Note: This is a reblog of a post that I trot out in June for those who are graduating with plans to embark on a career. These are real life tips that young professionals may find useful.
The following 5 rules are guidelines, crucial for any young professional starting out on their first job. This information is rarely available from one’s own college alma mater. While each of us has the power to write our own success story, it shouldn’t be derailed because of the lack of basic knowledge 101.
WHY THESE RULES WILL INCREASE YOUR ODDS FOR SUCCESS
Whether you are a young man or woman, you have to dare compete in a different way than when you were studying in college or playing sports. You will NO LONGER be receiving immediate supervisory feedback with frequent evaluations on your work, with the assured comfort that as long as you render a superior performance that you will earn the appropriate credit and the reward of good grades.
Now, unless you are one of the fortunate few with connected parents or other relatives, no one will be looking out for your interests when you start out on the ladder to success. You are your own promoter in an environment where others want to also win in the career game with fewer and fewer available positions as you climb upwards. As a first year novice, remember that you are the one who is vulnerable and so you have to act preemptively to defend your job. Even though, you may be toiling for many hours while turning in a superior product, you can no longer count on receiving constant supervision with frequent accolades, immediate constructive feedback, and on being duly rewarded.
In summary, you cannot assume that your immediate supervisor and coworkers will make sure to play fair by insuring that you receive all the credit, you deserve, especially, if their careers may also be in jeopardy. Those in trouble will be looking for a scapegoat. It is your job to make sure that it is not you. WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!
THE FIRST TWO OUT OF FIVE RULES
1.) Time management is different from your college days. If you were going to be late in turning in a paper, with any reasonable excuse, you could probably obtain an extension from your professor.
Again the rules are different in your new reality workplace. Now whenever you are going to be late in the delivery of a promised work product, others are not going to be so understanding. It is essential for you to earn a reputation for being a team player with integrity, who is extremely reliable and dependable. Others should be able to place their trust in you to meet any commitments you have made, while counting on you to always produce a high quality work product within a reasonable time span.
TRUST is the key word. If those around you cannot depend on you to regularly deliver as you have promised, you will be deemed to be someone who is immature, thoughtless, untrustworthy and inconsiderate.
Maintaining a day planner is one tool that will help you to bolster a more positive image of your reliability with your fellow workers. Marking your promises in your day planner with the corresponding due dates will help you to allocate enough time to insure timely deliveries. Also, if someone gives you extra work which you know will be impossible to do by a certain date, you can proactively avoid any bad feelings by reminding the other party that while their request is your top priority, you cannot finish it by xxxx day, due to other pressing commitments, but you can deliver on this xxxx date. When you obtain an approval, let the other person know that you appreciate their confidence. Whenever, unforeseen events occur like a work emergency, make sure that anyone waiting on your work is immediately notified and any changes are mutually agreed upon. This has to be accomplished by phone or in person before you can email about the agreed upon terms. (Push back hard if you are being burdened with so many tasks to where it is virtually impossible to meet expected deadlines. This is where keeping a printable record of your current workload comes in handy) .
2.) Schedule time in your day planner to toot your own horn on a regular basis. Reminding your boss about what you have contributed to the company’s well being can be accomplished by email on a weekly basis. Include any extra assignments and/ or extra work hours that you have taken on, any assistance to others on your team which may interfere with you exceeding your own goals. Mention something that sets you apart from your competition. For instance, stress the high quality and the consideration to detail that you put into your work product that has been favorably noted on by others.
This tracking of what you are producing, provides a record in the event that you ever have to argue your value to the company. Being an advocate for yourself, requires you learn how to be comfortable with standing up for your interests. For example, if your boss has not been providing you with constructive feedback on at least a monthly basis, be proactive. Make an appointment to discuss specifically, what your boss perceives as requiring improvement on your part. Thank your boss for whatever input he/she provides.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FIND YOURSELF BEING BLINDSIDED BY A LESS THAN A STELLAR FIRST EVALUATION. DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF AND DO NOT TAKE ANY OF THE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK AT FACE VALUE. Tell the boss that you need a couple of days to reflect and to process what he/she has shared with you. Keep a cool head as you seek clarification and ask for specific examples of what he/she is basing the negative input. Later, you can self reflect on any negative feedback to determine its merit so that you can self adjust accordingly. But do not acquiesce in any way, in real time while being confronted by an unexpected negative performance critique. Remember that in a healthy work culture, you should have been advised in a timely and encouraging way about any concerns management had been harboring about your performance.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t meditate over what was said to find the kernels of truth. If there is some basis in truth, develop a strategy to fix any negative work habits. If you end up parting with your first employer, it will benefit you on your next job to have learned and self corrected for your mistakes. If you genuinely feel that the eval was not fair, based on specific points, still, wait to respond. At this point, there is nothing you can do or say to change his/ her thinking regarding your performance.
In a few days, make an appointment with your direct boss to share a specific plan to improve in areas that your boss, deems deficient. Review the points where you suspect that your supervisor may be lacking relevant data to where he/ she may have developed a misunderstanding. Doing this step will demonstrate that you are taking the feedback seriously and that you are not in a state of denial or avoidance. Instead, indicate a real intent to improve and show that you are taking responsibility in confronting any problems directly. It’s so rare to have someone do this in response to a bad evaluation that it’s likely to make your boss want to invest in you. At the very least, this may make him/ her respect you, no matter what happens.
All of the above is moot if you have some basis to suspect that your boss is acting out of anger and in a retaliatory manner.