Over the last decade, Singapore’s workforce, job market and economy have become increasingly large, competitive and diverse. These developments have provided Singapore with many benefits, such as an enhanced potential for innovation and growth.

Having said that, they have also highlighted a number of workplace challenges, such as competition for roles and a greater desire for career growth and recognition.

So how can an employee stand out from the crowd and establish a fulfilling career? In my view, the secret is to manage your career like a relationship: with trust, respect and responsibility at its core.

This premise is by no means new. We have always used trust, respect, honesty and self-awareness to build fruitful personal relationships. However, these qualities are often overlooked in the corporate world, despite their importance.

This is true for both employers and employees. For example, employers who respond to individual employees’ desire for recognition are more likely to attract the best talent. Especially in what can be an impersonal workplace, employees want to feel that they are recognised as individuals and that what they contribute really matters – to them and to the company.

Companies try to meet these needs in a number of ways. For example, insurance company Aviva attempts to embrace these principles through its “Employee Promise” and approach to performance management and career progression. 

So what can you, an employee, do to embrace this approach? As in your personal life, the first step is to :

Finding a compatible relationship

Everyone has their own unique personality, opinions and goals in life. These characteristics shape who we are and whom we are more likely to enjoy being with. It is the same with companies. Each is different and not all will be compatible. Before joining a company, you should therefore: 

Find out if you like its personality

Get to know the company and its culture. Start by looking at its website and at the many other insights into the company that you can find online. Many offer invaluable glimpses into what you might find if you were to work there. Try talking to friends who work or have worked there — first-hand experience is a valuable source of information.

Ensure you have shared goals

Our goals in life are what get us out of bed in the morning. Those goals provide us with a sense of purpose and fulfilment. It is therefore important to check whether your goals are shared by the company you are thinking about joining and whether what is important to you will be recognised.

Check if they are supportive

Mutual support is an essential ingredient to any relationship. Before joining, you should therefore get an understanding of how the company will support you in terms of training, development and mentoring.

Build a lasting bond

After finding a compatible relationship, you must be careful not to take each other for granted. It is always worth remembering how to best build a lasting working relationship:

Build trust, be sincere

Trust built on sincerity and transparency is critical to any relationship. Employees should therefore always be open and honest in a constructive way with employers, and vice versa.

If you are unhappy with something, don’t expect it to be fixed if you don’t say anything.

Communication is key. Equally, if you are not getting feedback on how your boss and the company view you, ask for it.

Listen, and respond

When people listen to each other, better decisions are made, conflicts are avoided, errors are reduced, ideas are generated, and lessons are learned. Listening is therefore vital as it can define the productivity and enjoyment of your working day. However, listening alone is not enough. You must act on the information received, even if it is critical.  

Focus on shared goals

People often get caught up with their own individual objectives and forget the bigger picture and what really matters. The same happens in business. For employees to be successful, they need to remember that goals are best achieved when everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Be happy at work

As in our personal lives, healthy, harmonious and long-lasting work relationships don’t always come easily, especially in today’s competitive workforce. However, they are achievable for all with a little trust, respect and responsibility.

In fact, if we work hard at these, we will be on the right path to a successful and fulfilling career.  When most of us spend at least 40 hours a week in the workplace, that’s a pretty important basis for a happy work life.