I know that many of my followers are just starting their first few jobs so I hope you will find this advice helpful! These are pieces of advice that I have observed myself, tips supervisors have shared, and feedback that I have received from my supervisors. I’ve had the opportunity to work different types of positions in a variety of industries. I have learned so much and feel prepared to enter my new job with much more confidence. I hope the same for you!!
Always Speak At Least Once During Meetings
This is a piece of advice I overheard a manager give a superior of mine. In meetings, it is very easy to just sit in the background and listen since there are normally so many people involved (the Bystander Effect). Instead, you should push yourself to say at least one thing at every meeting – whether it is a question, comment, or suggestion.
Ask For Feedback
At a lot of lower positions (ex: intern) or more informal businesses (ex: when I was at my studio) there is no feedback structure or performance reviews. However, it is so valuable to hear what your supervisor has to say about your specific performance. Ask them what you do well and what you can improve on.
Don’t Accept Fake Answers
This is something that I have alwaaaays done, in both real life and the work place, that I never noticed I did! This is a piece of advice one of my supervisors learned himself and passed on to me. Have you ever asked somebody a question and the person didn’t really give you a clear answer, and you’d just be like, “Oh…okay! Thanks~” You didn’t get the answer you needed, maybe you realized it or not, but you didn’t ask again for whatever reason. Maybe you weren’t sure about their answer, maybe you didn’t want to look dumb, or maybe you felt embarrassed to ask the same question.
No! Don’t let that person skip around your question. If they don’t answer your question or address your concern, call them out on it. You are allowed to counter them and say, “That’s great, but that doesn’t explain why [xxx].”
Do Not Submit to SALY
SALY stands for “Same As Last Year.” You follow steps and do the same as last year – in the end, you might get the correct result but you don’t know why. If you don’t know why, you could easily get the wrong final answer or communicate incorrectly. You won’t catch mistakes/changes and won’t know what to do when they do occur. And you won’t be able to make improvements to the processes. You always want to look for ways to improve current procedures/operations.
This is personal feedback that one of my supervisors gave me. He told me that I am clearly extremely intelligent but that I need to not do anything that would take away from my intelligence. I don’t think he ever thought less of me – we had a very nurturing relationship so I think he understood that I only acted maybe more “sheltered-like” when I was with him since he was like an older brother. He just wanted to remind me to be more assertive when with others to make sure that those others don’t think any less of me.
He told me that, when with other people, I should not start out my sentences with, “I think” or “I believe.” Just say it. Instead of saying,
“I think this cost is incorrect…,”
“This cost is incorrect.”
Instead of asking,
“Do you think this statistic is abnormal? Shouldn’t it be [xxx]…?“
“This statistic is incorrect because [xxx]. It should be [xxx].”
Even if you aren’t sure, one of two things will happen: A) If you are wrong, the other person/party probably won’t even realize it. It is better to be more assertive and later get all the answers you need to fix it if need be (but again, you might not even have to fix it), or B) You are right. If you really are so intelligent, don’t doubt yourself – you are probably right.
Be Conscious Of Pitch
This might be a personal problem, but I consciously lower my voice when I am at work. I am not trying to be fake, but I know my baby voice would not be taken seriously in a professional work environment.
Be Conscious Of Intonation
I learned this my senior year of high school when I was to do a speech at an honors ceremony – I worked with one of the AP English teachers who apparently worked a lot in the media industry. When I was rehearsing my speech, she noted that I have a specific pattern in my intonation that makes my dialogue not powerful. Every sentence I say would go upwards at the end, kind of like I’m asking a question even though I’m not. This is a habit I still have but I suppress it when I am in the workplace.
I look at my director and everything about him makes you believe him – you think highly of him, you trust his decisions, and everything he says just sounds so intelligent. You know this person is powerful and is high up in the company, even if you don’t yet know what his position is. This person has presence, confidence, and charisma.
Stripped, I have a very weak presence. Naturally, I am a tiny little thing, long flowy hair, high-pitched baby voice, super smiley, female…everything is working against me. I have to make an active effort to have a strong presence. This is a mix of a multitude of things: body language, dress, communication skills, technical knowledge, etcetera. It’s hard to explain – just look at executives and really observe their every nuance and try to employ them in your own behavior.
Ask For Challenges
Ask where you can help, offer suggestions on what you could do, and ask for challenges. Many supervisors might be fearful to push more/harder work onto you because you’re “just a temporary intern” or “just a new hire.” This will increase your skills, knowledge, credibility, and more. The more responsibility you take (and do well), the more they will realize how valuable you are.
Do The Rounds
I noticed that all of the higher ups would do rounds and talk to each person. This is something I would recommend everybody do – whether you are shy or not. It’s hard to find time to talk to coworkers in a busy work day, so setting aside 10 minutes or so when you first come in, at lunch time, or before you leave, to go around the cubicles makes a big difference. Don’t be nervous about bothering them – trust me, they’ll be grateful to take a few minutes out of being absorbed in work to talk to you!
I thought this was common sense, but I’ve seen so many people fail to do this! When you get assigned a new task or are learning something new, TAKE NOTES. Idc how good you think you are, anybody could skip a step, forget something, or do something wrong – so take notes and ask questions if you are unsure!
Make Sure Everything Is Made Known
There’s a lot of stuff to learn in your first few weeks of a new job, but make sure you are aware of all the important things. What does it take to get a raise, is there a standard wage rate or is it based on merit, how much can I put into retirement funds, how many days off do I get, what amenities are available – you never want to later find out that you were gypped on something or taken advantage of.
And those are just some things that I thought were important to put into words for new employees to read! I really would love to hear other work advice from any of you. Please leave them in the comments or my Ask.FM!!
Featured image from DeskHunt.