1. Dress for your desired pay grade. Even if your company has a business casual dress code, don’t use it as an excuse to dress down. Torn jeans, flip flops, and trendy t-shirts may be allowed, but they don’t look professional. Opt for simple collared shirts, solid-color jeans or khakis, and well-kept shoes. If your job requires a uniform, make sure it’s clean and wrinkle-free when you arrive for work. Keep your hair and nails trimmed. If you take care of your appearance, you will project professionalism to others.
2. Keep your work area organized. A cluttered desk implies a cluttered mind. Keep your paperwork neatly stacked or filed where you can easily find it. When someone approaches you for a file, be sure you know exactly where you can locate it. This concept also applies to electronic files. Create a logical folder structure for your e-mails, and archive them where needed. If e-mails could be categorized in more than one folder, then place copies of those e-mails in all applicable folders.
3. Learn effective communication. Train yourself to use meaningful words when speaking. When you need to make a point, don’t spend ten minutes boring others with the minute details of a problem. Summarize it first, and then communicate only what is necessary to get it resolved. Practice writing clear e-mails, avoiding slang and “text speak.” I once received an e-mail from a potential job candidate, telling me it would be “tuff” to work on certain days, but other days would be “due able.” I promptly discarded his resume.
4. Keep your conversations polite and professional, even off the clock. While working, don’t spend half the day discussing the latest celebrity scandal or office gossip. If you curse like a sailor at home, keep that language in check while at work. Excessive profanity makes a person seem undereducated, whether that person is in the office or at Happy Hour.
5. Seek out projects. Tired of doing the same thing every day? Ask if you can have a project delegated to you. This eases the workload for your supervisor, and allows you an opportunity to shine. Make the project a priority, and see it through to completion. Present it when you are finished, and ask for more tasks to be assigned. Over time, you will build a reputation of reliability.
6. Work closely with your superiors. As tasks are assigned to you, work with your supervisor to work out answers to questions if necessary. This keeps you on the “radar,” showing your progress. Just be sure not to ask excessive questions. Your supervisor may decide that delegating the project was more trouble than doing it himself.
7. Make friends around the company. Use your break time to meet other employees in the lunch area. Learn to develop friendships by seeking out common interests. Over time, you will have your own internal network of resources to use when needed. This can come in handy if job opportunities present themselves.
8. Identify problems, but seek a resolution first. If you notice that a company procedure is ineffective, develop your own solution and present it to your supervisor. Coming forward to explain a problem without a resolution means that your supervisor has to think of one. Proposing a fix for something right away shows that you have the ability to resolve issues.
9. Look busy. Your workload might be light, but that doesn’t mean you have permission to slouch in your chair. Don’t be caught surfing the internet. Even when you are on break, internet use tells the passer-by that you are wasting company time. Don’t make personal calls from your desk or walk away to socialize with others for excessive amounts of time. Your supervisor needs to be reassured he didn’t make a mistake hiring you for the department.
10. Understand the company structure. Although your daily responsibilities may only pertain to your department, be sure you know the function of the remaining areas. Cross-train if possible. This will expand your understanding of the company’s workflow, and give you an advantage when being considered for promotion.