habits for growth in your career

Are you new to the workforce or just getting started on your career path? While many of us dream about our ideal job or plan what it will be like when we’re leading our own company, most of us will spend the majority of our careers not as the boss, but in important support roles for others.

Over the last 22 years, I’ve worked various jobs in sectors ranging from corporate and government offices, to now, my local church. In each new role I’ve taken on, there are guiding principles I come back to that have helped me increase my value as an employee and find success in the job I’m in. Here are just a few tips that can help you as you navigate your own career path.

1. Learn the basics.

I landed my first “real” job when I was 15 and promptly traded walking to after-school babysitting jobs for bus rides to a downtown law firm to “Bates-stamp” documents for two hours a day. If you were born after 1982, you’re probably wondering what Bates-stamping even is. Well, let’s just say it involved stacks of legal documents, a number stamp, and copious amounts of white-out to fix your mistakes when you accidentally skipped a page.

My first introduction into the workforce was an entry-level job, but it was an important experience that taught me basic office skills and corporate office culture. Sitting in a room stamping papers eventually turned into making coffee for board meetings, running errands and ordering office supplies. In turn I was promoted to office assistant, and this prepared me for jobs I would have down the road. Often we want to skip the small stuff and go right to the role we think will give us the most impact and influence, but I’ve found the tasks that might seem meaningless at the time are usually the ones that give you the best foundation for future jobs.

 2. Do your work with excellence.

You can’t go wrong giving everything you do your best effort. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before Kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” The Message paraphrases it this way: “Observe people who are good at their work - skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don't take a back seat to anyone." 

When we work with excellence, it makes room for our talents to shine. In turn, this creates room for favor and promotion in our life. Simply defined, excellence means superior, first class or very good at its kind. If we are excelling at something, it means we are surpassing the average achievement.

As I grew in my ability to perform basic tasks, I took on more responsibility, and in turn carried those skills into my future jobs. I certainly haven’t stood before a king yet, but by excelling in my work, I was given the opportunity to work for a ranking member of Congress for ten years and then became the Director of the Mayor’s office in my hometown.

3. Make meaningful contributions.

Make meaningful contributions to your workplace by leaving things better than you found them. Improve it, and while you’re at it, you’ll improve your own work habits. Sometimes those improvements will go unnoticed, but they matter.

Maybe you’re a data-geek (like me) and can streamline and clean-up your organization’s database. Maybe you took over a job for someone and there was little guidance or training offered to you, and you could put together instructions for whomever will take on that role after you. Maybe a process or system is outdated and you can offer ways to improve it.

When I am unsure of what kind of contributions I can make, I look for tasks and projects that others don’t have time to get to, or would rather not do, and offer to do them.

Whether you thrive in a support role or you dream about leading your own company one day, take the time to learn the basics, do your work with excellence and look for ways to make meaningful contributions to your workplace. Just these small things alone can help you be successful right where you’re at.

Kristina Sabestinas

Kristina Sabestinas lives in Spokane, WA where she enjoys drinking really good coffee and raising her three boys alongside her husband, Justin. She has spent most of her career in government and political work, and has recently transitioned to working with her parents at the church they have pastored for over 25 years. You can hear some of her messages at victoryfaith.org/faithcast.

Join the discussion

Christine September 8, 2017 at 8:51am

For me, it all started working at my family's restaurant business, where in hindsight and towards the end of my time there, I realized - the mundane, menial tasks like taking phone calls, writing down addresses for deliveries/learning the city, and socializing/assisting customers from all walks of life, were truly teaching moments and skills I would need later on in my career.

I also started volunteering with several nonprofit and local organizations in the communities, thereby gaining further networking moments, and learned invaluable lessons in working with the general public. This led to my first real bigtime job, as a 911 calltaker-trained into a law dispatcher. Where I thought that working with my family was a blessing and a curse at the same time, later turned into appreciation for teaching me social skills, communication, acceptance, understanding, multi-tasking, and knowledge of cities surrounding the restaurant and my home!!!

Thank God for these moments and life lessons that DO play a part in our journey in the workplace and life!!

Jacinth Dada September 7, 2017 at 4:19am

Thanks for sharing. I just got home from work without COMPLETING my work day, due to cascading events that led to a volcanic eruption of emotions of frustration. Your article encouraged me to never stop striving for excellence even when you feel like giving up. Today, I had the ears of my superiors for two and half hours no to complain but, to articulate and posed solutions that may change the culture in my work envirnoment.

melinda September 3, 2017 at 12:52pm

This article is well written, spot on and applies to all of us. Thank you so, so much for writing it!

Chita September 3, 2017 at 2:58am

Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom! I'm just starting my career and love to hear stories of strong, Godly women who have worked successfully in the 'secular world! The Lord has called me out beyond the four walls of the church (I was/am a pastor) and I am excited to bring His Kingdom wherever I go! Blessings:)

Laura September 3, 2017 at 1:35am

I am in an office where excellence is discouraged and co-workers complain because everyone seeks me out. I am not trying to make them feel bad but they don't do a good job and people know it. How do I stay motivated when my supervisor says I need to dial it back and not take care of things?