more quickly than others
Type-A, confident, go-getter. That was me. I embraced my first professional career with the same over-the-top enthusiasm with which I embraced my college career. Coach briefcase in hand, I entered the working world assuming that the intelligence, hard work, and enthusiasm that served me well in college would produce similar results in the workplace. Boy was I wrong!
My first year as a young professional was filled with more lessons learned than advancements achieved. Why were my proven strategies for success in college failing me now? Why were some people getting ahead more quickly than I was? The answer is simple: Success on the job comes from two things: 1) Having a positive attitude and 2) Avoiding the common mistakes that derail many young professionals. A positive attitude is essential for success, but even with the most positive attitude your career can be disrupted by these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Don’t belabor a point
Passionate inquiry is welcomed and rewarded in most college classes, but it is not so enthusiastically received in the working world. Co-workers viewed my desire to belabor a point as annoying and unproductive. Collaborative discussion is usually welcomed in the workplace, but once a decision is made, employees are expected to accept it and move on. Time is money, and companies expect their employees to use their time wisely.
Mistake #2: Don’t show off your “A-game” too early
A new job can be both exciting and nerve-racking. We want our co-workers to understand why we were chosen and managers to feel good about their decision.
In essence, we feel compelled to show our A-game right out of the gate. But, doing so is a mistake. Professional success, unlike college report cards, is more complex than getting the highest grade. Success in the workplace is about earning people’s respect and learning to work together as a team. Some co-workers or teammates might be intimidated by your A-game, so give them a chance to get to know you first before you wow them with everything you’ve got.
Mistake #3: Offering unsolicited advice to people above you
When we are hired into a professional position, we assume that we are being hired for our knowledge – and to some extent that’s true. However, we are also being hired to exercise good judgment.
What our professors applaud as “charming displays of intellect” in the classroom may not be seen the same way by your superiors in the workplace. People senior to us within an organization typically have access to information that we don’t have, so the decisions and conclusions that seem obvious to us may not be obvious to them.
I learned the hard way that educating the CEO about proper statistical interpretation of employee data was not what they expected of the company statistician. Who knew? I also learned that if educating the CEO about statistics was going to win me any favor, the educating had to happen in private rather than publically at the all employee meeting.
Now for the Good News
The good news is that very few mistakes are career ending. I made all these mistakes and many more. I still had a very successful career, and chances are you will too. Mistakes are inevitable, necessary, sometimes painful, and almost always a productive part of our career development. Expect to make them, expect to learn from them, and expect to move past them.
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