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How to Be a Top Performer at Work

When it comes to work, living life in the fast lane can often lead to stress. We want to make a great impression, especially when we are new to a job, but overexerting ourselves and trying to do too much can lead to premature burnout. While you want to take your talents to the limit, you also need to learn how to take it easy from time to time to maintain that peaceful, easy feeling. Have you ever started a new job raring to go, ready to fly like an eagle? You just know you are going to redefine the term "top performer." The question is, how do you sustain top performance? Keeping enough proverbial “gas in the tank” to perform at your best day in and day out is part of your recipe for success. Knowing yourself (including what drives you), learning all you can about your new job, company and coworkers, asking questions and requesting feedback are five keys to succeeding, in the long run, in any new position. Standin’ on the Corner Having enough gas in the tank is a metaphor and a necessity. As someone who is truly passionate about music as well as the weekend getaway, I felt the urge to make a pilgrimage to Winslow, Arizona, so I could “stand on the corner.” Living in America's southwest, exploring all Arizona has to offer invigorates me. Being a lifelong fan of The Eagles, and driven by the song lyrics from the song “Take It Easy,” Winslow seemed like such a fine sight to see. Energized for the trip to Winslow, I jumped in car and set off. What I didn’t think about was whether or not I had enough gas in the tank to get back home. Instead of taking my time to properly prepare I just started driving. That was my first mistake. For anyone who has traveled to Winslow, you know that it’s a very small town surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. Conspicuously absent are gas stations. About 50 miles into my trek back home, clearly too far to turn back, I glanced down at my gas gauge to realize it was right smack in the middle of the "E." Not near or even on top of the "E," but right in the middle, which is usually indicative of a virtually dry gas tank. Panic inevitably set in. I had been driving for at least thirty minutes and saw no signs of life as I drove through a human-less forest. Though it smelled wonderfully of pine, my windows now lowered to save gas, I was thinking about my impending fate. My mind raced with thoughts of a lengthy hike in search of a gas station. As the sun threatened to set in the west, I put the car in neutral traveling down hill, trying to gain enough momentum to get back up the next hill, using as little fuel as possible. Gas - and time - was running out. Now fully in a state of panic, I rounded a corner when, like an oasis in the desert, there it was. Out of nowhere, a gas station popped up! Seemingly stuck in 1940, this station had no convenience store, car wash or digital credit card readers. It was just a small station in the middle of a deserted forest that happened to have gas. And I was happier to see it than the proverbial girl in the flatbed Ford.

Five Keys to Being a Top Performer We may lose and we may win, but why rely on luck when it comes to your career success? Don't just jump into your new job the way you'd approach an afternoon road trip. A better idea is to be prepared so you ensure that you succeed. Having a plan, including always ensuring you have enough proverbial gas in the tank, is key to your success. Here are five things you can do to make sure that happens.

  1. Know yourself: Think about what you have a passion for, and make sure that your job is at least somewhat related to that passion. Once you figure that part out, take an assessment that can tell you a lot more about yourself. Tools such as DISC, which identify how we do what we do, and Driving Forces, which explain why we do what we do, are invaluable in helping people identify their perfect career options. The more you know about yourself, the better you can tailor your next job search.

  2. Know your new company: How much do you know about your new company? Do you understand their mission statement and core beliefs? Have you become familiar with the company culture, and do your beliefs match the company's? Talk to people already working for that company and get valuable inside information. Reach out to your soon-to-be boss and establish a relationship before day one to ensure a successful start.

  3. Understand your new position: Having a thorough understanding of your new position will help you identify where you are likely to excel and what things you may need to shore up before your first day. Identify potential mentors that can help plan your career path and accelerate your learning curve.

  4. Ask questions: If you avoid only one mistake, avoid assuming you know everything. You don’t know a lot; and that’s okay! Asking questions will not only clear up the gray area, it will show your new company and new co-workers that you are invested in your new position. Ask away! The only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked.

  5. Request feedback: There are many different roads to travel to get to the same destination. And the destination you are seeking is success. You may feel like you are doing well, maybe even excelling. But the only way you will know for sure is by requesting feedback. Different people have different perspectives. You stand to gain so much valuable insight by asking for feedback. Perception is reality and you want to ensure that you are perceived positively by your co-workers, your new boss and your new company. And this can be accomplished simply by requesting - and utilizing - valuable feedback provided by co-workers.

Conclusion Congratulations on landing that new job! Before jumping in, take a moment to create a plan - a strategy - for success. Ask questions, connect with those within the company that can be your advocates and/or mentors, and absorb as much information as possible. Do your best but don't try to do too much. Just remember to fill the tank - literally and metaphorically - before you head out for day one of your new job.


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