November 28, 2015

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09/01/08 Career Advice For A Grad Ö And Everyone Else, Too

My friend sent me an e-mail that his daughter Bethany had landed a killer job at a local television affiliate. Weíve known her since she was a little girl, and weíre very proud of her. Because I would hate to see her make the same mistakes I made, I sent her this business primer. Itís a good reminder for all of us.

Dear Bethany:
When I accepted my first real job offer, my father gave me some advice. Sit down with your boss, he told me, and ask these questions: What are your expectations of me? What do you want me to accomplish every week? Every month? Where do you want me to be a year from now? In what ways do you want me to grow? What is the best way to communicate with you?

Managers often forget to lay out their expectations ó so people canít possibly meet them. Make it your responsibility to ask, and get specific. Meet those expectations every day. Then, find ways to communicate what youíve done; I recommend a weekly report spelling out the expectation and how you met it. Itís a way to convey that you are on task, as well as a tool for communication with managers who often donít know what youíre doing. If youíre out of site, youíre out of mind. In the least intrusive way, seek feedback on your performance.

My father also taught me this invaluable lesson: Doing your job will get you nowhere in life. The people who get promoted are the people who exceed expectation every week. Did you ever hear the saying ďIf you want something done, give it to a busy personĒ? Itís true. Some people are good at getting lots of things done. Be one of those people.

The downside of exceeding expectation is that your co-workers wonít like it. It makes them look bad. Be a team member, and donít throw others under the bus ó but do more than everyone else, and youíll get the promotion.

Thanks to my fatherís wisdom, Iím in a position now to add some of my own sage advice:

1. Attitude is everything. Managers donít want to hear whining, they want to hear ďIím on it.Ē During my career Iíve encountered very few Iím on it people. Most will tell you how busy they are, how they donít know if they can find the time, etc. Those people donít get promoted, and in tough times are the first to lose their job. A great attitude buys you respect.
2. Take on more. VP/Operations Tom Elmo is the number one person in my company. When he started at age 24 I was instantly impressed. He not only did the job well, he exceeded my expectations. He did more, did it better, and did it fast. Tom never wastes a moment. Heís like a tornado. Over the years when I've needed something done, I've often skipped asking the person who should do it because I knew they'd complain, make excuses, or not do it well. Tom would nail it fast and perfectly. He started out making little money, and today he is my highest-paid employee. Be like Tom.
3. There are two kinds of people. Get it done people and get it done well people. Doing the job may be enough, but finding a way to improve it by offering fresh alternatives is always better.
4. Gain respect. Ask your boss if itís OK to make suggestions for improvement. With some bosses itís not OK. In my company I have people who speak up and some I never hear from. Though I may think I have all the ideas, I donít, and I respect people who share their thoughts on how to improve the product or the system.
5. Be a proactive solver. Itís frustrating to hear: How do you want me to solve this problem? Iíd rather hear: I ran into this problem, and Iíve developed five solutions. This is the solution I recommend, and hereís why. Shall I go forward? Bring solutions, not problems. Before long, you wonít even have to ask. But make sure you tell them the problem and your solution in your weekly communication.
6. Do it with a smile. Bosses and co-workers prefer to be around upbeat, happy people. If something that falls outside of your job description needs to be done, step up to the plate and do it. Youíll stand out, and youíll gain respect. It may be a menial task, but saying so will blow your credibility. Be willing to do what it takes.
7. Donít be political. Stay away from gossip. Never talk about others behind their back.
8. Avoid office romance. Someone always loses, and people will lose respect for you. You will never be looked at the same way.
9. Maintain your integrity. If you are unhappy after a short time on the job, be patient. Perhaps youíre being tested. Try to stay at least two years. If you decide to seek other employment, inform your boss and ask for assistance. ďIíd like to move on to the next level, but rather than finding a job and giving notice, Iím hoping you can help me figure out the right strategy.Ē Most bosses respect this and wonít push you out, although some will. Itís still best to be proceed with integrity. Try to avoid working for competitors; youíll get more help that way.
10. Donít play games. Employees who give ultimatums such as: ďIf you donít do X, Iím quitting,Ē may succeed by having the boss over a barrel ó but the boss will lose respect for you and will seek the next possible opportunity to replace you. Itís simply bad business.
11. If youíre not contributing, move on. Being stuck is not good for you or for your company. If youíre not growing, youíre going backwards.
12. Share your goals: If people know your goals and dreams, they will help you achieve them. Everyone needs navigation to get where they want to be, but without goals you donít have a roadmap. Stay in touch with friends and business colleagues for the rest of your life. Let others help you, but donít be a user; no one likes someone they hear from only when they need something.
13. Make others look good. When you take care of others, they will take care of you. Donít take credit for everything. Help your colleagues shine. Itís better to build others than to build yourself.
14. Donít believe your own press. When you have great success, be careful not to lose yourself. At the end of the day, what matters most is being a quality person.
15. Donít suffer fools. If possible, write them out of your life. If you canít, distance yourself from them.
16. Be a sponge. Most people go to work and then go home to play. The people who grow are continual students, studying their industry, reading business books, learning to grow. Real pros are not stagnant. On the flip side, play is important too. Donít work so much that you become a useless drone. A relaxed, playful mind is a productive mind.
17. Sleep eight hours each night. Well-rested people make better employees. Itís a fact.
18. Manage your reputation carefully. People you barely know can have an impact on your career. Your reputation is paramount. Donít burn bridges. Be known as someone who is trusted, reliable, professional, upbeat. Everything you do will reflect on your career.

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