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10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

10 Workplace Lessons I Wish I’d Learned When I Was Just Starting Work

When you are starting working life, you have to be very careful to avoid making mistakes that could damage your career. Some experts say that the first three months are crucial because that is enough time to make or break you.

Here are the top ten new-to-the-workplace mistakes to avoid like the plague so you can get off to a great start. I know, I learned the hard way.

1. You think you know it all

Of course, you were the best candidate, but that does not mean that you are going to get the employee of the year award. Even if you know quite a few of the things that co-workers or managers are telling you, resist the urge to say ‘I know’ with impatience or rolling your eyes or other revealing body language.

2. You ignore the company culture and dress code

Look around you and see how people are dressed and conform to the pattern. You might look out for whether employees are showing off their latest tattoos or piercing, for example. Cover up if they are not!

3. You do not want to socialize

This is a huge mistake because one of the most effective ways of getting noticed in a new job is to use all the networking skills you have got. These are a great investment. That means chatting at the water cooler, accepting happy hours after work or simply inviting a colleague for coffee. Remembering people’s names and their roles is a great way to start. Also, look out for the people who are more influential in your section. Nobody is going to back a loner.

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4. You get involved in office politics

If you get involved immediately and are seen in certain cliques, this is not going to do you any good at all. Staying out of the gossip and political circles is a vital strategy in the first few months. Cultivate the art of sympathetic listening, without getting involved or committed. You can always rightly claim that you are still getting to know who’s who.

5. You are unaware of your body language

Time to educate yourself on the messages that you are sending. For example, when you stand with your arms folded as you listen to a co-worker explaining a new procedure, you are sending a closure signal. Maintaining eye contact is also important and avoid slouching when someone approaches you to tell you something.

The right body language goes hand in hand with what you are saying. It also helps in bonding, which is so important when you are starting out. Being aware of your voice pitch and its volume can also be a great help.

“We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community and living together.” – Vincent Nichols

6. You are unaware of the importance of emotional intelligence

If you think emotional intelligence (EQ) is just a new fad, think again! I never thought it was something to bother about because I am fairly empathic anyway. Observing colleagues was an eye opener and I could quickly see that those with high EQ were getting promotions faster.

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I remember a fellow worker who always said ‘yes.’ He went on to become a senior manager in no time at all, and yet he was not very well qualified. It was his emotional intelligence that really helped him to rocket to the top.

Basically, controlling your emotions and being acutely aware of their effect on your colleagues is key. Learning how to gauge and empathize with colleagues, clients, managers and stakeholders is extremely important.

No surprise to learn that psychologists estimate that IQ can account for a maximum of 25% in career success. The rest of the whopping 75% is mostly occupied by social skills and emotional intelligence.

“What matters is hard work, and emotional intelligence.” – Millard Drexler

7. You do not ask for feedback

If you think that your boss is going to notice what you are doing straightaway, don’t be so sure! He or she might not. Keep them in the loop by asking for a quick meeting so that you are both on the same page.

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It is a great chance to spell out what you are doing, what you have learned and any obstacles you are encountering. Telling your boss that you are able to stick to the deadline is also going to make a great impression.

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson

8. You think that taking notes is not trendy

If you have an impeccable memory, this is fine. If not, then join 95% of the working population. In a new job, if you do not take notes, you may well find that you have to ask colleagues to explain, clarify and remind you again. This is a great way to watch your popularity sink.

9. You forget to check what the media policy is

If you assume that it is legit to update your Facebook status at a slack time, you might be in for a shock. The same goes for texting, using laptops and iPhones in meetings and in the workplace generally. Just check out what people are doing, and then act accordingly once you realize how strict or lenient they are on media.

10. You are not a good listener

Being an active listener and not switching off is a great asset. Learning the art of listening is another investment that will stand you in good stead.

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Spending as much time in preparing to listen as you do when you speak is a great rule to follow. Showing that you are listening by using the right body language and offering feedback are other great skills you can acquire.

Once you are aware of these mistakes and how to avoid them, you will become successful in the corporate world. It’s not rocket science!

Featured photo credit: Amazon.com Welcome New Hires/ Will Merydith via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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