There is no shortage of books, blogs or advice on what to do and how to act when starting a new job. It’s natural to wonder how we can start off on the right foot to be successful and happy in our new jobs. Often, we read or listen to the suggestions and think, “Of course I am doing that,” or, “I would never do that.” But how often do we honestly assess both our workplace behavior AND how our coworkers perceive us?
It’s easy to be so focused on the task at hand that we neglect to think about all of the other things that need to happen to excel in the workplace. Taking time to periodically assess workplace habits and behavior can make a big difference in your career opportunities both now and years down the road.
We have been talking with your employers, and they have provided valuable feedback. Overall, they have very positive things to say. They have also shared input on where there is room for improvement. In that spirit, we’re sharing tips to help guide you as you continue on your journey as an IT Professional:
1. Be on time. Showing up late for work meetings is unprofessional and disrespectful to your colleagues. It is easy to take control of your schedule and be on time, and this is a simple thing you can do to create a positive lasting impression. One of my favorite college professors said, “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be left.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions… You are new and your manager was once in your shoes. You aren’t expected to know everything. Your managers tell us that some of you are timid about asking for help, and they wish you would ask them when you are stuck so that you can maximize your time. It helps to make a list of what you want to discuss and to email that list to your supervisor before you meet to go over it.
3. … But make sure you make a significant attempt to answer your question or complete the task independently first. Have you made an effort to answer the questions on your own? Are there online forums or discussion groups where you could find an answer? Have any of your peers been in a similar situation? Can you use the NetHope Academy network to help answer the question?
4. Come prepared. Make sure you plan things in advance. Do you have the right equipment with you? Have you booked the right facility for training? Do you know the purpose of the meeting you are attending? Do you know what you want to get out of it? If you are traveling for an assignment, have you confirmed all of the logistics?
5. Leave prepared. Take notes at every meeting you go to, and record any key discussion topics, outcomes, and action items. Get in the habit of writing a summary of meetings and recap the action items so that you have a record. This will help you hold others and yourself accountable.
6. Communicate with your supervisor. It is super important to be in sync with your supervisor. You should know what your priorities are and have a clear idea of your role and responsibilities. Be sure to ask for feedback on how you are doing. This can be hard to do the first time, but asking, “Can you let me know a few things I am doing well and a few areas where I could improve?” should be a welcome question for both your supervisor and your career development.
7. Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. As more work falls on your plate, you will have an increasingly difficult time trying to do everything. Learn to prioritize your tasks, and communicate with your supervisor if you need to postpone something he or she was expecting by a certain deadline so that you can work on the higher priority item.
8. Identify top performers that are at your level or slightly above. What do they do that makes them so successful? What type of extra effort do they put in? What steps can you take to exhibit the behavior of those who excel at work?
9. Don’t be negative. Surround yourself with positive role models. Avoid complaining about work and your colleagues, especially at work and with fellow employees. You never know who will forward an email that wasn’t meant to be shared or repeat what you said.
10. Volunteer. Offer to help people even when it isn’t your job to do so. Speak up first, assist your colleagues when they need an extra hand, proactively insert yourself in situations where you want to learn more and/or can see your skills will be put to good use.
11. Dress for the job you want to have. Grooming and hygiene matter. Look professional. You never know who you will meet. You can change clothes before you go out to party.
12. Be passionate about your work. Find what you love and do it. Identify ways you can stay involved and learn more about your areas of interest. Even if you are not happy with what you are currently doing, find a way to identify all of the things you are learning and be grateful for that opportunity. If you talk to most people, especially those working in the tech sector who are a few years into their career, they will tell you how what they are doing now is nothing like what they were doing when they first started working.
13. Be nice to people. Treat them as you would like to be treated. This is the last item on the list but perhaps the most important of all. Your favorite colleagues will be the ones who are genuine and sincere in their work and their relationships with you. Remember if and when you make the decision to leave an employer that you handle it with courtesy and professionalism. Deciding to not show up one day or not give proper notice is extremely rude. Not only does this reputation stick with the intern program, but it will follow you for the rest of your career. You shouldn’t be nice because it is important for future references, you should be nice because caring about the organization and the people who have invested their time and resources to help develop you as a person and a professional is the right thing to do.
Hopefully reading this sparked ideas of things you can start (or stop) doing. Take a few minutes to:
1. Write down three things you are doing well that you would like to continue doing.
2. Write down three areas for improvement - things you would like to start (or stop) doing in the next month.
3. List the actions you will take within the next week to meet those goals.
4. Share your thoughts in the comments section below so that others can benefit from your ideas!
Now that you have been working for a while, you likely have some tips of your own to share. What would you add to this list? What advice would you give to your peers who will soon be starting an internship or job?
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