"I do my job just as well, or better than my co-worker. Why is it that my manager always turns to him for...".
If any of this sounds familiar, you should know that you are not alone, and we recommend that you read this article.
Its not all about simply performing your job duties. We all know those common sense things you must do to make a good impression at any job. Show up on time, dress professionally, finish your project ontime, limit absences, thinking about consequences of your actions etc. But these are just the basics. They may ensure you keep your job, but there's more you can do to get ahead. Here are some tips:
Find a Mentor or as Ben Stein says in his article on Yahoo Finance, "Get someone up above you on the ladder. Listen to his war stories. Listen to his boasts. In return, get his advice, get his contacts (contacts are everything in life), get his words to a friend, get him to boost you up the ladder." Ask him for advice on what he/she recommends you do to get ahead
Become Visible. Put Yourself Out There - Staying confined to your cubicle, doing just the basics of your job will not get you ahead. If you really want to move up in your career, get your face out there and make contacts. Seek out people in other parts of your company. Do things you do not have to do. Volunteer to serve on an inter-departmental committee. You will make contacts, learn about new opportunities, and show your commitment to your company and department's vision. Offer to help on a project outside your normal duties that fits with your interests. If you understand where you hope to go in your career, you can identify projects that will help you get there.
Be Reliable. Your manager should always feel they have nothing to worry about, if a task has been assigned to you. If your manager is expecting you to complete a task by next Monday, and you are running into problems, don't wait until next Monday to tell your manager. Tell your manager on Thursday/Friday of prior week issues you are having.
Train, Train, Train. In any career, training helps keep one's skills and stay up-to-date, nowhere is it
more critical than in IT, where new developments are the norm. Training opportunities may be offered through your employer. Even if they are not, its worth spending your own money to develop new skills (this money spent may be tax deductible).
Maintain Positive Attitude A little thing like smile on your face can go a long way. No one likes to work
with people with poor attitude. In order to keep your job, you may not have to go beyond the norm. But if you want to advance, it is best that your superiors see you maintaining a positive attitude, a smile on your face, and steering clear of politics. If you stay focused on the bottom line (success of your project) without stepping over other people, combined with enthusiasm and smile, it will not go un-noticed. Come annual review time, the next promotion may be yours.
Be a Solutions Person Most people have the ability to identify problems. Very few go upto their boss to talk about a problem, and already have a solution that addresses that problem. Having more than one solution to the same problem does not hurt.
Take Initiative Don't wait for your manager to assign you a task. If you see something that needs to be done, and you know you can do it (or its going to be assigned to you anyway), go ahead and bring it up to your manager. Tell him/her that you see a task that needs to be done, and that you would like to do it. On the contrary, do not be 'over ambitious' i.e. do not go ahead and do the task prior to obtaining your manager's approval. It is possible that your manager has some thoughts about that task, or may have already assigned it to someone else (without you knowing). If you take upon yourself to do the task, without your manager's knowledge, this may backfire. So taking initiatives requires some balancing.
And the most important - Be Results Oriented. You were hired to produce results. You can have all of above attributes, but if you are not creating results your were hired for, do not expect to advance. Make sure your definition of results is the same as your manager's definition. If you two are not on the same page, you are not producing results.
I am sure that there are many other attributes to a successful career. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.