The Way It Was
You've spent approximately the last seventeen years sitting in a classroom absorbing bits of knowledge. Every now and then you were tested to see how well you remembered that information. Occasionally, you had to write a research paper; sometimes quite an extensive one. You were given the assignment back in September. The paper wasn't due until December.
Flash to the Present
Suddenly you are out of the safe haven of the classroom, where you were tested on schedule, and deadlines were months away. You are thrust into the harsh reality of your first job. Deadlines are “tomorrow, at the latest.” There are no formal exams, but don't ever forget -- you are being tested; everyday. The results come, not in report cards, but in performance reviews
. Always remember to do your best; you are being watched. Why is your employer watching you? You may think it's a money thing. That is, of course, true; but it isn't the only reason. Your performance in the classroom impacted you alone, not your college, or even your professor. In contrast, your performance at work impacts the organization as a whole, your bosses, and even your co-workers. You are one spoke in the wheel that makes the organization run. If that spoke is broken, your employer will just go out and replace it. Enough said.
Some Tips to Help You Succeed
- Always arrive at work on time, if not a little early. Stick to your lunch hour... and if you are particularly busy, eat at your desk or come back early.
- Dress appropriately. Look around you to see how others are dressed; especially those who are further along on your career path. For example, if you work in an advertising agency and aspire to be an account executive, don't dress like the art director, whose job allows a more casual style.
- LISTEN--LISTEN--LISTEN...and OBSERVE. The best piece of advice I received from an employer was to listen and observe before jumping in to suggest changes.
- Stay away from office gossip. That is not to say don't pay attention to what you hear through the grapevine. That can be helpful. However don't contribute to it.
- Mind your manners. Don't forget what you learned as a child. Please and thank you should still be the magic words. Always knock before you enter. Although barging into your friend's dorm room may have been okay with him, barging into your supervisor's office is not okay.
- Answer the telephone politely, even if the call is internal.
- Find a mentor. Look for someone on your career path who is willing to take you under her wing. Your own supervisor may not be a good idea, but someone else under his supervision may work well.
- Don't pretend to know things you don't. However, do your homework. Learn what you need to know.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are assigned a project and are not sure how it should be completed, ask. It's better to ask before the project is due, than to have it delayed because it was done incorrectly.
- Always stick to deadlines. Bosses usually want projects completed on time. If there is any flexibility, she will let you know.
- Finally, pay close attention to corporate culture. Learn how things work within your company. Are relationships formal or friendly? Does everyone arrive early and stay late? Are lunch hours short or non-existent? Please forgive me for this cliche, but when in Rome...