than happy to catch up for a safe face-to-face meeting and share their knowledge and expertise. Even consider hosting your own events with a colleague or starting your own group. In no time, you will build a far-reaching network of friends, followers, and thought leaders.

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