You need an edge. The lingering shaky economy has increased competition among colleagues. According to a 2012 OfficeTeam study, nearly half of senior managers believe employees are more competitive than they were a decade ago, and it takes more now to stand out at work than it once did. Try these five tools to increase your odds of career success:
1. Self-awareness. If you don't know where you want to go, you're going to struggle to get there. Without a solid sense of your true goals and values, satisfaction may elude you in your job.
When you're caught up in an endless cycle of busyness and not sure what you really want, then taking an extended break to get away from your usual routines and influences can shift your perspective and help restore clarity. There's no point in climbing the wrong ladder – be sure you're investing your energy in what means the most to you.
2. Discipline. In our attention-challenged society, you can make an impression at work by being someone who practices discipline. Can you tune out the noise of the many office distractions to stay focused on what matters the most in your job?
If so, you'll separate yourself from the pack of employees who waste time on busywork, negativity and too much social media. To become more disciplined, choose objectives that can help identify you to management as a strategic thinker, and limit activities that derail you from those goals.
3. Office friends. Workplace friendships often receive a bad rap. Employees have long been encouraged not to mix business and pleasure for fear of damaging office relationships and decreasing productivity. But many studies have shown the opposite. Research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that when workers have options to make friends with co-workers, they're both more satisfied and more productive.
In her book "Women I Want to Grow Old With," Diane Gage Lofgren notes that expanding our circle of friends – including workplace friends – helps protect our physical and emotional health. Lofgren cites a 2002 UCLA study that discovered friendship among women can improve health by reducing stress, decreasing the risk of developing physical conditions and boosting longevity.
While finding and nurturing friendships at work may seem like it takes you off-track with your position's objectives, remember this research and take the time to be collegial.
4. Persistence. No matter how savvy and effective you are at your job and how well you get along with colleagues, there will be points in your career when you will stumble. What separates success from failure is often not whether or how often you've failed, but how tenacious you are about getting back in the game.
Continue moving forward with persistence despite obstacles. By doing so, you'll move through your challenges and recover with new wisdom to help you navigate and avoid the same trouble spots in the future.
5. Comfort with change. People resist new situations for many reasons. In a blog post for Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter lists loss of control, worries about uncertainty and attachment to routines as key contributors to change resistance.
But remember Charles Darwin's famous admonition: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
Despite how frightening change can seem when you've grown comfortable with longstanding habits, it's inevitable in your career and life. The sooner you accept this fact and learn to move gracefully through change into new situations, the better your chance for workplace success.
Robin Madell has spent two decades as a writer, journalist, and communications consultant on business, leadership, career, and diversity issues. She has interviewed over 200 thought leaders around the globe, and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. Robin serves as a speechwriter and ghostwriter for CEOs and top executives, with a specialized focus on women in business. She is author of Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30, which is scheduled for publication in September 2013.