By Cindy Parnell, Executive Director, Career and Professional Development Services, Arizona State University
I am often asked what advice I could offer to new professionals entering the world of work. I’ve suggested many things, given recommendations and connected people to others. Below is a quick list of consistent advice about attitude, leadership and focus that I’ve offered to those who have asked over the years:
Pay attention. I heard someone say recently that ‘you become the people you surround yourself with.’ Watch, associate with and work close to those who are respected and have advanced in the organization. Success breeds success. Learn from people that are growing in the organization. Ask if you can assist with projects, serve on committees or work in teams of those who do good work and are rewarded for it. You will learn a lot, fast.
Don’t start or engage in ‘swirl.’ Office gossip is easy to join and add to. It’s a quick way to feel included. It’s harder to keep a distance or even stop it. Try to remove yourself or better yet, educate, inform and contribute something positive to the conversations. Don’t become associated with those who are negative or don’t advance the company culture in a positive way. It sucks energy out of potential good work that needs just as much energy to complete. Instead, approach issues with a problem-solving and solutions-oriented mindset.
Fail Fast, Own it. We aren’t perfect, and when something falls through the cracks, goes array, or you simply messed-up, own it. Share with your supervisor immediately and take ownership along with sharing how you plan to fix or solve it. Getting ahead by sharing any mishaps with your supervisor/work team is best before they hear something from someone else. Your job is to help inform your supervisor so they are never caught off guard or don’t have the full story from you. Good supervisors will appreciate that you have a plan to address the issue and were upfront early on.
Work at the next level in the organization chart. Work hard, ask to serve on projects or work teams outside of your day-to-day duties, and be visible at events or activities that are considered optional. This can demonstrate that you are interested in the organization beyond your job description while also showcasing your knowledge and skills and building experience. This is a great way to also meet and engage with higher level decision makers and leaders in your organization.
Follow through and follow up. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Well, the ball is in their court.’ This mindset pushes the issue, or ‘ball’, to someone else to address. Sometimes, an email gets buried or a voicemail gets deleted, and a little reminder or ‘nudge’ can actually help the person respond back to you. If the ultimate responsibility is yours, it is especially important to follow up with people to get the things you need to be successful. Don’t ever attribute the fact that someone else didn’t get back to you as the reason for not completing a project or seeing a problem through to a solution.
Bring others alongside you. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that people will work harder for you and do more than asked when they know you are with them. Take the time to help others understand the ‘why’ and know how important it is to show, teach and work alongside those throughout your organization. As you grow in your career, show others you care about them as a person and their stories, and they will move mountains for you.