Two weeks ago, I reached the third month in my role, and never would I have imagined so much would happen in such a short span, that would challenge yet discipline me this early on in my career. In many ways, I am successful in my role; my knowledge and expertise is enabling me to perform above what’s expected at work. The challenges I overcame in another fortune 500 company I interned for enable me to not only think critically but react calmly to obstacles. My involvement in the Commerce Society during my undergrad is positioning me as a change agent on my team, as I put forth ideas and challenge the status quo with confidence and poise.
So what’s to learn here? What is the predicament that an educated 23 year-old professional like myself is facing? In very basic terms; comprehending the rules of work. The rules which no textbook in the world dares to mention. The rules which separate a CEO worthy candidate from the rest. The rules of how and most importantly when to play your cards. The cards that you accumulate over experience. And the experience that is accrued through the finite resource of time. Over the course of the last three months I have been challenged to learn the unspoken rules, very quickly, and I am still learning. I hope that my experiences help my followers entering or already in the workforce during this obscure transitional phase.
Create Your Brand, Early
The first 4 weeks in your new role is a critical phase, where you are handed the opportunity to establish your brand to your colleagues, boss, and the company. Broaden your scope, and be receptive to learning opportunities. Never stop being proactive, aspire for the details, and ask questions. This is not only a time for you to absorb, but to show others that you can identify trends and patterns that may be overlooked. Leverage and share your previous experiences, they are the reasons why you were hired in the first place. Aside from these factors, your appearance and attitude are equally as important. Know that you are being judged all the time, so dress well, smile genuinely, and exude confidence and energy. Although others may be analyzing you, practice non-judgment yourself. Begin each day uttering to yourself, “I shall judge nothing that occurs.” This not only clears your mind, but also broadens your vision of what is happening around you. Judging situations or people in the moment causes turbulence within your internal dialogue, and ultimately wastes energy that could be utilized positively.
One Step Ahead, Always
Staying one step ahead requires you to be aware of your surroundings, knowing your short and long term goals, and developing a strategy to achieve your objectives. Above all you must embrace challenges along the way, leverage them in your favor, and be open to revising your approach.
Knowing your work environment enables you see trends and anticipate future opportunities or obstacles. The best way to achieve this is through proactive involvement and a desire to expand your network within your organization. This allows for transfer of knowledge and sharing of perspectives, helping you piece together the work environment quickly. Subsequently, this allows you to alter your short and long term goals accordingly, and then re-defining your strategy. Ultimately it is about thinking creatively, and becoming responsive and agile.
If you’re a visual person like me, then maybe a roadmap like this one can map out your goals and objectives. This is a tool that I created when I interned for United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), which helped me tremendously in my roles as VP Marketing and President of the Ryerson Commerce Society. In a nutshell, it shows the 5 goals I had for my term as president, the tools I needed to achieve them, and the actions I was required to complete. By the end of my term I was able to achieve 90% of my goals.
Invest in Yourself
As an eager graduate, contending to be the best within the work environment, we often forget that downtime, progressive learning or simply doing something that you love is required to offset the daily stresses we endure. Investing in yourself requires awareness of time and priorities. There are 24 hours within a day, and we spend a good majority of that time either commuting or at work. So ask yourself; ‘How many hours of the day to I dedicate to myself?’
If the answer is less than 2 hours a day, chances are that you are stressed, or your momentum will eventually be hindered by an impending plateau. Stop, take a break, and reanalyze your use of time. Make it a priority and part of your plan to give back to yourself. May it be a short term goal, such as losing weight, or a long term goal like attaining a professional designation, make sure it is part of your daily routine to work towards. This creates balance in your life, enabling you to maintain your momentum in achieving your goals and objectives.
Exude Positivity. Be agile. Improve everyday, and most importantly stay hungry.