7 Career Basics You Should Already Be Doing

basic building block

There’s always newer, greater, more effective advice when it comes to improving your career. Everyone wants to have the last word on what we should all be doing (and not doing) in order to be successful.

From social media to the latest tech tools—people love the new new thing.

But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the basics. Do you have your career basics covered before you start to tackle the harder, more advanced techniques?

So let’s revisit the age-old wisdom we got from our parents and make sure we’re walking before we try to ride a unicycle while juggling chainsaws. That are on fire.

Connect on LinkedIn

Some of you are on Facebook and some of you are on Twitter. Some of you are on both. But ALL of you need to be on LinkedIn. This is the place where you want to connect with as many people as you can.

You want to treat this one like a game: add as many people as you possibly can before they leave, you leave, or the company goes under. These are crucial connections that can help you in the future—whether you’re looking for a job, have questions about your industry, or want to learn about a new company you’re interviewing with.

No, you shouldn’t try to connect with people you met once in the elevator—but everyone else is game. Think back to all the people you’ve worked with, your friends, and your relatives—and then add them all to your network.

Turn Off Your Email’s Interruptor

Outlook (and other email programs) have an annoying little notification thing that pops up every time you receive an email. Some people feel like they need to know exactly when they’ve gotten an email. Others hate it.

It’s already hard enough to focus at work, and this just makes it worse.

Either way, you need to turn it off—it’s a productivity murderer. Many a productive moments have been massacred thanks to this hellish feature. However you decide to process your email (checking three times a day, every couple of hours, whatever), just make sure you leave this guy out of it—you don’t need it. Same goes for any kind of chat software you might use. Make sure it stays in the background and doesn’t pop up in front of all the work you’re trying to get done.

Your productivity will thank you for it.

Contribute at Least to your 401k’s Match

If you haven’t done this, you need to stop right now (after you finish the article, of course), find out what your company’s match is, and change your contribution amount RIGHT NOW.

We all complain about wanting more money and a bigger bonus. Well guess what? If you aren’t contributing AT LEAST to the match, then you’re essentially saying “No thanks, I don’t want the extra money. Thanks though.”


And if you can, contribute more than the match. Old you will thank young you one day. Next time you get a raise, bump it up a percent before you see the change in your paycheck…you’ll be off and running.

Keep a Nice List

I’m not sure why I just called it a “nice list” since it makes little sense and sounds funny—but I just didn’t want to call it a “list where you write down nice things about yourself.”

Someone sends a nice email thanking you for their help? List it.

Your boss says “Well done on this one, Smith!” List it.

A customer/user sends in a glowing comment on a feature you worked on or were a part of in the most tangential way. List it.

You’ll never be able to remember all these moments that happen when you need them. That is, when it’s review time and the company is trying to figure out how much value you brought to the team. Those of us with a “nice list” will simply go “Oh here you. I rock, and here’s the proof. May I have fat stacks now please?”

I also like adding some numbers in there too. So if an email goes out about revenues jumping 13% largely to the added efficiency gained from that new software you worked on? Write that down right after your “Worked on the software project by helping to select a vendor.”

Boom. That’s cash money right there.

Salary Audit

You probably don’t need to do one of these every year, but just make sure you don’t lose touch. Especially when you’re moving jobs or shifting your roles and responsibilities.

Eventually I’m going to write a more detailed post on this, but what you want to do is go to Payscale, Salary.com, and Glassdoor and pull the salary range for your job. Average out the three numbers and compare it to what you make. If you’re short, you may have a case to ask for a raise. If you’re way over, burn the paper and don’t tell a soul.

Just kidding!

(burn it)

Have a List of Goals

What are you looking to accomplish next? It makes it a lot easier to find motivation on a day-to-day basis when you know where you’re trying to go.

Few things are more satisfying than crossing things off your to-do list. The closure, the sense of a job well done, the fact that you never have to revisit that part of your life ever again.

Ahh, it’s a great feeling. So keep a list of the things you want to accomplish from a bigger picture perspective. Like learning new skills or changing the process for X—stuff like that.

It’s a great guide to know what you’re supposed to focus your energies on next. Keep a list of the things you have to do and the things you want to do. When you have some free time on your hands, put some time into the things you want to do, like a personal-development goal.


Typically, most of us get this as a regular part of our annual review (I hope). Different companies do it differently, but if you don’t have 360 reviews as part of your review, then I’d suggest you send this link to your HR director and say “Can we have 360° reviews, please?”

While a lot of people are mega jaded about the review process (and I get it…I do), this is the one part you should be on top of.

This is direct, honest, anonymous feedback from the people you work with on a day-to-day basis. This is gold Jerry, gold!

It’s nice to hear the good stuff, but barring any surprising comments (He’s so handsome!), the really valuable stuff is the negative (it’s called “things you can work on” in HR speak).

This is feedback from the people that know you and have worked with you, so barring a soap-opera-type workplace, you should be able to get something constructive out of this feedback that will make you better at your job while also getting people to work better with you. 

Plus if your boss sees these things, he wants to see that you’re doing something about it (make sure you add this to your list of goals).

Those are some basics, but if I’m missing anything please share them in the comments!

Image by OC Always

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