Cultivating your professional success can be difficult at first because the working world will throw you in situations you’ve never experienced before, and put you under pressure that you may not have expected. It could be internal politics, feeling inadequate, or being pressured to compromise your own values. These situations can leave you with a big dilemma professionally and spiritually. As Muslim working professionals, we are concerned about success not only here, but in the hereafter. Since we spend a majority of our time at work and it can affect our performance in all other aspects of life, it’s important to learn how to be your best at work and invest this time in your personal growth.
Here are 9 tips to help you unlock your best potential.
1. Truly Know Yourself
Knowing yourself isn’t just about labeling your character, it’s about active improvement.
- Honestly complete your own SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis vis-à-vis your job and organization.
- Find strengths to exploit, weaknesses to work on, weaknesses to hide, opportunities to go after and threats to manage.
- Understand how each of these may impact your career.
For example, if public speaking is your weakness, you can either decide that it is an important skill to work on by taking public speaking classes/workshops, or you can find a way to avoid having to do public speaking while working on your own best quality that makes you indispensable to your organization despite not being the best public speaker.
Employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are 8% more productive and 6x more likely to be engaged.
2. Focus on Your Own Success
- Find role models a level or two above you and emulate their good traits.
- Set your personal performance goals based on standards for the next level.
- Understand your value to the organization and work on increasing it.
- Always be well-prepared and never be caught off-guard in a meeting.
An internal locus of control is an important trait in all successful people. You control your own destiny. Never settle for complacency by comparing yourselves to those who are doing less, but also never settle for complacency by thinking you can’t be as good as someone else.
What value do you contribute to an organization and how are you achieving mini successes every day to build up into big ones?
3. Focus on the Solutions
- Never take just a problem or an issue to your team or supervisor; always suggest one or more possible (and plausible) solutions as well.
- If you cannot think of any solutions to your problems, ask your peers before you ask your supervisor.
- If you still cannot come up with a solution, explain to the supervisor the effort undertaken to find a solution.
Remember that obstacles can be in your favor if you find the meaning in them. Sometimes problems will force us into situations that build us into better, more productive people as long as the focus is on how to overcome them instead of why it happened.
4. Know the Opinion Leaders
- Never have a high opinion of your own work; it does not mean much and it inhibits continuous improvement.
- Ensure that your team appreciates your true value and commitment to your work.
- If you are not being recognized, either your work is not up to par, or it is perceived as such; both are equally bad. Take action to change that.
5. Find and Engage Mentors
- Have multiple mentors, both at your workplace and outside.
- Have frank discussions with mentors on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Have your mentors at work watch out for your best interests (e.g. in performance review meetings or promotion decisions).
In the last 20 years, mentors have become common within the workplace and they should not be underestimated. A person learns faster and becomes more productive under the tutelage of a master, so look for those who can help bring out the best in you.
6. Have a Support Network
- Find a diverse group of team members that like you and/or think highly of your work.
- Ensure that they watch out for your best interests by watching out for their best interests.
- Help them whenever they need it so they can help you when you need it.
- Use your network to be in the know.
- Never be the last one to find out important information affecting your career.
It’s very easy to become stressed out at work, especially given how many hours a day we spend there. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a support network of close work friendships. These can boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. Your mental wellbeing is important and having people you trust to support you professionally and outside the workplace is essential. But select your friends carefully as they can either build you up or drain you.
7. Lose Neither the Forest Nor the Trees
- Be detail-oriented in your work and try to avoid small/sloppy mistakes (e.g. spelling, grammar, calculation).
- Be objective-oriented in your outlook (i.e. know the value of your work and what it needs to accomplish).
- In client service, the key question always is: are we adding value to the client? If not, sooner or later we will be exposed.
Do not shortchange yourself or your employer. Just as we expect quality service with attention to detail when we are on the receiving end, that should be something we never compromise on when we are giving a service.
8. Never Compromise Your Values
- Ensure that those you work with know your value system and/or religious obligations.
- Make it non-negotiable but at the same time a non-issue (i.e. assure the team that your religious obligations won’t compromise the quality of your work).
- Find halal alternatives for teaming instead of ignoring it.
For example, if teaming up at your work primarily happens through after-work drinks, find opportunities to have lunch and coffee with team members on a much more frequent basis.
9. Always Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
- As Muslims, our ultimate goal is the Hereafter, so understand and be motivated by how your work helps you achieve that.
- A good dunya-akhirah (this life-afterlife) balance means never compromising on the akhirah, not merely doing some good deeds to balance the scales.
- Seek out ways to do da’wah through your personal excellence and through making yourself available to discussions.
When I didn’t know the people I worked with well, it was difficult to start conversations. However, as I got to know them, they became more comfortable in asking me questions about my faith and Islam.
What other tips did you try that really helped boost your work experience? share with us in the comments.
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