You’ve spent the last four (or more) years in college, taking class after class, final after final, preparing yourself for your first real job in the professional field you wish to pursue as a career. You even managed, despite the still fledgling economy, to snag a job. Great! Good for you. But… what now?
You want to impress your employers and sail through to your first promotion.
Follow these tips to not get in your own way of that happening. These are crucial things you need to apply in your new professional setting that you didn’t learn in college. Your first boss may not even teach you these things, but they will make or break your career. I guarantee it!
1. Put your phone away
Put your phone away when working. Seriously. Just put it away. This means in meetings, at lunches or dinners, at your desk, at any work event or during your work time. Keep your phone on silent and only check it when you take a break.
Nothing will erode trust in your productivity and professionalism faster than co-workers (or worse, your boss) seeing you constantly on your phone. At work lunches, dinners or social functions your job is to socially engage with your clients or co-workers, not to text your partner or post to Instagram how delish the pricey expense account dinner looks.
2. Become an expert at conversation with anyone
You will be put in many different situations in your first real job. You will be exposed to people who have started their own companies, climbed Mount Everest, or graduated from an Ivy League school. You will also be exposed to people who grew up in a trailer park, worked three jobs to pay for college, and scrimped and saved every cent to make it to where they are. Your wildest imagination can’t possibly guess the backgrounds of all the different types of people you will come into contact with.
So where do you come in here? Learn how to talk to any and all of them. Make them feel comfortable with you, and like their life story is the most fascinating one you’ve ever heard.
Be curious. Be open. Ask thoughtful questions focused on them.
Even if you have nothing in common with them, draw some commonality from books or other conversations you have encountered. For example, I’ve never set foot on an Ivy League campus, but I just read about a research project on Ivy League campuses regarding introverts that I could bring up to tie into their unique background.
Work functions are not the place to engage in excessive drinking.
Some work functions include open bars or at least an expectation that you walk around with a drink in your hand. So if you do drink, apply a maximum two drink limit at all work functions. The holiday party, client dinners, networking receptions, any of it. Anything to do with work, follow a two drink maximum.
There is nothing impressive about slurring words. The last thing you want to do the next morning is wonder how bad you really were. Just avoid it altogether by being strict in this area.
There is a time and place to cut loose and let it all hang out. A work function is not the place.
4. Create connections with a purpose
Be purposeful and diligent in creating connections with other people, whether they are clients, co-workers or networking contacts.
Remembering personal facts about anyone is a gold rule in creating trust and openness that leads to connection.
Did your client mention to you an upcoming vacation cruise? Write it down as a note in their contact information where you keep their phone number. This note will trigger you to recall that tiny tidbit the next time you reach out to call them.
How good do you think it feels to be remembered for something you just said in passing? Amazing. Your new contact will feel that too when you ask about that cruise they were going on. You just told them without a doubt that they matter to you by this one simple little effort.
5. Watch first, commit later
When you are the newbie, it feels good to get included in social events. Although you may have a tendency to form friendships quickly and jump at the chance to join a social group at work, it’s usually best to take a “wait and see” approach.
I am not saying decline all invitations, but be careful of forming alliances too soon.
A work setting is like a family. The dynamics of the group have been formed over a long period of time and many interactions. You just set foot in this unknown environment. You don’t know yet who is loyal and who could be a back stabber, who is a team player and who sloughs the work off on others. Take your time to use your intuition and gauge the situation before you align yourself with anyone in a more permanent way.
You are just starting out in life and don’t exactly have the funds to travel the world. How can you possibly hold conversations of interest with business contacts that have 20 to 40 years of career and world experience?
That’s it. Read, read, and read some more. Books can take you anywhere, teach you anything and give you an unending bank of conversational topics to draw from. Maybe you haven’t traveled to Romania, but you’ve read all about the castles there. Maybe you don’t have 20 years of business experience, but you did read the bestselling business book that came out last year.
Reading will always give you a big advantage in life. Yes, I know when you left college you never wanted to look at another book again. But at least now you get to pick what you read. What if you pick up a book, give it a decent chance and hate it? Never pick it up again. Pick another one. Read only what you love.
Best of luck submersing yourself in your new and wonderful career! It is a huge transition to change your social sphere from a college crowd of 20-somethings to a group varied and age ranged professionals. Approach each encounter as an opportunity to learn from those with more experience. Show your own special personality. Teach them a thing or two about your generation. You will meet contacts that you want as mentors because you value their leadership greatly. And you will recognize those people that are showing you exactly what not to do for your future.
Be observant, be yourself, be conscientious and you will go as far as your dreams can imagine!