Transitioning from college to the workforce can be exciting, but it can also be scary and intimidating. You left college feeling at the top of your game and you had the whole system figured out and suddenly you were thrown into unfamiliar waters.
I received lots of training on the systems and processes my employer used, but no one taught me what it would really take to be successful. Below are some tips I wish someone would have shared with me the day I started my career.
Do What You Say You are Going to Do When You Say You are Going to Do It
This seems like a no brainer, but it’s amazing how many people don’t follow through on their commitments. Commitments can be anything from grabbing the mail on your way to the office, or providing your boss the information he or she asked for. Tasks can and do get assigned in an informal and formal manner on a daily basis.
For example: In a meeting you could get assigned to follow up with a supplier to confirm the price on a product, or your boss could call asking you to put together a summary of your sales over the past three months. After a few days, things like this can start to stack up.
It’s important to pick a method to track to your to-do’s so you never miss a deadline.
Writing it down on a desk calendar and adding an appointment to your outlook calendar are two good ways to do this. Having a desk calendar is great because it is a constant visual reminder, and it serves as a good doodle pad! An outlook appointment is handy because it will send a reminder to your computer and cell phone when the task is due. It also blocks out some time in case you need a few extra minutes to wrap it up.
This is the quickest & easiest way to gain credibility in your organization.
Pick Up the Phone
Have you ever gotten in an argument with a friend or loved one because something was misinterpreted in a text message? For most, the answer is yes. The same thing can happen in the workplace.
By sending an email or text, your message may be received out of context. Hence the reason for emojis! Emojis allow the reader to attach emotion to the words. You can avoid all of this potential misinterpretation and strengthen your relationships with the people you interact with by simply walking down the hall or making a phone call (it can also help increase your number of steps per day)!
With technology at our fingertips all day long, it is easy to send an email or shoot a text to coworkers or customers, but never underestimate the value in speaking to someone face to face or on the phone.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Speak up when you have a comment, or ask questions if you don’t understand something. I know it sometimes may seem easier to keep your head down and go with the flow, but you will gain more respect if you are open about what you don’t understand instead of pretending like you do in fear of asking a stupid question.
I find myself saying things like: “Can you please help me understand what you mean by that”, and “Could you please explain” on a daily basis.
I didn’t always used to do this. When I first started working, my boss asked me for a proforma. I didn’t want to give the impression I didn’t know what he was asking for, so I turned to my good friend, Google, after our conversation. Turns out there are multiple definitions and examples of a proforma on the web, and I happened to choose the wrong one. I ended up causing myself much more embarrassment than if I would have just asked the question in the first place!
Document, Document, Document
I cannot stress this enough! Meeting notes and emails are so valuable to reference. They can contain critical information you may need in the future. Think of them as the hard evidence you need to solidify a case.
Notes and emails become the most critical when you are discussing deadlines, commitments, and responsibilities. In my occupation, I interact with customers on a daily basis. A typical meeting subject is: Responsibilities for a new project.
For example: Who is responsible for the cost to ship a product: the customer or you, the supplier? The only way to prove what was agreed upon is to reference the meeting notes and/or follow up emails generated from this meeting.
It is also important to follow up on and relevant phone or face-to-face conversation with an email documenting what was discussed. I will typically send an email with the first sentence being: “Following up on our conversation today” and then I re-iterate what was discussed.
The phrase, “Get it in writing” didn’t come from nowhere!
Data to Support Your Position is Key
Whether you are pitching a new idea, trying to solve a problem, or explaining an issue, if you have solid data to refer to, it will be hard for anyone to refute your position.
Data could be in the form of meeting notes, emails, results from a poll or experiment, etc. Pretty much anything in writing that supports your point.
Let’s assume in the example above that the agreement was made for the customer to pay for shipping. The individuals who you originally made the agreement with are no longer with the company. They also “conveniently” forgot to mention this agreement to their replacements and now their replacements do not want to pay for shipping. You could be a in pretty tough position if you didn’t have detailed meeting notes to refer to stating the shipping responsibilities of the program.
There’s No “I” in Team
It is a very rare thing for one person to achieve anything in business alone. Your team is critical; whether they are your direct reports or peers who are part of what you are working on .it is critical to remember you need each other. Be a leader and take every chance to talk up the members of your team and show them you care.
By spreading the love with your team it will make them stronger and help you gain credibility and trust. There is nothing more valuable than a strong team. Be the one working to build the team up!
It’s Just Work
Work can be stressful and it’s important to be passionate, but it is also important to know how to shut down after a long day. You will make mistakes, and you will not always make the right decision, but these mistakes are the foundation for you to grow and learn.
Remember that no matter what you get done today there will always be more tomorrow. Don’t break yourself trying to get through non critical tasks.
Find something that helps you unwind like exercising, reading, or in my case, an occasional glass of pinot noir ;).
Be Confident and Be You!
It’s refreshing to most people to have a new personality in the office. Confidence is contagious and as soon as you believe in yourself others will start to too!
Taryn Kutches is the co-founder of Parker Design. Check out www.parkerdesignco.com to get on the exclusive list to hear when this year’s must-have professional accessory goes on sale! You can also reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.