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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 July 10, 2020

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

    Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

    Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

    Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

    Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

    1. Make Time for You

    If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

    Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

    Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

    Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

    For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

    By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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    2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

    Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

    Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

    When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

    It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

    Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

    3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

    According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

    For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

    If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

    4. Work on Your Personal Brand

    Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

    Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

    What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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    Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

    Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

    5. Be Accountable

    Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

    For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

    When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

    6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

    All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

    Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

    Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

    It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

    7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

    Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

    It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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    This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

    If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

    To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

    For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

    You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

    8. Learn to Embrace Failure

    Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

    The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

    In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

    We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

    However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

    Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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    “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    9. Build Your Resilience

    Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

    Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

    Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

    In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

    Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

    10. Ask for Help

    It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

    No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

    My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

    1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
    2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
    3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

    Final Thoughts

    You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

    Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

    More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

    Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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