If you were asked to give advice to being more successful in business, what would you say? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been speaking to younger workers recently. These are young men and women who are just starting to work or have worked for just a few years. Can you think back to when you just started working? What would have made you more successful? Let me know what you think. Here’s what I would suggest to men and women beginning their careers today.
Continue to learn and challenge yourself. You may have finished college, but know that your learning is far from done. When you look at the projects you can work on, accept ones where you can learn new things or ones that are difficult. Be especially aware of the projects that no one else wants to work on. Why? Those are the ones you should be thinking about accepting. Team players are valued in business. You get appreciated, noticed and remembered when you tackle the challenges that others back away from. Your teammates will often appreciate what you’ve done.
People get promoted because they acquire new skills that other people need. Why shouldn’t you be the one acquiring skills so you become good at what you do? The only way to progress is to try (and maybe fail) at something new so you get to try again and improve your skills and results. Taking a safe path in business or choosing to stop learning is unwise as you won’t get noticed or needed.
It’s important to remember the results you’ve produced at work. Keep a file for all your accomplishments and remind your boss that you were there for the team when others were not. Some people are uncomfortable talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Just remember that it’s not bragging if it’s true. In the privacy of your boss’s office during your review, you can and should speak about your strengths. In many companies there’s a standard form for an employee review. I recommend you fill out your own annual review before you meet with your manager. Why not? Who knows your work better than you do?
Be a “we” person and not an”I” person. Teams do more and more work today. You have to be perceived by your teammates and management as a team player. That’s what a “we” person is. When you present what you’ve done as part of your team, be careful how you present what you’ve accomplished. I once worked with a team member who presented our team’s work to management. He blew a perfect opportunity to be perceived as a team player.
He stood up in front of us and said, “Here’s what our group did. First, I suggested this and then I suggested that.” The presentation was all “I” and there was not one “we” in the presentation. It was especially glaring because he was a new team member. Our group didn’t work the way he did. We were comfortable giving credit to others and not taking individual credit for the team’s work. How many people on our team do you think liked this guy? No one did. If he thought his presentation made him look better to management, he was wrong. Management didn’t like the way he couldn’t become a team player. He didn’t last long as a result. “I” people often don’t.