Whether you are entering the job market right out of school or after a victory lap in Europe or South America, here are some important dos and don’ts to get you off to a powerful start in the world of work. With a positive attitude, enthusiastic approach to work, maintaining your child-like curiosity and back to school mentality, you will quickly be respected, admired and sought after in the work place. It is just as important to avoid conflict and politics, to not allow subversives to get to you, and to not be afraid that work is work. Get yourself some mentorship and avoid job hopping to a new “gig” at every sign of boredom. Your first opportunity is exciting and approaching it the right way can positively affect the trajectory of your career and job path.
Successful people in organizations are positive in the workplace and they bring out the positive side of others. Take the time in the morning to adjust your attitude so you don’t bring any personal challenges with you. Maybe you spent the night in a long argument with your significant other. Leave it at home and adjust yourself or you will bring that anxiety and anger into the workplace and it will show in your work and your interactions with others.
Work is work; that is why you get paid to do it. You probably would like to be somewhere else. But successful folks are enthusiastic even when faced with a tough or less than interesting assignment. If you are enthusiastic about challenging assignments, you will find that you are given other challenging work and that is what leads to expertise, growth, money and promotions.
Young people are notoriously good learners. It isn’t that older individuals don’t have the capacity to learn, but there is a sense of getting stuck in our ways. When we “walk the same path” every day, we tend to stop looking around. Watch babies and toddlers and observe how they learn. The don’t just stare straight ahead. They are always looking around and moving and contorting their body to see things. They take nothing for granted. Do the same.
In school you are provided with advisors, professors and administrators to help you with any challenges you face. Most organizations will not have similar structures. You will have a boss. You will also need to find someone you admire who will take you under their wing. A mentor is a critical asset to have in your first opportunity and leads to further opportunities. It doesn’t have to be and maybe shouldn’t be your boss. It should be someone senior to you that you can trust and who is upwardly mobile and respected in the company.
Take responsibility for your own performance metrics. Understand what success means in your job and your field and keep track of where you are and how you are doing. Don’t rely on others to tell you how you are doing - take responsibility for your development. The most successful people are in control of their metrics and work to improve themselves. Waiting for an annual review is not what extraordinary people do.
There are several adjustments to make in moving from college to work, but some things you shouldn’t change. Maybe you checked your campus mail several times a day. Maybe you enjoyed sleeping in after mid-week parties. Surely you enjoyed having summers off to have fun and get a change of pace. These things change when you join the world of work. But one of the benefits of the annual “gear up for back to school” is an attitude adjustment that is healthy. We go buy new clothes, shoes, books and prepare ourselves for a Fall of learning. Don’t stop that “back to school mentality.” It is a powerful springboard for you in terms of work performance.
There will likely come a time for you to move on to another position, but make sure before you do that you have done everything you can to improve the situation where you are. In many issues we face, we are part of the problem. If you don’t take the time to understand why you have an issue at work and try to resolve it, you may well take it to your next position or job.
It is easy to get sucked into speculation about people who work at a company and the company itself. These are common but risky behaviors. Moreover, you don’t want to be perceived as part of the group that may include subversive types in the organization. Take care on who you associate with. This crowd will not help your career trajectory. They will hurt it.
This is a bad reputation to get out of the gate. “Joe is always on his phone or texting.” And first reputations are difficult to change because we always remember the first things someone does. That is where nicknames come from - first encounters. Excessive PDA time is a way of showing you care more about yourself and your personal life than the company that is paying you to help accomplish the company’s goals.
Actively engage with all levels of the organization. Janitors, receptionists and admins have tremendous informal power and if you don’t respect them they can hurt you and your reputation in the organization. These people are the engine room of a company and are extremely important to your success. Respect and engage with them as equals and you will benefit from their knowledge and respect. When it comes to getting things done in an organization, it truly takes a village and therefore you should respect and admire each component of the organization.
You only get to make a first impression once! So bring your A game to your first opportunity. Be positive and enthusiastic even when it is difficult to do so. Be aggressively curious about how the company works and the role of what you do in the organization. Get yourself some mentors and mentoring from those that know their way around. Take responsibility for your own performance and performance improvement. Avoid quitting in favor of another “gig” especially if things aren’t going well at first. Make sure you understand why you are having challenges and try to fix it. Otherwise, your challenges may well follow you. Avoid the PDA syndrome. Find a place and time to check it periodically, but don’t let it rule your workday. Excessive PDA use will hurt how you are viewed in the workplace. Don’t get sucked into rumors and gossip or crowds or groups that do that. Take what is best from your college experience and leverage it. When Fall comes put a new spring in your step with a “back to school mentality” by getting yourself some new threads or shoes. Have fun and smile and watch your career trajectory rise.
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