You Are at the Job – Now What?

How to Succeed the First Day of a New Job

The first day of a new job may be one of the most stressful of your career. You’ll feel pressure to impress not only your direct supervisors, but also your coworkers. Now that you’ve landed the job, you’ll need to live up to your employer’s expectations. Here are some tips to make that first day (first week, first month…..) a success.

  1. Listen and observe.The best thing anyone can do the first few days of a new job is “listen, listen, and listen.”
  2. Show up early.Get there at least 15 minutes early. If you haven’t done the commute before, practice it a couple of times during rush hour. You’ll leave a terrible impression if you’re late the first day.
  3. Figure out who’s in charge and who’s an influencer.To succeed at a job, you need to know who’s in authority and who are the influencers. Influencers are the ones who don’t have a formal title but have power with the decision makers. They will be very important to your future.
  4. Learn the office politics as soon as you can.Every firm has its own unwritten rules. They can be as important as the written ones. You should listen and watch for the unwritten rules right from the start.
  5. Arrive well rested.You want to be at your best. You can often overcome a poor first impression, but who wants their first day to be remembered in a negative way?
  6. Look and play the part.This is not a good time to walk around with your coffee mug and tell jokes. Take the conservative approach in what you say and do. Be as professional as you were in the interview process.
  7. Learn the dress code and show up in appropriate clothes.This is important because sometimes the way you dress can turn people off, or it sends the wrong message. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, call the human resources department and ask.
  8. Don’t try too hard.That may sound contrary to what you believe about making a good impression, but you don’t have to wow your new colleagues on the first day. More importantly, you don’t want to be seen as arrogant.
  9. Be ready to explain.You will get questions, lots of them. Where did you go to school? What did you major in? Where did you work before? It’s a good idea to have a 30-second explanation ready, so you don’t fumble as a communicator and come off looking unsure or, worse, incapable of carrying on a conversation.
  10. Appear confident, even if you aren’t.Coming across as shy, uninformed, or insecure can make others write you off. That doesn’t mean you should pretend to know something you don’t. It’s okay to admit you don’t have all the answers, but admit it with confidence.
  11. Introduce yourself and shake hands, whether you are female or male.Ask coworkers to repeat their name so you can use it the next time you see them. Nothing pleases people more than having their name remembered.
  12. Keep criticisms about the place to yourself.You may not like the long walk from the parking lot, but on the first day of work you haven’t earned the right to say so.
  13. Let your energy show. You will be watched for several days because being new makes you interesting.Present your best positive attitude and hard-worker ethic. Show enthusiasm.
  14. Turn your cell phone off.That means neither you nor anyone else should be able to hear a vibration or other sound to indicate a call, voice mail, or text message. Your attention should be on the job only.
  15. Watch your body language.The largest part of communication is body language, so make sure the message you deliver is the one you intend. Smiles are great body language on the first day of work. Be sure to work on your eye contact, a pleasant smile and a firm handshake. All of these will contribute to the first impression your colleagues form of you.
  16. Keep silent about a bad experience with a former employer or any other negatives in your life.Complainers and whiners are not welcome in the workplace. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you’re perceived as negative.
  17. Go to lunch if invited.Maybe you packed your lunch the first day because you don’t know where to eat. So, if invited to join the lunch crowd, save the packed lunch for another day.
  18. Remember names.  Learn your coworkers’ names. If you don’t catch the name, ask the person to repeat it.
  19. Organize your workspace. Look around to see how other people organize their areas, and follow their lead. If no one else has personal items or photos out, neither should you.
  20. Be positive. Everyone expects you to be happy in your new job. Even if it isn’t your dream job, act as if it is.
  21. Don’t bolt at the end of the day. Stay a little beyond your assigned hours. Show that you’re not interested in running for the door.Act like you’re happy. Your bad attitude is like a virus and it infects everyone who comes in contact with it.
  22. ­You control your attitude. While it is easier to blame others for problems, this is evidence of a bad attitude.
  23. ­See obstacles as opportunities to find a different solution.
  24. Behave as if you’re still being interviewed. Think of your first 30-90 days as an extended interview. Prove every day that you deserved to be hired. You’ll work harder and smarter, and you won’t take anything for granted.
  25. See your manager as a person to help, not a person who tells you what to do. Your manager has many things to do. The more you help your manager achieve goals, the more highly you will be valued. Plus you’ll find it’s a lot easier to work hard when you feel you’re helping someone instead of obeying them.
  26. Go the extra mile early and often. In the beginning you probably won’t have all the skills and experience you need. Work hard and everyone around you will know you’re trying. For a short while, that may be enough.
  27. Find a way to stand out. Work at being known for something specific, such as responding more quickly, following up first, or offering to help before you’re asked. Pick a task that truly benefits the company and other employees – and work to excel at that task.
  28. Never forget why you were hired. You were hired to help advance the goals of the company. Remember that you win only if the company wins, and your contributions can help the company win.
  29. Do everything you’re assigned.
  30. Meet all deadlines.
  31. Offer ideas and cooperate where a different idea is accepted.
  32. Stop trying to convince others of your viewpoint after a team decision is made.
  33. Ask relevant questions. You look smart when you ask questions that make a problem or a solution clearer, and you look foolish when you make mistakes because you don’t ask questions.
  34. Understand your question and ask it clearly and succinctly.
  35. Listen to the answer, instead of waiting to talk again.
  36. Ask for feedback when you don’t understand an answer.
  37. Ask additional questions to gain further information.
  38. Contribute your time, energy and enthusiasm to reach company goals.
  39. Be a cheerleader for the company and your boss.

The Perception Gap between Employers and Entry-Level Applicants

You’ve heard enough stories about the job market to know that you must demonstrate your best skills to get and keep a job. But there’s a “perception gap” between what entry-level workers think of their own skills and how employers see their skills. What is the gap?

  • Of U.S. adults ages 18 to 24 who were surveyed, 80% believed they were job ready and possessed all the skills, experience and education needed to advance in their desired career path or to obtain their next job.
  • However, 40% of U.S. employers said most entry-level applicants lack the basic skills needed to fill job openings in their firms.
  • When asked about employability skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and professional behavior, only 16% of 18 to 34-year-olds saw such skills as necessary for advancement.
  • However, 93% of employers say employability skills weighed more heavily than a candidate’s college academic credentials when choosing employees. This is a huge gap.

A common topic discussed among employers is the difference in expectations by companies and their new employees. While excitement and creativity are reasonable work goals, it is unrealistic to expect every day to be a barrel of fun. Points business people make about work can help you fit in faster and achieve your goals more quickly.

Instant gratification is occasional, not the norm. You’ll hear a well-deserved compliment now and then from your supervisor for exceptional work, but you will not be applauded for every good performance. Supervisors expect employees to deliver high quality work at all times, without instant approval or reward.

Some, but not all, work will be exciting. All careers include boring tasks, and every job from entry level to CEO consists of some tedious work. While you may not like dull tasks, do them without becoming irritable.

Honesty wins hands-down. You will make mistakes on the job, no doubt about it! Employers can accept your mistakes, but not your dishonesty or cover-ups. A key reason for your long-term success will be your supervisor’s confidence that you can be trusted to always tell the truth. Conversely, one of the fastest ways to damage your career is to lose your supervisor’s trust.

Job-hopping creates career problems. Supervisors want to see an employee in action for several months before deciding about the long-term value of the person to the company. “Microwave careers” that start fast and grow quickly are rare. Getting your hands dirty by learning a job inside out is the best way to succeed.

How to be an Intern (or a first time employee)

Lauren Bergen calls herself the Intern Queen because she had 15 internships under her belt when she started her first big job at 20. In her book, Welcome to the Real World, she talks about what she learned on the job as a Millennial.

  • Get used to being uncomfortable.Bergen advises, “If you can train yourself to feel okay when you go outside your comfort zone, you’ll grow and mature.”
  • Accept rejection—and move on.“Your ideas and attempts to impress your boss will all be rejected at one time or another,” the Intern Queen says. Accept this, realize that no one gets it right every time, and learn from the experiences.
  • Pay attention to email etiquette.“When you send an email, it should reflect your highest level of professionalism. It’s important to be aware of the tone you’re giving off,” Bergen warns.
  • Deadlines mean everything in the working world.Missing one affects you, your boss, the client, and anyone involved on the project. “Don’t be shy about asking your boss for a timeline,” Bergen suggests.
  • Find a mentor.A great mentor can help you navigate your new workplace, solve problems, and advance your career. “Look for someone you’re comfortable with and who can offer valuable insight when you face tough situations at work,” Bergen recommends.
  • Stay connected.Once you’ve made a professional contact, maintain the relationship or you’ll lose it. Bergen follows a “three times per year” rule and checks in with contacts during fall, spring, and summer.
  • Dress appropriately.“Dress for the job you want” is an adage that still holds true. Bergen says, “Even if your office embraces a laid-back dress code, it’s still important to mind how you look. That means no leggings, flip-flops, or ripped jeans. “
  • Don’t act entitled.You have to prove yourself. Never expect things to be handed to you or think that an assignment is beneath you. Learn to be humble and work your way up. Berger advises, “You should volunteer and eagerly do the work no one else wants to do in hope that people will recognize your genuine spirit.”

Work Ethics Lead to Financial Success Says Billionaire

Boone Pickens has made enough money in his lifetime to never work again. He says he’s paid $761 million in federal taxessince he turned 70. At 87, his financial advice is good for a person of any age. Pickens’ advice is surprisingly simple.

“First thing I’d say is, if you haven’t developed a good work ethic, you’d better do it. A person’s work ethic is the backbone of success as far as I’m concerned.”

In his book The First Billion is The Hardest, Pickens explained, “You have to be skilled at something unless you want to go out there and dig a ditch. Going to college or getting your MBA is up to you. Those things don’t matter, though, unless you’ve developed a strong work ethic.”

Start early

Pickens developed his work ethic at a young age. Growing up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, he and other kids all had jobs. He says no one he knew was lazy. “I grew up at a time where everything was very simple. You saved money. Things were tight.”

At age 12, Pickens ran a small paper route with 28 papers to deliver. He would pick up his papers at 3 a.m. and deliver them all before school, making one penny per paper. He quickly expanded his paper route from 28 customers to 156.   “I always had money. To me, it’s very simple,” Pickens says, “if you have a good work ethic, everything else falls into place.”

Five Characteristics of a Good Work Ethic 

The simplest definition of work ethics is this one: Knowing the difference between right and wrong and doing the right thing. Some people try to get by doing as little as possible, and others give it their all every day. Five ethical characteristics stand out as the most important for moving up the career ladder. You should apply these ethics in all your work.

  • Reliability– Reliability is part of a good work ethic. Reliable individuals do what they say. You can depend on them. They show up every day, arrive on time and complete all assignments. They stay after hours to turn out high-quality work and meet deadlines. They are dependable in every situation.
  • Dedication– Individuals with a good work ethic always try to perform their best. They are committed to their positions and are not eager to abandon their jobs quickly to move to something more exciting or different.
  • Productivity– Because they work at a consistently fast pace, individuals with a good work ethic usually are highly productive. They get more work done more quickly than others. They don’t quit until they’ve completed their assigned tasks. They are willing to do more than is expected on the job. They are motivated to be efficient.
  • Cooperation– Individuals with good ethics put effort into working well with others. They interact cooperatively with teammates, even if they do not enjoy the working relationship or some of the people involved.
  • Character– Strong character and good values are basic to people with a good work ethic. Such individuals are self-disciplined, and push themselves to perform at an exceptional level. They are honest, which sets them apart from others with weaker character.

Why Reputation Matters at Work

You already have a reputation, whether you like it or not. People who know you, even people who have only heard of you, have formed an opinion of you. Your reputation will cause others to think of you in a certain way. A positive reputation will make your work life easier, and a negative reputation will make it harder. Here are two ways to create the positive reputation you want:

Build your strengths. You have strengths that are unique. Learn your strengths and use them to your advantage.

  • Maybe you’re good at details and get chosen for organizational tasks at school or work.
  • Perhaps you can give reports in front of groups without becoming nervous.
  • Maybe you’re best when you work in the background on a hands-on activity.
  • You may be good at developing graphics or art to describe an idea.

Control yourself. Building a good reputation takes time. Damaging it can happen quickly and last forever. Here are ways to hurt your reputation:

  • Becoming angry
  • Intimidating people
  • Criticizing your coworkers
  • Acting like a know-it-all.

Five Things Never to Reveal at Work

When you start your first job, you need to know the rules against too much personal information in the workplace. Here are five types of information to never share with coworkers:

  • Negative feelings about your job or colleagues. It’s always bad judgement to say in person or on social media any negative feelings you have regarding your company, boss, coworkers, or job. Save your workplace opinions for your family and friends who are not connected with the office. If you want to complain at work, don’t! It’s bad for your future with your company.
  • Opinions that may cause controversy. Don’t discuss politics, religion, or anything else that’s controversial at work. Nothing good can come from discussions that create dissension among coworkers. Sports is even a bad topic if you work with a committed group of supporters of the home team and you support a different team.
  • Health issues. Discussing your health history can create uncomfortable situations for yourself and others. Only bring up health history when it’s essential for others to know. If health does need to be addressed, it should be in private between you and your boss.
  • Relationship issues and family troubles. Negativity in any form is a turnoff for others in the office, and this goes for what you share about your personal life. Even if the personal experiences you are sharing are positive, a little information is enough. If you spend every Monday bragging about your awesome weekend of partying, the people who can influence the progress of your career aren’t going to take you seriously.
  • How much money you make.You may hope to find out how much your coworker makes by sharing your own salary level. But revealing salary and pay details can cause resentment among employees. Employees within a department or with the same job title can become jealous if, from their point of view, they’re working harder, are more educated, or have been with the company longer than you.

Things Never to Say at Work

Saying certain thing at work can be career killers. You need to know how your words can harm you. Here are six career-killer comments:

  • “It’s all your fault.”This one is fairly obvious. What the person means is, “I’ve got to cover my rear end.” You look insecure and childish when you make a comment that blames someone else. Instead of trying to cover up, focus on solving the problem and figuring out how to prevent it from happening again.
  • “It’s all my fault.”This seems like it could be helpful, but you should accept the total responsibility for problems only if you are actually at fault. By taking everything on yourself, you set yourself up for future blame and you may appear incompetent.
  • “I was told to do it.”While this could be true, you leave the impression that you can’t think for yourself. While following directions is important, if you defend a mistake by indicating you have no judgment of your own, you look unintelligent.
  • “It’s not fair.” Whether true or not, this is one of the least helpful things you can say at work. No matter how you say it, you’re going to come across as whining. And the answer you may get is, “You’re right — so what?” Find concrete, facts to object when you want to change something, rather than relying on this emotional appeal.
  • “That’s not my job.” In today’s work environment, employees are expected routinely to go above and beyond their job description. “That’s not my job” can make you look stubborn, lazy and uninterested in your company’s success. Instead of automatically making this immature comment, identify the problem and analyze how you can help in the short term.
  • “Don’t tell so-and-so, but…”Secrets never remain secrets at work. Confidences never stay confidential. That’s Rule No. 1. Never say anything in private on the job that you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the newspaper or on the Internet. If you know something that others should not know, keep it to yourself.
  • “We can’t do that.”Successful people make meeting their customers’ and boss’s requests their main priority. If a problem arises, they solve it as quickly as they can.
  • “I don’t know how.”Successful people learn what’s needed. You’d never hear a successful web designer say she doesn’t know a popular design program.
  • “I don’t know what that is.”Pleading ignorance doesn’t make the problem go away. Saying, “I don’t know right now, but I’ll find out” is the route to success.
  • “I did everything on my own.”The most successful people surround themselves with others who are smart. They give credit where it’s due.
  • “That’s too early.”You would never hear a top executive say, “That is too early for me.” Part of success is being at the right place at the right time, no matter the hour.
  • “I’m sorry, I’m too busy.”Successful people do what it takes to make an opportunity happen if it comes their way. Saying, “I don’t have time” is like saying, “I don’t want to.”
  • “I never read books.”Rich people read or listen to books at a much higher rate than poor people. What they learn makes them more successful.
  • “I’m not good enough.”If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?

Why Swearing on the Job Matters

Whether it’s the printer that jams, a coworker who bugs you, or something else that pushes your button, hold your tongue if you want to keep your job.  A study by CareerBuilder shows that 81% of employers say swearing brings a worker’s professionalism into question. Even more interesting, 54% of employers said that swearing makes employees appear “less intelligent.”

“Employees with potty mouths are viewed as impulsive and are less likely to get promoted,” said Jennifer Grasz, spokesperson for CareerBuilder.  According to Steven Raz, co-founder of Cornerstone Search Group in New Jersey, “In most cases, cursing is seen as a death wish, a one-way ticket to an exit interview.”

Even though coworkers may swear, don’t mistake this as permission for you to do the same thing. You don’t want to be painted with the same brush.  Everyone loses their temper every now and then, so if you make a mistake and swear, apologize unless doing so draws more attention to yourself. Even if it’s just a one-time thing, you can still upset people and make them uncomfortable.

What Does “On Time” for Work Mean?

You’re on time for work after you have hung your coat, gotten your beverage, stopped by the bathroom, checked your personal messages, said “Good morning” to your colleagues and are in your workspace ready to begin at starting time.

You’re not on time if you pull into the parking lot at one minute before starting time, and then go for a drink, stop to chat with colleagues, and spend a few minutes looking at personal messages. The company begins paying at the designated starting time, not when you finish with your personal interests.

Does this strict adherence to the clock ever change? Maybe, after you’ve proved your dedication to the company and shown a high level of productivity. It all depends on where you work and the attitude of management there.

If your manager is one who assigns a project and a deadline and displays the attitude, “Just get the job done on time,” you may be able to hedge a little on starting time. But, until you’ve been given the go-ahead, don’t abuse the starting time. Otherwise, you may get labeled as a slacker. And that’s a label that’s hard to overcome.”

Leaving phone messages that won’t irritate people

Statistics show that only 70% of phone calls are ever completed on the first try. Since the odds of reaching the person you call are getting less and less likely, leaving effective voice mails is important, especially if you are contacting your boss or you are trying to set up interviews.

When leaving a message:

  • Speak slowly and pronounce your words clearly.
  • Speak directly into the phone, instead of holding the phone at an odd angle.
  • Be direct and simple.
  • Mention the best times to reach you for a call back.
  • End the message with your phone number. Repeat it again.  Slowly.
  • Get your message organized before you call.
  • Keep background music and distractions to a minimum.
  • Don’t try to be funny.
  • Limit each message to one subject.

The Role of Social Skills in Career Success

People with strong social skills report high performance ratings, frequent promotions, and appropriate salaries. The good news is that both work ethics and social skills can be learned.

What are social skills and how do they apply to work? Here are two definitions:

  • Ability to interact effectively with others on the job
  • Ability to adjust behavior according to changing work situations

Social skills start with being able to perceive social situations at work correctly. If you can’t sense the political environment, you won’t know how to behave.  For example:

  • Should you address a boss or client by first name or use Mr., Ms., or Dr.?
  • When should you show emotion at work and when should you not?
  • When should you inject your opinion and when should you remain quiet?
  • How should you dress for a work-related social occasion?
  • When will your assistance be seen as helpful and when will it be seen as meddling?

Learning to be a Good Communicator

In your career, you will be required to speak and present daily, but not usually in a formal seminar or presentation. Your communication skills are also at work when you answer a phone, ask a question, offer an opinion, smile at a customer, demonstrate confidence, dress appropriately, or write an email, and even when you remain silent. More often, your verbal skills will be used in these ways:

  • Taking part in a team meeting
  • Handling a customer’s telephone call
  • Engaging in conversations with coworkers
  • Explaining an idea
  • Defending your point of view
  • Making a recommendation to your supervisor.

Your boss, coworkers, and clients observe your ability every time you speak with them, and their perception of your competence will be guided to a great extent by how convincing and believable you are.  Good verbal skills help you in every phase of your career – from your first job interview to the day when you do give presentations to large crowds. What you say and how you say it are crucial to getting your position across to listeners.  Some clues to remember are:

  • Know your audience, whether speaking to one person or a roomful of people
  • Know your purpose in speaking
  • Know your subject well
  • Explain simply and clearly
  • Refrain from giving too much information
  • Use appropriate body language
  • Demonstrate confidence.
  • Think before you speak or write. Using just any words won’t do.
  • Be yourself. You lose your confidence when you try to be someone you’re not.
  • Choose descriptive words to communicate what you mean.
  • Leave out techno-speak when talking with non-technology listeners.
  • Learn by listening. Even though you hear, you may not be listening.
  • Try to sense the mood and motivation of the speaker in order to interpret a message fully.
  • Concentrate on what is being said and block out distractions.
  • Avoid evaluating what you hear until the speaker is finished.
  • Avoid negative comments. Don’t hear an insult or negative comment when none is intended.
  • Remove confrontational words from all communications.
  • Use “You” for positive comments and “I” or “we” for negative messages.
  • Write and rewrite. The finest writers and speakers revise five, six, or more times until the final version is right.
  • Don’t rush through a communication. Take the time to do it well and then revise as needed.
  • Learn new words to broaden your vocabulary or use a thesaurus to add variety to your written communications.
  • Spell and grammar check all written communications.

Projecting Confidence, Not Arrogance, at Work

Your confidence on the job has a great deal to do with how others look at you. If your attitude communicates that you know what you are doing, your coworkers and boss are more likely to believe you are competent. However, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. To appear confident, but not like a know-it-all, use these tips:

Talk teamwork – Avoid overstating your role in team projects. “I did this,” or “I did that” is off-putting. Instead, talk about what the team accomplished and about your role on the team. To be an effective person on a successful team is the best of both worlds.

Engage your coworkers – You must be able to work with diverse people, including those in ranks below you. Showing enthusiasm about other employees’ work shows you are confident about yourself.

Don’t fixate on your job title – It’s okay to be proud, but don’t get hung up on a job title. How you perform, not what you’re called, is what’s important. Chances are your job will change within a few months after it starts. Your supervisor may move on, or the job may grow or shrink. Be more concerned with how you fit the firm in general than with what your role is called.

Have realistic expectations – No matter how smart you are, how good your school grades were, or how many achievements you have under your belt, you’ll be considered a beginner for a considerable period of time. You’ll disappoint yourself and others if you desire more than is reasonable for a beginning employee.

How to Handle Criticism on the Job

Even people who are usually thick-skinned may become defensive when they are corrected. To grow in a career, you must be able to take criticism as helpful feedback. If you see it as a personal attack, you will come across as defensive.  Low self-esteem and lack of confidence are the usual culprits when people strike back after criticism. They get hurt when someone brings up a problem that involves them, even when the comments are not meant as criticism.

Accepting constructive criticism with grace makes you more productive and shows you are a professional. The problem occurs when insecure individuals confuse constructive criticism with destructive criticism. They become defensive, get angry, withdraw, attack verbally, and make themselves appear immature. Here are three important reasons people reject criticism:

  • They don’t feel good about themselves, so they pull back from situations that could make them feel worse.
  • They have been mistreated in the past by a critic and fear being criticized by others, even when the criticism is constructive.
  • Defensiveness has worked in a previous situation when the critic backed away.

Here are three things to know about criticism:

  • It’s inevitable. Everyone gets criticized sometime, with both constructive and destructive criticism.
  • Constructive criticism teaches you how to improve, overcome a mistake, or find a better solution. Destructive criticism is something to shake off and move on from.
  • When you react defensively to criticism, it comes across as immature and becomes a negative against you.

By demonstrating the following behaviors, you will show you can take criticism without becoming defensive:

  • Be attentive to what is being said without making excuses or blaming someone else.
  • Show you are agreeable to being corrected.
  • Stay focused and don’t let your mind wander to how you want to reply.

These are immature responses to criticism:

  • Making excuses
  • Becoming angry
  • Blaming others
  • Arguing
  • Trying to explain or convince
  • Turning to self-pity

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure in the workplace is one of the main reasons people don’t become successful. Some are so scared of failure that they don’t bother to try. The following people kept trying:

1919 – Walt Disney is fired from his newspaper job for lack of imagination.

1960 – Steven Spielberg is refused by the University of California film school.

1962 – The Beatles are rejected by Decca Records.

1977 – Oprah Winfrey is fired from her news job because her stories are too emotional.

1981 – Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is fired from an investment job.

1985 – Steve Jobs is fired by Apple.

1996 – J.K. Rowling is turned down 12 times for her Harry Potter book.

How can you overcome a fear of failure?

  • Accept your mistakes and move on.
  • Think about using a different strategy.
  • Ask for help.

Ways Successful People Increase Their Productivity

Do you want to be average? Or do you want success bad enough to stay on top of your game? The tried-and-true ways of successful people shown below can make you more productive.

They get out of their comfort zone. To be successful, you’ll have to take risks, expand your horizon and try new things. You may experience some anxiety and stress, but you’ll improve.

They keep learning. Imagine if Bill Gates stopped learning and growing after he gave up on college. He didn’t settle. He expanded his mind and founded one of the biggest companies in the world.

They feel okay about asking for advice. Asking for advice is not always easy. It can be bad for the ego and make us feel insecure and defensive. But not asking for advice limits you, keeps you to what you know already.

They don’t get lost in details. The small details are easy, but they cause us to ignore the big picture. If Henry Ford had focused on small details, he might have built a great engine, but no car.

They don’t lie to themselves. Lying to yourself and making excuses is easy. It’s much more difficult to accept your problems and do something about them.

They don’t delay asking for feedback. Sometimes you can’t see the answer that is right in front of you. You gain a lot, and you don’t lose anything, if you ask for feedback quickly.

They don’t follow. They lead. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” is a famous saying. Successful people don’t always follow someone else to the finish line. They lead to the finish line.

They don’t let the past determine their future. The past will never change, and that’s not bad because you learned from it. You can think big, no matter what happened in your past.

They don’t hang around negative people. When you hang with negative people, you start to see things negatively. Successful people don’t let anyone keep them from achieving their dreams.

They are self-motivated. The more challenges you pursue and accomplish successfully by being self-motivated, the more compliments you will receive. You’ll feel good about yourself, and feeling good will motivate you to try harder or do more.

How to Ask For a Promotion

If you’ve worked at a job for a while and feel that you are due a promotion, then there are tips to making a successful request.

  • Make a list of accomplishments, and ways you’ve added to the company’s bottom line.  Focus on what you’ve achieved beyond the normal expectations.
  • Know what pre-requisites are needed for the new job.Prove with examples that you’re ready to tackle the new position.
  • Don’t wait until your annual review to ask.By then, typically, promotions and raises have already been decided. Ask 3-4 months ahead, or after you’ve finished a major project or fixed a tricky problem. Another opportunity is when there’s change.  Is your unit merging with another unit?  Has someone left or moved up?

Reasons You Might Not Get a Promotion

Getting a job offer is the first step in building your career, but, in a few years, you’ll be looking for a promotion. What are some of the reasons you may be bypassed for a promotion?

  • You asked too soon. Employers want to promote you to keep you happy, but it’s possible to ask for a promotion before you are ready for bigger responsibilities. These are what employers look for when deciding to promote:
    • Enough maturity to take on a higher title
    • The leadership and teamwork skills the position requires
    • You did your job, but only your job. You get paid, not promoted, for doing your job.
  • To get ahead, you don’t need to be a workaholic, but you do need to go above and beyond your current responsibilities. Promotions go to people who show these characteristics:
    • Do more than is expected.
    • Discover opportunities for improvement of procedures, productivity, or themselves.
    • Provide immense value to the employer.
  • You’re entitled. Promotions are not based on how long you’ve been at a company, but your career development within the company. If you think you’re indispensable to your employer, chances are you’re not. Here’s how to show you have the company’s best interests in mind:
    • You have a team attitude.
    • You express interest in the company’s wider goals instead of your own individual success.
    • You do work because you’re interested and dedicated, not just as a reason to get ahead.
  • You want a significant raise. The company may not be in a position to give you a bigger paycheck. If your company can’t afford to give you a raise, your request for a promotion will probably be turned down. You may get a promotion under the following circumstances:
    • You’re interested in more challenges and responsibility and make it clear you’re willing to forgo a potential salary increase at the start.
    • Request a three-month window of opportunity to prove yourself.
  • You have a bad attitude. Yes, you get the work done–you may even bring fantastic results–but you do so grudgingly. You believe you know better than anyone else at the company, and you make this clear. Remember these points:
    • Likeability at work is just as important as crossing tasks off your to-do list.
    • Managers and coworkers want to enjoy coming to work, and if you complain or show a negative attitude, their job is less pleasant.

How to be Successful and Get Promotions

If you ask people who have worked a few years what it takes to be successful and receive promotions, you’re likely to hear five things needed to get ahead: (1) Good work characteristics — called employability skills, or work readiness skills — (2) strong communication skills, (3) technological ability, (4) industry-related skills and (5) experience.

  • Employability skills and work readiness – This is an area where you can prove the company made a good decision when it hired you. From the first day, the impression people form will be influenced by your actions in these areas:
    • Work ethics
    • Honesty
    • Dependability
    • Integrity
    • Time management
    • Good attitide
    • Confidentiality
    • Teamwork
    • Respect for diversity
    • Self-confidence
    • Professional appearance
    • Professional behavior
    • Professional language
    • Accountability for actions
    • Good personal hygiene
  • Communication Skills – How well you get your point across and understand others will depend on your communication abilities:
    • Workplace writing
    • Speaking
    • Listening
    • Reading
    • Locating information
    • Asking useful questions
    • Interpersonal abilities
    • Interpreting verbal and written comments
    • Communicating a professional image
  • Technological Ability – Employers want you to have the technology skills needed daily for jobs, so you will be a more productive worker:
    • Office technology
    • Business software abilities
    • Internet usage and research
    • Industry-related technology
  • Industry-Related Skills – These are skills related to your field; for example, an automotive specialist needs mechanical skills, a nurse requires medical skills, and a software specialist needs programming skills.
  • Experience – Nothing catches an employer’s eye faster than experience. Gain experience these ways:
    • Internship
    • Co-op program
    • Part-time job
    • Volunteering

HOW TO WORK ON YOUR SOFT SKILLS

Harvard University, the Carnegie Center for Research, and Stanford University surveyed people on the job and found that 85% of career success comes from having outstanding soft skills. Chief executives, owners, recruiters, and interviewers pursue applicants with these skills.  What are these soft skills?

  • Honesty. I tell my boss and coworkers the truth about work-related matters, even when the truth may make me look bad. I value my integrity.
  • Reliability. I can be depended on. I come to work every day, show up on time, finish tasks by their deadline, and follow instructions completely.
  • Accountability. I hold myself accountable for my actions. I do not make excuses or try to blame others or the system.
  • Authority. I respond well to authority. I ask questions when they add value, but I stop when questions may seem hostile or annoying.
  • Flexibility. I can adjust quickly from one task or instruction to another. I accept the need to make the change without complaining or showing displeasure.
  • Perseverance. I “hang in there” when the going gets tough. I don’t slack off from a boring task or a deadline I have been instructed to meet.
  • Teamwork. I build relationships that make me a good team member. I cooperate, contribute, and listen.
  • Acceptance of Criticism. I take pride in what I do, so criticism is hard to take. I put my ego aside and listen so I can learn and improve.
  • Respect for Diversity. I know coworkers of different nationalities, color, languages, ages, and gender can teach me things. I respect that.
  • Customer Service. My paycheck keeps coming because I help make customers happy. I deliver what I promise and I don’t over-promise.
  • Time Management. I prioritize and “put first things first.” I break down my tasks and schedule myself to accomplish them.
  • Handling Change. Change is going to happen whether I like it or not. I decide where I fit in the big picture and identify the new skills I’ll need to develop.
  • Restraint. I do not let work pressures push me to become angry. I keep self-control, never swear, and use non-threatening body language.
  • Good Manners. “Manners” and “professionalism” often mean the same thing to employers. “Please,” “thank you,” and a positive attitude go a long way.

How to Please a Boss

You can read or hear many ways to please your boss, but the secret to getting ahead is simple. In fact, satisfying your boss is so easy, it doesn’t get much notice. The secret is undervalued, but ask a few people who have worked for three to five years, and they will agree about the secret.  “Here’s how you can make my job easier,” says the boss. “I’ll tell you why.”

  • Show up every day.  Why this matters: “When you aren’t here, your work either doesn’t get done; I have to find someone to do it, or I have to do it myself. All of these are frustrating options. I count on you, and when you are undependable, it changes my opinion of you.”
  •  Get to work on time.  Why this matters: “You may think coming in five minutes late doesn’t matter, but it does to me. I need to know you follow the rules. Actually, you’ll prove you care about your job if you come in five minutes early and stay ten minutes late.”
  • Don’t assume you can change our procedures without discussing your ideas with me, or unless I have given you the green light to use your own judgment.  Why this matters: “Systems and procedures have been set up for a reason. It will stress me and cost the company money if you make changes that aren’t needed or that create problems.”
  •  Always tell the truth.  Why this matters: “I need to be able to trust you. If you make excuses after a mistake or blame someone else, I’ll know, and I will start to doubt you.”
  •  Take care of your personal items at home.  Why this matters: “Even on your break, I don’t like you to use the company computer to watch videos and play games. And if you leave your cell phone out, I’ll think you’re looking for texts or IMs on company time.”
  •  Be easy to get along with.  Why this matters: “I want to enjoy working with you and not have to tiptoe around your personality. It’s good for both of us if you’re easy to get along with.”

What Do I Want to Accomplish in My Life?   

To get what you want in life, you must turn your long-term goals into short-term goals. Try these steps:

First step: Decide what you actually want from life in five, ten or fifteen years.

On your computer screen or paper, write: “What Do I Want to Accomplish in My Life?

  • Jot down any answer that comes into your head. Think about what you like doing, and what you want to own in five, ten or fifteen years.
  • Don’t judge what you’re writing. Let one idea lead to another.
  • At the end of your time, take a break and clear your mind.
  • Sort through what you wrote. Circle the phrases that seem important.
  • The ideas you circled are key ideas to help you form your goals.

Second step: Put in easy-to-understand words what you want to accomplish.

Write a one- or two-sentence personal mission statement. This will say in a few words what your long-term goal is. Here are some examples:

  • “I want to protect the environment and provide a financially secure, loving, and fun life for my future family.”
  • “I’d like to teach English in a foreign country, where I can learn about a different culture.”
  • “I want to graduate with an associates degree and take a position in the software industry while I continue my education to become a developer of online games.”

Third stepPut your goals in order. To act on your goals, you must put them in a definite order. Perhaps you want to get married, have children, own a motorcycle and get a degree—but is the motorcycle as important as the children or the education?

Fourth step: Identify the time needed to reach each goal. You also need to identify the time required to realize each goal—things that don’t have to be done by a certain time tend not to be accomplished. For example, if you want a four-year degree, but know you’ll have to work part-time to afford it, you probably won’t finish in four years. Six years may be the right time frame. If you don’t establish a goal of six years, you may still be working part-time and going to school in ten years—not the best plan!

Link Your Current Life to Your Long-Term Goals  

 How does your current work, education, and personal life relate to your long-term goals? What skills or knowledge are you developing now that you will use later?  Every day you engage in experiences that can have an effect on your goals, such as learning something new, paying attention to details that you ignored before, practicing to become better at a skill, and getting to know new people who expand your thinking.

The key to achieving your long-term goals is to understand what you can do right now to help reach them.

  • What skills and abilities do you need to develop?
  • What resources do you need to find?
  • What kind of help do you need from others?

What It Is Like to Work for a Small Company

Small businesses hire more people than big businesses. If you’re job shopping, it makes sense to look at small businesses as potential sources of a position. It’s important, though, to understand the differences between working for a large company and a small one. These are things you need to be able to do when you work for a small company:

  • Think like an entrepreneur.You’ll need to be able to see the big picture at all times. Focusing on your part of the work isn’t enough. You must be able to understand how your tasks mesh with every other’s employee’s and commit to doing what’s best for the company.
  • Be a self-starter.In a small company, fewer supervisors are available to remind you what has to be done, when it’s due, and how to make it happen. To be successful in a small company, you need to be a self-starter who can work and think on your own without requiring someone else to keep you motivated.
  • Get along.In any work situation, you must be able to work and get along with others; but in a small company, this is even more important. If you have an idea to get across or disagree on the direction of a project, you can’t let your reactions or comments destroy the working relationship. You should possess excellent listening skills and an upbeat personality. When you’re working with the same tight-knit group every day, a negative attitude can easily affect the entire team.
  • Show a willingness to do it all.At a small company, a few people do everything. If your computer is down, you find a way to fix it. If a co-worker can’t meet a deadline, you’re expected to stay late and help. If the company is facing a problem, you’re expected to contribute to the solution.
  • Focus on customer service. Every client counts for a small business. You’ll need strong interpersonal skills to provide great service and ensure customer satisfaction. A small company is not place for the person who gets irritated easily by other people.

Working for a small business offers many rewards, including freedom to make some of your own decisions, a chance to assume important responsibilities, the opportunity to gain outstanding experience in many areas and an atmosphere that may be hard to find elsewhere.

How to Get Good Job References 

A great reference doesn’t have to be a former manager, and shouldn’t be if you think the person might say negative things about you. While the most important references are supervisors who will give you a good review, you also can use a former coach, leader of an organization you’ve volunteered with, a teacher, or an adult leader of a student organization.

These questions and answers may help you find the right reference:

  • When do I provide references?Only when employers ask, not to everyone you give résumés.
  • How do I let my references know I want to use them?By asking permission before you ever use their name.
  • What do I tell my references?As much as you can about the job you’re interviewing for, with some broad hints about the type of information you’d like the person to give: “The recruiter will be asking about my technology skills and attitude.”
  • How many references should I have?At least three who will make positive comments about your performance and character.
  • What if someone refuses to be a reference?Say, “Thank you” and find another reference. Some companies, for legal reasons, prohibit employees from giving references.
  • What information can companies legally give about my past employment?Employment dates, salary, titles, promotions, positive and negative job performance, any disciplinary action, and reasons for leaving. Other topics such as race, national origin, disabilities, age, and religion are legally protected.

 

 

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