07 Mar 8 Hard Lessons I Learnt Early in My Career
When I got my first job I was a bushy-tailed, wide-eyed, eager to please college graduate. I was very nervous and excited for my first job, ready to make my mark in the corporate world. Much to my naivety, being smart and working diligently wasn’t enough to be considered a success in the workplace.
Needless to say, my first 3 years of employment were eye opening and constant doses of reality checks. There were some bumps and potholes along the way but I survived coming out the tunnel a smarter businesswoman.
So what did I learn?
- Confidence is the key: This was the hardest lesson I learnt. If you don’t have confidence in your abilities and intellect, don’t expect others to. There will be times when people will deliberately test your knowledge and try to dispute your reasoning to gauge your grit and to put you under pressure. Do not let this intimidate you. You have done your homework, you are smart and you must believe in yourself. Unfortunately, I went through a bad patch where my lack of confidence began to affect the quality of my work. I had to regroup and change the perception of myself. It is important to praise yourself and acknowledge that you are good at your job. This helps with your confidence.
- Speaking up or saying no doesn’t mean insubordination: Early on, I was in a tense, erratic relationship with a male colleague. Every day it felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks working with this individual. He was unrelenting, demanding and highly critical. I was uncomfortable with his demeanor but I never said anything. Later on, I learnt a valuable lesson: speak up. Maybe if I had tackled the issue head on it wouldn’t have resulted in lack of self-confidence and a toxic work relationship. What if you do speak up and the situation does not improve? Get a new job. Your peace of mind is worth more in the long run.
- Being able to have rapport with your male colleagues is very important: Ok so developing a rapport with men was never hard for me to do. I love sports and technology and the chances are 95% of men have these loves as well. However, if you are a woman who doesn’t like sports, my advice would be to pick a sport (and a team) and educate yourself. Do you really want to be left out of all conversations when sports become the focal point? (and we know this topic can go on for hours) I’m not saying be an expert but have a working knowledge so that you can participate in conversations. Sports definitely not your thing? Try technology but don’t get left out!
- Partaking in company activities is important: This provides an avenue for you to bond with colleagues who may not be in your department. This is particularly true if you are part of a large organization where your job is cross-functional. It also shows that you care about maintaining the culture of the organization and that you intend to build a reputation outside of your day job. Also, by socializing with your colleagues and bosses you are taking a personal interest in them.
- Be conscious of the office politics: Whether or not you play the office “politricks” (personally I don’t), they exist and others are playing to get ahead in their careers. So be smart and be aware of the alliances and rifts in the office. A tool I use is to map out the relationships in the workplace. It’s like an organisational chart but instead of mapping out direct reports, you are mapping out the personal relationships in the office and find out who are the connectors for the various networks.
- Get a mentor: It is important to align yourself with a senior member in your office or within your organization. It’s no secret that this is one of the techniques men use to get ahead. They always have a manager who pushes for them to get that promotion or puts in that good word which gets them recognition in their file. Your mentor can be male or female and the best way to approach it, is let the person know your intentions.
- Growth is more important than level: Try not to pay so much attention to your level in the organization, keep growing by gaining new skills on the job in or outside of your scope. When I was a Manager in the bank, my General Manager asked me to take minutes for a series of important Committee meetings. I could have said no considering it was Executive Assistant work however I was honoured that he would trust me with such a confidential role. The result? I got to network with the Bank’s highest Executives and received a valuable education in corporate governance.
- Your past mistakes do not define your future: I repeat – your past mistakes DO NOT define your future. Risks will be taken and mistakes will be made. Acknowledge when you are wrong, learn the lesson and keep your head up.
What key lessons did you learn early in your career that helped you to excel in the workplace?
Let me know in the comments below. Remember caring is sharing. 🙂 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]