3 Tips Many Singaporeans Don’t Use That Will Help You Get Ahead at Work

Joanne Poh



Have you ever noticed how the people who are the best at their work are seldom the ones the boss likes best, or who get promoted first?

That’s because getting ahead at work and supercharging your climb up the corporate ladder goes beyond merely doing your job well.

It’s about being someone your superiors feel they can count on, and who can make everyone’s life easier. Here are three tips that will help you become that guy who’s always the first to be considered for a promotion.


Learn to pre-empt what your boss wants

Singaporean employees have a reputation for being good at following instructions. But they tend to fail spectacularly when they’re expected to work independently, in the absence of explicit orders.

That means that even if you follow your boss’s instructions to a tee, you’re not going to differentiate yourself from all the other serviceable yet mediocre employees at the office by doing only that.

No, in order to get your boss to start thinking about you as someone he can’t do without, you need to pre-empt his wants and needs, even before he opens his mouth.

Naturally, being able to do so means you’ll need to observe your boss closely so you know what makes him tick and what sort of person he’s like.

For instance, let’s say your boss is a micro-manager who’s always breathing down your neck and wants to know every single bit of minutiae, from what time you stepped into the office in the morning to what the client said at the last meeting. In this situation, take the initiative to keep your boss updated on your progress at work without waiting for him to ask. For instance, sending such a boss emails with bullet points recapping your progress without being asked will instantly save him a lot of nagging time.

On the other hand, if your boss is the kind who prefers to let his employees have free rein over their work and prizes unconventional solutions (er okay frankly speaking that probably means your boss is either an expat or some 25-year-old startup founder), don’t just sit around and do the bare minimum. Instead, take advantage of your freedom to push boundaries and be daring, as that will make you look better than your colleagues who just sit back and wait for instructions.


Be impeccable at time management and prioritising

Long working hours are a huge problem in Singapore. While some people spend most of their lives in their cubicles because they’re trying to “show face” at work and make their boss think they’re working super hard, that doesn’t do them any favours if it means they manage their time poorly.

Whether your boss is the enlightened sort who doesn’t mind if you leave on time every day so long as you get your work done, or a tyrant who expects you to sit around in the office until he leaves, it still pays to learn how to manage your timelines efficiently.

You see, nobody wants to hire someone who spends his entire day “respectfully” waiting for the boss to leave, and yet does not know how to prioritise the most urgent and most important tasks.

When your boss is getting all kancheong spider because the client is chasing him for something and you don’t have it ready because you were too busy doing unimportant crap, he’s going to think you’re incompetent, even if you’ve been sitting in the office all night long.

That’s why learning to manage your time and tackle tasks in order of priority is essential, no matter the amount of time you actually spend at work.


Win clients’ loyalty

It’s pretty obvious that somebody whom humankind finds repellant is not going to go far in the corporate world.

That’s why many people try very hard to be well-liked at work, sucking up to their bosses, desperately networking and trying to get on the good side of every clique at the office.

But even if you’re Mr Popularity at the office, your boss isn’t going to be very impressed if you can’t build rapport with clients.

In fact, being liked by clients not only makes you indispensable to the company, it also means that if you switch jobs, these clients just might follow you to your next company.

Somebody who’s already got loyal clients on his side is extremely valuable to a prospective employer, especially in the professional services or sales lines. I’ve seen young PMETs from wealthy families get hired by companies solely because their parents have lots of contacts.

You might not have been born into such fortunate circumstances, but if you truly behave like the client comes first and focus on building rapport and going the extra mile, you’ll build up a nice following of your own over the years.

What’s your secret to climbing the corporate ladder? Share your tips in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.