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6 Ways to Make Sure You Get Exactly What You Want at Work

Work it!

1. Make yourself necessary. Find something that no one else is doing — and do it well. “I created a niche,” explains Mar Yvette, 35, a lifestyle reporter for Good Day LA and FOX 11 News in Los Angeles. Yvette turned a one-time media appearance for her then-job at Citysearch.com into a weekly television segment. When she got laid off from the website, she kept going to the station, where she volunteered and prepared segments as a guest. “I wasn’t getting paid but I knew that it was going to lead to something, so I continued.” Several months down the line, she was hired as a full-fledged employee at the TV show.

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2. Have a goal. We all want a job we love but that’s not always possible, at least not right away. Between budget cuts and layoffs, women are finding it harder to get a foot in the door, never mind landing their dream job. If you’re working part-time or aren’t in the field you want to be in, focus on the end goal. For example, if you’re a receptionist with hopes of being a chef, take every opportunity to show off your cooking skills. Make your favourite dish for the next office party, then casually mention to coworkers that you’re available for catering gigs.

3. Network like crazy. Find a reason to get in touch with people in power positions. “Once a week I go through my phone contact list, and randomly pick five people, and send a quick ‘hello’ email or text,” says Claudia Mora, 32, founder of the League of Extraordinary Latinas and Matrix Public Relations in New York City. If you want to change fields, keep your eyes open for opportunities to make a connection. “I keep close tabs on LinkedIn,” Mora says. “When someone has a new job, I send her a congrats email, and say, ‘Here’s my contact info, just in case.'” Mora also engages in the discussion groups on the site — a must. “It helps establish me as an expert in my field.”

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4. Speak up. You have a voice, so use it! “I used to be a put-my-head-down-and-work-really-hard-don’t-leave-your-cube type of person,” says Nidia Caceros, 39, director of corporate communications at the Walt Disney Company. “I was flying under the radar. Then one day my boss said sarcastically, ‘Oh, you were in that meeting too? Because I didn’t hear you.'” Caceros knew she wasn’t really timid — she was just anxious about being put on the spot and having to defend her positions. But she learned that you should make your presence known even if you don’t have all the answers. “Some of the best ideas are the ones that can be built upon.”

5. Be prepared. The show must go on, even when you’re down a colleague or, in some cases, a family member! Stefani Vara, the 33-year-old creator, executive producer, and co-host of Comida Caliente, a reality-style family cooking show on YouTube, was scheduled to host a live sponsored event with the cast when her sister cancelled at the last minute. “Instead of freaking out, I had to take a step back, breathe, and think, ‘What can I do?'” Vara turned to her brother, who was happy to help. “If one can’t be there, somebody else can step in,” explains Vara, who found out the value of always having a Plan B.

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6. Find a mentor. “A mentor is not someone you can go shopping for,” says Mariela Dabbah, author of Find Your Inner Red Shoes: Step Into Your Own Style of Success. It’s a friendship above everything else. “It has to be someone with whom you have chemistry and that person has a reason to invest time in you. It’s a two-way street.” Just be sure to look outside of your usual circles. “The idea is to try to diversify your network.”

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This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan.com

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