Saturday, April 17, 2010

Getting started on the job

This advice was passed around in an email when I was in business school, and I like to reread it at least once a year:

Getting Started On The Job

By Robert J. Callander, Former Executive-in-Residence

• In past years, a number of students stopped by my office to tell me about the job they landed. Good stuff, but after a few happy words I find that along with the anticipation of beginning a career there is a certain amount of anxiety revolving around questions such as, "What do I do when I arrive?" "How do I act?" "Is there anything I can do in advance to get ready?" "What is important as I build a foundation?"

• There are many answers to these questions because every corporation and every individual is different. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few things to think about and a few disciplines you might find helpful.

• It is annual report season. Get a copy of your company's report and its proxy. Read them over. Do not memorize the financials. Just get a sense of what the company does, where it does it, what is unique, who the top people are, what the board of directors is like. And while you are at it, why not do likewise for your two leading competitors as well. In short, know where you are.

• Get through The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Financial Times before you get to your PC at the office. If your boss reads these papers you better know the morning items he/she is talking about. If he/she doesn't, you have an edge.

• Having done the above, do not "showboat" your knowledge. Let it out like toothpaste-gradually. Don't attack-counterpunch. Have them asking, "how did he/she know that?"

• Never eat lunch alone. If you are in the marketplace be with a client. You'll never find one sitting in your in-box. If you are not on the client side, seek out peers in your area or get to know other areas. Conversation and knowledge flow easily over a meal. You'll be surprised what you learn.

• Do small things well. Management notices thoroughness. You will have plenty of chances to focus on the intergalactic stuff later on.

• Focus on the people below you. It is they who will make or break you. Simple human decency and a chat over a cup of coffee go a long way. They will tell you what is really going on.

• Ask questions and listen. No one likes or needs a pontificator.

• When you have a success, use "we." In failure, use "I." Don't get this backwards!

• Identify opportunities-everyone can point to problems. Avoid starting sentences with "I'm concerned about..." People want solutions.

• Take the issues, not yourself, seriously. Self-deprecating humor is your best gyroscope.

• Keep physically fit. It's a long race. You can't be anxious and out of breath at the same time. Physiologically impossible.

• Saying and writing "thanks" to clients and people in the company goes a long way. Most people spend their days getting bashed about what they did wrong. They get few compliments.

• Lastly, always "be there." Reliability is a scarce commodity these days.

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