11 Small Steps That Will Make a Huge Difference in Your Career

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Whether you’re just starting out in a new job or looking to climb the corporate ladder, hard work will always be the best way to improve your career. If you want to grow even more quickly, having a few tricks up your sleeve for improving your productivity and making the best impression can only help you take things to the next level.

1. Come up with ways to quantitatively track your impact.

On your first day at a new job, take stock of anything numeric. If you’re in charge of social media, check all the numbers; same goes for things like page views for writers and client numbers for sales professionals. That way, when it comes time to refresh your resume, you’ll be able to measure your influence.

2. Keep lists of things you do.

At the end of a busy week or big project, write a brief summary of everything you did and keep it in a file of personal successes. You’ll have written proof of your achievements on hand for your next performance review or salary negotiation.

3. Introduce yourself.

While it can be easy lock yourself to your desk and put your nose to the grindstone when you start a new job, spending some time by the water cooler can be just as important. By getting to know your coworkers (from the interns to the boss), you learn more about your company and open yourself up to growth opportunities and new projects. Introduce yourself to people outside of your company as well by attending networking events for your industry—referrals are the No. 1 source of hire in North America, after all.

4. Get a stress ball for your desk.

This is not just to keep you from taking out your frustrations on company property, it will also help you with a memory trick tied to making a fist. A recent study showed that making a fist with your right hand while memorizing a piece of information and then squeezing your left hand to recall it later can improve your memory (the reverse is true for lefties). Apply this trick when learning names or committing certain facts to memory before a big presentation and you’ll get a leg up on your slack-fingered friends.

5. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

A series of experiments conducted in 2014 found that individuals who were more guilt-prone were less likely to want to team up on projects because they worry about disappointing the people around them. If you let this tendency dominate decisions in your career, you run the risk of missing out on key networking opportunities—or just the chance to learn from your coworkers.

6. Pick the right partner.

An Australian study that examined 4,544 married individuals from 2005 to 2009 found that people who have careful, reliable partners tend to do better at work, both in terms of how much they make and how satisfied they are with their jobs. We tend to adopt the characteristics of those closest to us, so it only makes sense that an organized, fastidious spouse might make you a better employee.

7. Dress the part.

It may not be what you want to hear, but a 2011 study showed that women who wear makeup are judged to be more competent by their peers, even if the makeup wasn’t considered especially “glamorous.” While this finding highlights an office double standard, it’s worth noting that a well-kempt, professional appearance will almost certainly help you make a good first impression, regardless of your gender.

8. Keep an actual notebook.

There are tons of note functions on your favorite electronic device, but studies have consistently shown that the physical act of writing something down helps you to commit it to memory. Bring a notebook to meetings for keeping track of ideas and write your to-do list by hand and you’ll be less likely to have something slip your mind.

9. Create a personal website.

If you work in a creative field or plan to do any sort of freelancing, having somewhere to organize and showcase your work is crucial. Build a personal online portfolio early in your career to help refine your public image and it can grow along with you. Learning to manage your site from the outset will help you pick up a few extra technical skills, too.

10. Perfect your handshake.

There’s something to the old school wisdom of a strong handshake. In fact, numerous studies have shown a confident greeting has a range of positive effects that are important in business situations. One such study found that people who follow common prescriptions for shaking hands, such as using a firm grip and looking the other person in the eye, receive higher ratings of employment suitability in job interviews—definitely good news for your career.

11. Practice the rest of your self-presentation as well.

Ninety-three percent of a person’s first impression of you is based on nonverbal clues like body language, what you wear, and even your tone of voice. If you’re prepping for an interview or big presentation, try running through your talking points with a friend who can tell you things like how your posture could be improved.

Taking the right steps early on can set you on track for a long successful career. At HSBC, we’d never claim to play a starring role in your successes, but as part of your supporting cast, we’re here to help you in every way we can. Together, We Advance.

To learn more about HSBC Advance, visit us.hsbc.com/advance.