Eight Simple Rules for future proofing your career in year one
Year one in any career is a challenging time for just about everyone. From navigating workplace politics to actually learning to do your job, you're bound to feel like you aren't getting anywhere at least a few times.
While I can't say it's smooth sailing after year one (if I'm honest, I think I hit my stride in year seven), it gets easier if you build a strong reputation and stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. It's not a complete set of guidelines, but here are my eight simple and easy to follow rules for nailing that first 12 months and kick-starting a dynamite career.
- Be on time. It's simple and easy to achieve and yet so many people fail to show up when they are supposed to. When it comes to arriving at the office, follow the cultural norm. If everyone arrives on the dot of 9am, you should too. If there is a variation in arrive times, work within that framework. Be on time for meetings. Lateness suggests your time is more important than other people's and that isn't true, especially when you are just starting out. Build a good reputation for time-keeping now and you'll have understanding for future occasions where lateness cannot be avoided.
- Don't wear your headphones all day. Everyone will fight me on this, but this is vital if you want to grow and learn in your career. Most often, people tell me that they use headphones to concentrate. That's great - on occasion. But by tuning in to your favourite podcast/Broadway musical/heavy metal, you are tuning out of every learning opportunity happening around you in live action. You will be exposed to differing perspectives on current business challenges. You might discover a great new way of positioning a difficult concept. You'll hear the collective experience of all those around you and you'll be able to draw on it whenever you need. I've picked up more keeping my ears open than I ever did in school.
- Do ask for feedback. While a really great manager will provide feedback on where you excel and where you have development opportunities, more often than not this isn't front of mind. Asking for feedback will help you learn quickly and correct bad habits. It also has the added benefit of making you look more mature, passionate and considered.
- But don't ask when you will be promoted. This is a really frustrating question for a manager to hear from someone just starting out (right up there with wanting to do more 'strategy'). To be frank, this comes off as arrogant and short sighted. You often won't grasp the wider business context to know if a promotion is reasonable and rather than looking keen to learn, you simply look keen to skip ahead. It's natural to want to know what the typical tenure for your role might be, so ask people around you what their experience has been. If you work for a larger organization, they will likely have each tier documented, including core competencies, key responsibilities and average time in role. Ask HR if this is something you might be able to review to set your expectations.
- Deadlines aren't expiry dates. Don't leave things to the last minute. Work through your list of priorities and when possible, deliver before the 'deadline'. I once had an employee that only submitted briefs on the final submission day. She thought there was no reason to do it until the last moment. Problem was, that meant there was no time to correct errors and she often put other teams under pressure. Do yourself a favour and deliver as soon as you reasonably can. Once you submit something you can cross it off the list and turn your energy an attention to a new task.
- Ask for an org chart. This will help you remember people's names, figure out who reports to who and identify key stakeholders. Make it a goal to introduce yourself/have coffee with someone new once a week until you've connected with everyone.
- Find a passion outside the workplace. Having a career you are passionate about is great. But the reality is that EVERY job has admin, has stressful days, has periods that stagnate. And work is not everything. Choose whatever gives you a sense of joy and accomplishment and devote time to it. For me, this is yoga. I know people that do cage-fighting, pottery, falconry stand-up comedy and burlesque. Find something. Do it. Own it.
- Be kind. Offices are full of gossip, especially at junior levels. Don't give into it. Treat people kindly and do the right thing. People will remember your integrity and that is priceless.
What else would you add to the list?