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9 Critical Common Sense Success Factors for New Employees

9 Critical Common Sense Success Factors for New Employees


    New employees are often lavishly courted, persistently pursued, and even occasionally cajoled by hiring organizations, especially if they have rare, unique, or high-demand skills or experience. But once they’re inside the door…watch out!  Often, the corporate indoctrination machine takes over despite the best intentions of an organization and new employees are left to the firehose tour of policies, personal benefits forms, nondisclosure agreements, and the process of orientation. Even in organizations with effective mentoring programs, new employees are often assumed to know the following nine points and are never actually told them.  Time and again, promising employees fall victim to the merciless consequences of not knowing these success factors.  Forewarned is forearmed…

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    1. All organizations have a culture that is an amalgam of laws, regulations, practice, history, mores, and politics – learn it. You cannot be successful by ignoring organizational culture, and sometimes you can’t by following it. It contains many unspoken rules, including what constitutes appropriate dress for the office and how you address problems on an informal level. I mention dress because business casual is not the norm for many offices and dressing down can make you appear unprofessional or lazy to people whose decisions matter. In some offices, business casual is more like “This Old House” and either gender wearing a business suit will stick out like a sore thumb. That being said, it never hurts to dress like the leaders of your organization, but endeavor not to outdress them.
    2. Adhere to the established chain of command. They exist in non-military organizations, too. It can take forever for good ideas to make it up where they do some good. “No” isn’t always a negative comment about your idea. Good managers know their organizational culture, and they know when the timing may be wrong for your idea. It’s good if they tell you that the time isn’t right, but even good managers don’t always tell you everything you need to hear. And, if you skip a management layer without approval, don’t be surprised when the layer with which you speak informs the subordinate layer.
    3. You cannot be friends with your superiors, but you can be friendly. Apuleius said, “Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.” It is difficult not to become familiar with managers and coworkers in offices where first names are the norm, where people often lunch together or socialize after work, and where the working environment is friendly. Friendliness does not make people unprofessional, it makes the work environment more pleasant; however, expecting to capitalize on friendships in the workplace at the expense of accountability is unprofessional. Your managers will do you a great disservice if they fail to mentor you, including corrective action, and you will do them a great disservice if you expect them to overlook your needs because you or they want to be friends.
    4. Do not play in office politics. You cannot remain outside office politics. While seemingly paradoxical, both statements are true. Politics exists in any office on many different levels. You need to observe and understand what is going on in the office and it helps to learn where skeletons are hidden – moreso because you don’t want to be putting the broom away and have the boss come along and think you’re putting the skeleton away. You will be “in” office politics even if you never gossip, make it a rule never to have lunch with coworkers, never socialize with coworkers after work, and always toe the administration line. Most of those things, by the way, will make your life very lonely, at least in the office. Chat, have lunch with someone if it suits you, but never gossip about or denigrate coworkers or your leaders.
    5. Email is a powerful tool and greatly facilitates communication, but it is lacking in an essential element. Remember that there is no body language conveyed in email. Things often get misconstrued. If at all possible, conduct conversations in person or on the phone and follow up by email for a record. Official communications should not be accompanied with emoticons…Email is fast and convenient, but professionalism requires you to treat official communications with dignity. Email is forever and generally is subject to the legal discovery process. Don’t put anything in email that you wouldn’t put on a postcard or that you wouldn’t want seen by someone you respect. If you need to write an email that criticizes someone or something, write it but don’t send it. Put it away and read it in an hour. Read it again in two. A blistering email sent is a negative impression of you that cannot be recalled, and it may be many people’s first impression of you.
    6. Don’t blow your own horn. Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” You’re very lucky if you’re blessed with a boss who gives credit where it is due, even when he or she would look really good if they took credit. However, if you aren’t so lucky, never blow your own horn. Excellence speaks for itself, even if it occasionally takes a while. If you do excellent work and are professional about your response both when you get credit and when you don’t, your reputation will grow.
    7. Don’t lollygag, but be available where managers congregate. Remember that areas where people casually congregate at work are natural places to have conversations. Managers often have ideas crystallize on the spot and frequently issue assignments to the person they’re talking to if they believe them capable. This isn’t always the best way to make assignments, but it happens. If you believe you aren’t getting assignments because you don’t hang out in the conversation area, you need to become much more proactive about how you seek assignments.
    8. Seek out several mentors. Having one mentor is like having one friend. You miss out on the incredible gifts possessed by different people. Every person has something positive to offer, and having several mentors, both inside and outside your organization, is essential to becoming a well-developed person. Not all managers have faced the same trials, and good mentors will be able to recount how they recovered after failures. They will also tell you how you can improve yourself. Remember that personality plays a large part in mentoring, and not all people are compatible. You can learn your most valuable lessons from people who aren’t like you.
    9. Participate in social activities with your office. You don’t have to attend everything, but attending some functions is a good idea and it allows you and your managers to get to know each other in a less formal environment. Go to the holiday parties, occasionally go to happy hour, even if you’d rather go out with friends from your personal life rather than work. If you cannot drink responsibly, do not go to office social functions.

    (Photo credit: Young Businessman on White Background via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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