Jeanne Sahadi at CNN Money has posted the get-started guide to making it, a set of tips for young people starting their careers.
I asked five managers I've known over the years and my favorite workplace expert what behaviors and attitudes in their eyes mark a new recruit as promising and promotion-worthy.
The following attributes will help you succeed:
- Be willing to ask for help, but be able to take charge. Employers like for employees to ask questions. It's better to admit you need help than to fumble blindly. But once you've been pointed in the right direction, take charge. And if you know what you're doing, be proactive. “One of the biggest mistakes new recruits can make…is to assume that when they have nothing to do that there is nothing to do.”
- Know the boss. Understand what she needs. If you can learn what your boss values, what will help her be successful, then your success will follow. Know how she operates and use this to guide your actions.
- Cultivate good relationships. You can be the best at what you do, but if you're a jerk, you're not going to get the promotions. Be easy-going. Be respectful. Be well-groomed. Don't get involved in office politics.
- Don't watch the clock. “If you have to stay a little late to meet a deadline or pull some hours on a weekend without being asked, it shows your commitment.” If you go the extra mile, you'll be noticed.
- Know when to go. Most of the career advice I've read says the same thing: stay in a position until you've got as much from it as you can. Then make a shift to something new, either in the same company or with a new one. It's important to continue to grow. When that's no longer possible, it's time to move on.
I think this is excellent advice. But as an employer, I think there are additional attributes that can help you get ahead.
- Don't treat the job like a chore. Many young people in their first real jobs act as if they're in an adversarial relationship with their employer. This is counterproductive. An “us vs. them” mentality helps nobody. Think “win-win”. If you're in a shitty job where the corporate culture fosters adversity, then get out. That's not a career. That's a life in purgatory.
- Think like your employer. If you were in his place, what would you value in an employee? An excellent way to do this is to skim material he may be reading. You might, for example, read a list of seven characteristics of highly effective employees written for managers looking to make hires, instead of this list of nine skills for employees looking to get hired!
- Behave professionally. Don't bad-mouth your company to clients. Don't tell off-color stories. Don't engage in behavior that's embarrassing to the company. This is common-sense stuff, but you'd be surprised at how many young people damage their careers by behaving in an unprofessional manner.
- Be flexible — adapt to the demands of the job. There's nothing more frustrating than employee who grouses, “That's not my job.” Especially in a small business, your job is whatever your boss asks you to do. Sometimes you'll need to do tasks that fall outside your job description. Adapt to the situation. Be willing to think outside the box. Employers love this.
Your career is one of your most valuable assets — it's a regular, reliable source of money. Handle it with care.