Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Career Advice

Now that I'm no longer active in the workforce, I thought it would be a great time to dole out career advice to those of you who may be newly employed in the business world.  Although, I'm sure some (or all) of these would apply to those working in other fields but the world of business is really the one that I know intimately.  Below are my top ten pieces of advice.

1.  Don't be late, it's annoying

Every office has one.  The person who is late arriving to work almost every single day.  I know life happens.  The bus is going to break down, the train is going to break down, your car is going to break down, it's going to rain and no one's going to remember how to drive and your kid is going to puke on the way to school.  But every single freaking day?

When you're late all the time, it gives off the impression that you don't care.  And most importantly, if I'm working with you, it's going to annoy me.  I can't sign off on this project because I have a question and you're not here and you're not checking your email because you overslept (again) and now you're scrambling to get to work.  The boss wants another slide added to the presentation deck (last minute) but you're not here to do it so now I have to put down what I was reviewing in order to prepare a slide which is going to set me back.

2.  No one like's a job jumper

Over the past 20 years or so, I've reviewed more resumes than I can count.  If the candidate was employed at Company A for two years and then Company B for a year and then Company C for 18 months and then Company D for another two years, that resume most certainly would end up in the online trash bin.  Sticking it out for a year or two and then moving on is okay maybe once or twice in your very long career but for every job, no.

3.  Have a perfect resume

If your resume contains a typo or grammatical error, I will not consider interviewing you.  Review your resume over and over and then when you think it's perfect, give it to five people who have an excellent understanding of the English language and kindly ask them to review it for you.

4.  Manage your expectations

Don't ever expect anything, whether it be the good project or a promotion, to be handed to you.  You'll need to work hard to prove yourself, unless you're connected or heavily involved in some type of office politics.  Look, even when you work your butt off, Bill may still be assigned the interesting work because he's buddies with Jeff, who manages scheduling.  (See the next two items should this happen to you.)  Your reputation will carry you a long way and eventually (sometimes it takes years) the fakers and people like Bill and Jeff will be found out.  

5.  Take control of your career path

Know where you want to go, and work with others above you to get there.  You need to actively manage your career.  I've seen too many people sit back and wait for others to tell them what to do.  They have no sense of what they need to do in order to advance and then act surprised when a raise or promotion isn't handed to them.  

6.  Learn when to be the squeaky wheel

You don't want to march into your manager's office each week with a list of complaints but there will come a time when you'll need to speak up for yourself.  Learn how and when to do this.  It will carry more weight if you are known as the person who hardly ever complains.

7.  Learn to efficiently multi-task

Let's put it this way - do you want to be known as the person who can only work on one task at a time?  Didn't think so.

8.  Learn to delegate

In order to advance in your career, you'll need to learn how and what to delegate to those in positions you manage.  This is important because you can't do it all and you need to show those above you that you can take on more difficult work.

9.  Understand the office culture and politics

If everyone eats lunch at their desks do you want to be the one person who disappears for an hour to work out at the gym?  And then spend an additional 30 minutes eating lunch at your desk.  Each office environment is different.  Take time to observe the culture and make an effort to fit in.  

Office politics can be absolutely brutal and I don't want to encourage anyone to become actively involved but you should, in the very least, understand the politics.  For example, Joe, a senior leader, has taken you under his wing and promised to help you advance in your career.  But what you need to know is that Joe is close to retiring, the other leaders don't take him seriously and he's really just hanging around because he golfs with Bill, who holds an important position within the company.

10.  Be nice, and honest

I grew up in public accounting, which is a tough place to work.  Because of those early years spent working and advancing in that environment, I expect a lot out of those I work with.  This doesn't equate to being mean, but sometimes people get the two confused.  If you have a tough manager, be sure to make a connection with her and understand what she expects from you.  Don't automatically assume that she is mean.

Be nice to everyone.  And this doesn't mean giving out good raises and promotions.  Sometimes people get the two confused.  Have a pleasant attitude.  It will go a long way.

And don't ever lie.  EVER.


Momma Z said...

All good advice. I am No 2 but I have also lived in Delaware, Conn., PA and Vermont since I started my working life. So gotta change jobs if you change states.

Jojo said...

This is brilliant. I am going to show it to my elder daughter who would be well advised to take it to heart as she starts her career. I've had a varied career in my thus far 35 year working life from working in finance, to becoming a nursery school teacher to latterly Archivist at our local Pier here in Clevedon, North Somerset,England, but most of those rules apply whatever job you do wherever you live. I think that here in the UK the vagaries of the job market means that people do/are forced to job hop rather more more frequently than in the U.S. but it is an accepted fact of life and not seen as a negative. My husband worked as a permanent employee for the first 20 years of his working life, but after being made redundant (as commonly happens here once you hit 40 - (better for a company's pension pot) decided to "go contracting" as it's called here taking up short term renewable contracts. He works in I.T. and these days, because of the tax laws, takes up a new short term contract roughly every 4 years and it works very well for us. It's interesting how the work culture varies from country to country but still... the basic rules of work conduct apply!

Fantastic post!

Anonymous said...

I follow you on Instagram and this is the first time I've commented on your blog, though I've read you for years now! This is a great list, but I disagree with number two - unfortunately in this job market, people get laid off or have to leave jobs a lot earlier than they want to. My longest job duration has been three years because of layoffs or just a bad work environment for me personally. I also work in a field that is pretty prone to layoffs, so your mileage may vary on this, I understand, but I would have loved to stay longer at those jobs I loved. I would hate to think that people would label me as a job-hopper, but I'm sure they do. It rankles, though, because a lot of the times I hopped jobs, it wasn't my choice to do so!

However, your advice about learning yourself how to advance is a really good one. I have a great manager right now who is telling me the same things and offering me resources to learn. I really, really appreciate that!


Sarah said...

I should have added a note regarding #2. This is definitely specific to tax. I can see where in other fields moving around and gaining different experience would be for in your favor.

Sarah said...

And definitely if you relocate!

BearikaBallerina said...

I'm also number 2. I am 30 and have had quite a few jobs. One was doing event security - a part time and very flexible job but it was really hard to drive to Los Angeles from where I live every weekend (80 miles away). So I got a job working at my college. This I did for years but then they were only accepting student workers on financial aid and I didn't receive it. Plus, it was more of a temporary position. I did some sign waving along with the college job and then solo. Then I worked at Walmart and was wrongly fired 13 months later, despite having a perfect (beyond, really) evaluation. Then I was hired at a dance studio where I still teach two and a half years later. I worked at a vape shop for a year alongside that but got a new manager who hired two 18 year old kids and gave them more hours and treated them better despite my sales being better so I ended up quitting, but only once I had another job lined up...which is the first job I listed. I'm back doing security. Ten years after I stopped booking work with them, they now have shuttles to take us if the job is out of the county. I plan on staying. So I am back at the first job (I was there for two years) and am still teaching at the dance studio. haha. It's been an interesting ride. I want to own my own studio eventually and teach college dance but until then, I'll more than likely stay put.

That was long. I'm tired. I just got off the security job at 1:30am. At least I have a lot of experience, right?

Nina Mansir said...

I've come back to this post a couple times and just wanted to thank you for writing it. I am not quite in the working world yet; I am a graduate student in astronomy. Even still, I find what you wrote very applicable. I often feel lost or overwhelmed in the office, or intimidated by just how much people seem to know. Following your 9th point though, I started having lunch at the cafeteria a little more often. Since then, I've been getting to know some of the professors and post docs that I otherwise would not interact with much. Getting to know them in a casual setting has helped to remind me that they are just people, too, and were once where I am now. So thank you for sharing what you've learned. It's really helped me a lot.