It is said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu). Similarly, to boost your career in a short period of time, start with a single action. Choose one that will give you the most “bang for your buck.” Especially when starting a new role, these are often called “quick wins” or “early wins.” But quick wins can be pulled out of your career toolkit and used effectively at any stage.
A quick win can give you confidence, increase visibility, demonstrate that you are making progress, and help you hit key milestones. Beyond the act of ticking something off your To Do list, though, is the feeling of something new or good happening that you and those around you feel when you take the right action. When you hit on the right one and complete it successfully, it can generate excitement and energy, and build your credibility.
Follow these steps to identify and focus on some quick wins that will boost your performance and career:
- Consider the broader picture. What are your personal career goals? What are your objectives for the year? What are the priorities of the department, area, or organization? Where are the biggest challenges or opportunities? What will best build momentum?
- Select one area to focus on. Of the ideas you’ve come up with, what area should be your focal point? Some possible areas might be: Developing new opportunities, solving a persistent problem, removing a bottleneck, saving costs, generating more business, and so on.
- Identify two or three specific problems in that area that can be tackled quicklyand will provide visible operational and/or financial gains. Look for areas where you will be able to see rapid improvement. The best projects to target are those that will have interest for and be noticed by people several levels above your position.
- Plan for success and anticipate barriers. What are the likely roadblocks and how can you overcome them? Who or what will expedite success, and how can you get those on board early in the process? Will you need to convince others of the need for change, and how will you do so?
- Define the steps and milestones. Break the task into easily completed steps. Are there specific milestones you will need to meet? Are there time considerations or deadlines? If you’re getting hung up on one of the phases, break it down into even smaller pieces until you can start moving through them quickly.
- Provide tangible evidence. Document the current state, preferably with metrics, data, benchmarking, or other measurables. Track those through the change process or the project, and compare to the evidence available once you are finished. Calculate the increase, decrease, or other change that you have been able to generate. This will demonstrate the size and scope of the success, and how it relates to business needs.
- Be relentless. Once you know what you have to do, focus your time, attention, and activities on completing it as quickly as possible. Do not allow yourself to get distracted from your goal.
These actions will become a portfolio of “wins” that will gain you respect, credibility, and support. Once you’ve completed two or three, move on to some of the other items you brainstormed, or go through the process again to identify what “broader picture” tasks you could be focusing on. Document your successes and progress, and take credit where it’s warranted.