It’s tempting to think that success at work is dependent upon having the perfect job.
But in thinking exclusively about what you want from a future dream job, you may be missing important opportunities to grow in your current position. Set yourself up for long-term professional success by focusing on the small advances you can make immediately.
Here are five things you can start doing today to become more successful at work:
1. Take a vacation
Deciding to take a break from work and use your vacation days, surprisingly enough, helps your career. You’re less likely to report feeling down and are more likely to get a raise, a new study from Project: Time Off shows.
But committing to using your paid time off is easier said than done. Workers forgo vacation days for many reasons, including the backlog of work they’ll face upon return or the fear of appearing uncommitted.
In 2016, Americans forfeited 206 million vacation days. That means that employees lost $66.4 billion worth of benefits overall, or about $600 per person. Make the change this year and put in that vacation request.
2. Talk to your coworkers
Sitting at your desk all day may make you feel more productive, but you’re actually missing out on a key driver of career success — building positive relationships. Taking small steps to get to know your colleagues, even if you’re naturally shy, goes a long way.
According to a national Gallup poll, the biggest reason employees report feeling disengaged at work is a lackluster or non-existent relationship with one’s manager. Experts say that making an effort to be more social at the office, like stopping by your boss’s desk or chatting with your colleagues, could make work more enjoyable.
3. Ask for a raise
Only half of job seekers negotiate their salary, according to a new survey of 2,287 professionals conducted by recruiting software company Jobvite. Fifty-six percent of men overall feel comfortable negotiating, versus 38 percent of women.
But if you can get over the fear of negotiation and present a compelling case, you’re likely to come out with a better deal.
In fact, the report says the majority of people who push for more pay end up with a higher salary.
4. Volunteer for the assignments others don’t want
Those who step up and offer to help with unglamorous tasks at work are more likely to be appreciated and respected by their colleagues, according to financial expert and former CNBC television host Suze Orman.
“Make those you’re dependent on for a paycheck dependent upon you,” Orman tells CNBC.
Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch echoes this idea, saying success is about participating in the “favor economy.”
It’s about “putting yourself out on a limb for somebody else, with no expectation of immediate payback,” Welch says.
5. Ask yourself the tough questions
Tony Robbins, bestselling author and business strategist, says that turning inward and asking yourself challenging questions about your purpose is the ultimate key to success.
“All of the most exciting decisions of your life are coming,” says Robbins, “and along with that comes an exciting sense of freedom, but also the challenge to make decisions with passion, and the opportunity to create the life you desire and deserve.”‘
He recommends pondering specific questions like, “What are you going to focus on?”
The answers, he says, will give you more clarity on what to do next in your career.