Improve your Career with Advice for your First Professional Job

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Got the Coveted Job with the Great Company? Congratulations – Now You Have More Lessons to Learn

You have just finished the interview process, an offer was made and you accepted. Your next step can be one of the most critical in your career. The business world has all kinds of needs and idiosyncrasies that you may need to learn about to prevent a disastrous start in your new job. The following are some of the major points to consider but are not necessarily the only ones that matter. Every company has its own personality as an entity and much will depend upon “the boss” and his or her management style.

Protect the Boss

Years ago I heard a discussion about new MBA graduate employees just starting in their chosen profession. It was said that one of the main problems that appeared in business was that the graduate felt that the boss should be concerned about what was good for the graduate, which is true. What the graduates are not aware of is a more important need: the need for the graduate to look out for the best interest of the boss.

My company was once going to cut two hundred employees during a recession years ago. I was asked to participate in a meeting concerning the preparation of a list of employees who would be released on the cut back. Two names came up that surprised me. The two men in question were extremely smart and had done some things that made a notable mark on the company. Their problems were many though. No body liked them for one thing.

They were rude and were considered “smart Alec’s”. They were all about promoting themselves and not the people they worked for. My interpretation of their performance was, “They did not know how to be aggressive.” The dominant opinion in the meeting was that they would not be able to move up the corporate ladder because no one in field operations wanted them in their operation and field experience was necessary for upward mobility. Both of the men lost their job.

Protecting your boss is important but can be carried to an extreme. We had a manager who would never offer an opinion in any discussion or meeting. He would preface any position held with “Mr. ______ thinks that…” or “Mr. ______ believes that…”. He was so disciplined at stating things as the thoughts of his boss that it sounded ridiculous after he said it three or four times in one short meeting.

Keep Political Positions and Beliefs to Yourself for Awhile

This one should be obvious to any adult but surprisingly this can be a problem if personal opinions are not expressed with caution. If your manager or vice-president has views that are the opposite of yours, why is it important that you have to make it an issue? If you force the issue and make it unappealing for them to have you around, you are either going to be an irritant to management or you will be gone. It is not in your best interest for either possibility to exist.

“Don’t Mess with the Company’s Money or Women”

My first boss told me this little pearl of wisdom many years ago and I remembered it throughout my career. We had people who could not follow this simple rule but they usually did not last long after some situation became known. Firing a young college graduate for stealing one hundred dollars is regrettable and something I did not enjoy doing but this type of action by an employee cannot be tolerated. When a supervisor is having a relationship with one of their employees, the company has to act to make sure the problem does not develop into a multitude of other problems including lawsuits. This rule should not require any explanation but it is amazing how many people “just don’t get it”.

Don’t Over-Commit

Only commit to due dates and goals that you know are challenging but “doable”. I had a two-year project one time that was considered impossible by the corporate executives but I did manage to find a workable solution. It can be advantageous to take on “the impossible” sometimes.

There is always somebody around that will commit to any thing, any time. Confidence in their commitments soon wanes and the reasoned approach to problems survives. Leaders are looking for people that can get things done and not necessarily people who can promise to get things done. Failure to meet a couple of those commitments, big or small, can destroy confidence in your ability to come through in a project. If you commit to something, meet the commitment.

Be on Time or Early if Necessary

It is a constant puzzle to me how a young person can start a new job and immediately have a problem with tardiness. If it takes twenty minutes to get to work and you leave home with only fifteen minutes to get to work, you are going to be late. It is totally unnecessary to have his problem in a new job. If you do not have control of this work requirement, you do not have self-control.

Have a Goal with the Company but be Willing to Change

I completely changed directions in my career about four years after I started with the company. It was the best move I ever made. This was possible because I had not become known as an SME (subject matter expert) on any particular data system or aspect of the company operation. Once you have this SME identity, it becomes difficult to be considered in broader terms and your future is tied to that system or aspect of the company. It is best to be good with many systems instead of an SME with one system. Be well rounded in your knowledge. If you are in a company involved with constantly changing technology being an SME can be very dangerous to your career and your future. Make every attempt to stay abreast of the changes.

Use Common Sense when Preparing Expense Statements

Companies set many different policies to compensate employees for travel expenses. Your first responsibility in preparing an expense statement is to make sure that it is accurate and that you are not abusing the system. It is amazing to me how some people are able to come up with ways to make a profit on expense statements. I remember seeing someone’s expense statement for a supper in a small southern town that I have visited often. The employee had a supper listed for twenty-five dollars but I know from experience that there is no meal available in the small town over twelve-fifty.

Best Advice I can Offer Overall

Be honest, hard working and dedicated. This does not mean that you cannot make a mistake because we have all made mistakes. Just do not allow that mistake to be a career killer. If you enjoy your job, do not be swayed to move from the position for a slight wage improvement. Remember if you are one of the fortunate people lucky enough to find a job you enjoy, do not let go unless the future is bright for you.

My father was a salesman for a large company. He was offered a sales manager position many times. He always said that he was not giving up something that he enjoyed. It was excellent advice for me in later years. I have seen too many people progress to a level of incompetence and then had to suffer through a demotion or lose their job in a cutback. They should never have left their old job when they were doing so well. Never allow money to be the overriding factor in any change you make in your career. It is important but the money will not be important if you hate your job.


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