Career Advice Nobody Tells You
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It’s graduation season! And my niece, Jill, and my nephew, Joe, graduated from college, while my niece, Beth, graduated with a master's degree. All three are starting a new chapter in their lives. Jill is moving back out to California in search of a Production Assistant job (if you can help her, please let me know). Joe already started his new job as a mechanical engineer. Beth hopes to be a guidance counselor in Virginia or Maryland. They will all be starting jobs soon, and it got me thinking about advice I wish someone had shared with me before I started my first job.
Today I'll cover three important career tips that often go unspoken:
Career Advice Tip #1: First Impressions Are Important
First impressions are extremely important. Whether you are a new graduate just starting out your career or a seasoned veteran moving to a new position, it’s likely you underestimate the importance of first impressions.
The reality is we all take shortcuts and categorizing people is one of them. From one-tenth of a second to three minutes after meeting, people decide if they like someone or not and spend the rest of the time trying to find support for the conclusion they found. And worse, research suggests that it takes quite a bit of effort to change an initial bad impression.
From the perspective of a new job, I would expand the time frame for a first and lasting impression to include the first few months ... that is, impressions formed in your first few months will turn into long-term perceptions of you and possibly even your lasting reputation at this particular company.
Fix? It is important that in your first few weeks of a job, meet with as many people as you can one-on-one. This is the time to build rapport by finding and sharing common ground. Focus on sharing your natural charisma, your positive attitude, and your enthusiasm (this means happily accepting all tasks, even grunt work).
In the first few weeks, dress to blend (or err on the conservative side), learn names quickly, closely observe corporate culture, listen and learn the lines of power and authority, take initiative, show confidence and spunk, be a team player and volunteer to help others, and work longer hours. If invited to informal social activities, participate in them. However, be cautious about what you share by keeping all interactions professional.
If you left a job to take this one, it’s important to avoid any “we had a better way of doing that at my old job” conversations or really any comparisons to your old job. Remember your old “we” is now “they”—don’t mix up your pronouns. Remember you are part of a new team and It’s a good idea to wait to share advice on changing things until you have a better understanding of the new workplace environment.
Remember that it’s important to share and show appreciation and that subtle sincere flattery is always welcome. Ask for advice. Talk positively about the boss to a friend of the boss, and remember to frame flattery as likely to make the manager uncomfortable: "Don’t want to embarrass you, but your speech was extremely powerful and inspirational."
Career Advice Tip #2: The Company Is Always Watching
The company is always closely watching you. There’s a record of everything you do while you are using company computers and phones: every phone call, every text, every email, every document you create. At most companies, they save that data for many years. It’s common practice for HR and IT work together to filter email, voicemail, and monitor computer files when breaches in company policy are suspected.