To this day, I remember when I received my first offer letter for my first “real” job. It was the first moment in my life that I felt like my hard work, schooling, and internships finally paid off. Literally. (Well, at that time, literally).
I didn’t negotiate my first offer. I accepted right away, for a jaw dropping $38,000 year. I was doing jumping jacks out of excitement, and I remember that night, I ordered an appetizer for dinner and didn’t think twice about it. Oh, how times have changed.
Starting a career early on can be a whole mix of different emotions. It’s totally normal to feel excited, uncomfortable, eager, fearful, over ambitious, and emotionally exhausted. Hindsight is always 20/20 – Here are the top 10 working tips I would give any professional starting a new career. These tips are listed in no particular order, because they all hold major value, and will help you along your professional journey.
Be A Student
Even if you just graduated college, continue to be a student. Every good professional and leader never stops learning. Being a student of your new career is critical early on. Be a sponge, absorb as much as you can. The more you familiarize yourself with your new career, industry, and company..The better off you will be.
Confidence is key for almost anything you do, but it’s a necessity when you’re the “new person” in the office yet to prove yourself. You got hired, you go the job, congrats! The company wanted you, now breathe.
You obviously showed your new employer enough though the interview process to have confidence in you- Now you have to return the favor and have confidence in yourself. You truly have to believe that you have something to contribute at your job.
Ask yourself this- How can I get better 1% everyday as a professional? How can you make a positive impact and really standout? Don’t panic if you don’t see or feel your impact right away, if good effort with good intention is there, it’s almost guaranteed that your impact is being seen and felt.
This is another one of those “rules” for lack of better words, that I believe one should practice in all facets of their life, but this especially applies in the professional world. Too many times I’ve seen a younger hire come to a company, who is very smart, but doesn’t do well because of arrogance and ego. You don’t want to be this person, and you never want to be the person who is remembered for being “cocky”.
Humility will get you far. Asking for help and being willing to learn as a young professional will get you far. Having grace and respect with your coworkers will get you far. Pride will hurt your career right off the bat. Trust me, I’ve seen it time and time again. Plus, more than likely, you were originally hired “hopefully” because of your awesome personality, not just because you possessed a strong skill-set.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” – Anonymous.
Those who follow my blog consistently, know that I’m a firm believer in trying to follow and understand process. Every workplace, for better and for worse, has a process. Right away, you need to try and understand that process, and if it’s a bad process, you need to figure out a way to be part of the solution to make it better.
Some companies not only struggle with internal process, they also struggle with how they handle their external processes. So, before you can be part of the solution, you have to understand what your work process is, and how you fit in that equation, and lastly how you can always make that process and equation better.
For a better understanding on how to learn the art of Practicing Professional Process, read this blog. Click here!
Don’t be Everything to Everyone
One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard is “What good is a man’s yes, if he can’t say no?” That statement couldn’t be more true for young professionals just learning their ways in the workforce.
Too often do I see young pros work themselves to death. They essentially are exhausting themselves and their talent level, because they are saying “yes” to everyone. Why’s the main reason we say “yes” when we don’t want to? Simple, fear. We are afraid to say no.
Just because you are young and with a new company, doesn’t mean you have to work yourself to death. I’m a firm believer in maintaining a healthy balance of work and personal life. To be a top notch professional, and highly respected in your industry, you have to stay refreshed and motivated. So I stress, don’t be everything to everyone. Also, studies have shown, executives and direct reports respect their employees that aren’t afraid to respectfully say no when the time is right. This is a hard thing to learn, but will be more than rewarding once you realize the value in standing up for YOU.
Become a Problem Solver
A good friend, colleague, and mentor of mine Daniel Nice, once said- “They need to teach problem solving as a mandatory class in schools.”
I couldn’t agree more. We all can become better problem solvers. If you want to thrive as a young professional, I highly recommend being self sufficient and willing to take challenges before completely handing it off to someone else and “asking for help”.
One thing I’m guilty of, and I’m sure everyone else is too, is “passing” a challenge off to someone else. I see a lot of people with the mindset of, “I can’t figure it out, but I’m sure they can”. When you do this, you are automatically putting yourself in the lower tear of the work pool. Essentially, you want to be the “go-to” when a challenge presents itself, you don’t’ want to be the person passing it off.
I won’t name drop, but I once had a VP of Human Resource Officer of a $250 million dollar company tell me “My motto and theme for this year to our employee staff is, figure it out!” Ultimately, what she was hinting at was, her corporate staff sucked at problem solving. You’re better than that, go out and solve some damn problems and I promise you will make a ton of money when it’s all said and done.
Ask for Help
I know, you’re probably thinking. What the hell, you just said to start thinking like a problem solver? Asking for help and thinking like a problem solver are two completely different things.
It’s inevitable, we all need professional help. From young professionals all the way at the executive level, people ask for help.
A lot of these tips on this list run hand in hand. Asking for help mostly starts with humility, and remember, we want to always try and stay humble. Not only does asking for help resemble humility, it also shows confidence to the people around you. Both humility and confidence are valued high on this list.
Asking for help when you’re new in your career is expected, and if you’re with a good company, it should be encouraged. Ask for help when needed, but don’t rely on that help to solve all your challenges. And yes, part of being a “problem solver”, is sometimes asking for help.
In my opinion, this can be one of the most difficult things not only a professional, but also as a person.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes, we make big mistakes. This too, is just like asking for help, and is inevitable in your career. The best thing you can do when you make a mistake, is hold yourself accountable.
When you hold yourself accountable, you’re making it clear to the ones around you that you’re holding yourself to a higher standard. You’re also showing honestly and the willingness to make things right.
Connect With Your Colleagues
Connection. It’s key to almost anything you do in life. It’s no different when you first join the workforce and you start developing working relationships.
If you decide to invest and focus on building relationships with your co-workers, you will see over time that you inevitably are building trust. Trust, in my opinion, is huge asset in the workforce. Once you start gaining your immediate colleagues trust, people from all departments take notice. This is key when you’re new and trying to position yourself as an employee of value.
Not only are you connecting and now “ranking” higher amongst your colleagues, you’re creating more opportunity. It’s inevitable- When someone likes and trusts you, they are more willing to take a chance on you. That’s why car salesmen are your best friend for about three hours, then once you buy, they never talk to you again. They made you feel comfortable, they made you like them, and in three hours, you decided to give them a lot of money for a product they might not care about! Holy cow! They connected with you!
The power of connection can’t be underestimated. I’ve gone far in my career just because someone has “liked” me. For better or for worse, I’ve advanced. Now it’s up to you go out and build those connections and start utilizing them.
You Tell Me
Now it’s your turn. What’s one lesson you’ve learned being a professional? Young or experienced, it doesn’t matter. All these lessons and tips listed above I learned through trial and error. I learned from smart people, like yourself, reading this blog. The one thing I try to stay consistent in, is my willingness to learn and listen- So tell me, what can WE do to be better working professionals?
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