To move up, you must get noticed.
To get noticed, you must attract attention.
To attract attention, you must be distinctive.
To be distinctive, you must be known for results.
As a new professional, learning how to be a professional is your first task. Whatever career or industry you choose, if you want to be respected by colleagues, invaluable to clients, and a crackerjack to your boss, mastery of the basics of business
Effective Immediately is designed to teach you how to survive your first year in the workforce. But we want to do more than that—we want you to become great. In a world overrun by the so-so and the okay, excellence wins, but it’s a choice you have to make every day. Long-term success—the only kind that really matters—never just happens; it is always the result of clear objectives, laser focus, and building good work habits from day one.
So if you want to be an extraordinary executive, this is your book. If you’re an enthusiastic, curious sort who is unimpressed by generic catchphrases and who wants—make that demands—to know how to be the best, this is your book.
The principles on these pages, if applied correctly, will elevate you to the top of your game. In fact, by the time you need to order new business cards, you should already have been promoted. And that’s not hyperbole, just great business.
To your success,
A Contract between You and Über-You
I, _____________________, understand that this is a critical time in my career when first impressions matter. I promise to stack the odds in my favor as much as possible by arriving at work on time every day, meeting all assigned deadlines, taking ownership of my projects, and continually asking myself, “If it were my business, would this be acceptable?”
Pursuant to same, I pledge to use this time to earn the trust and respect of my peers and subordinates. I recognize that when I am promoted to a management position, I will be responsible for leading these very colleagues.
I acknowledge that this contract is between me and myself and carries no rewards or penalties apart from accelerated success, faster promotions, and my own personal transformation from new graduate to first-class executive.
Get It Right, Right Out of the Gate
From your very first day on the job, you are being evaluated by supervisors and colleagues. Will they judge you as a rank-and-file associate or a potential leader?
The answer is often determined by the first impressions you make. And it doesn’t matter whether you are the world’s most productive, intelligent new professional—if you are perceived differently, your career will suffer.
1 / Conquer Your First Day
Here we are, folks: the first day. And right now, you are under the microscope. Since your supervisors can’t judge you on performance and contributions yet, the focus will be on filling out piles of paperwork, getting you situated, and integrating you into the team. But make no mistake, you are being judged.
However, instead of the usual measures that will kick in once you’re settled into the position, you will be judged on some very visible, basic parameters:
• Did you show up on time?
• What are you wearing?
• Do you display confidence and charisma?
• Do you seem overwhelmed or ready for a challenge?
• How well do you communicate?
• What personal items did you put in your office?
On the first day, your mission is simple: Make a positive first impression. And the way to do that is to be very intentional about how you present yourself. Here are some tips that will help you not merely survive your first day, but conquer it with poise and professionalism.
Make sure you are on-site at least ten to fifteen minutes before your official start time. If your commute involves driving or taking public transportation, consider rehearsing your route in advance. (Try to go when travel conditions are as realistic as possible; for instance, don’t make the drive on a Sunday afternoon if you’ll be traveling during weekday morning rush hour.) Giving yourself a bit of extra time will not only create some leeway if there are any unexpected delays (traffic, parking, and so on), but will also let you step into the restroom and collect yourself once you arrive. You’ll be understandably nervous, so don’t let normal first-day jitters spiral into outright panic by getting behind schedule.
Look the Part
The saying “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have” applies from your very first day at work. While every office is different and some are more casual than others, a good rule of thumb is to dress a notch above your current station. For most new employees, this means donning a high-quality, conservative suit that’s pressed and spotless, wearing shoes that are polished, and carrying a leather (or faux leather) briefcase or messenger bag. To save time on your big day, have your outfit ready the night before. Also, don’t forget to bring a pack of breath mints. Even the sharpest suit can be forgotten next to someone who smells like day-old Starbucks.
This is truly a crossroads in your life and the first step to building an extraordinary career. You’re earning your own money now, and there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Regardless of your past work or life experiences, this is an opportunity to start fresh and turn the page. Embrace it and walk tall.
A great way to come across as friendly and confident right away is to proactively introduce yourself to your new colleagues. Don’t assume they should reach out to you first because it’s their workplace already. Just extend a firm handshake, smile warmly, and have some fifteen-second “about me” sound bites ready. Take some time beforehand to think about the questions you are likely to be asked and be prepared with insightful, succinct responses. In fact, we’ll make it easy—you’re probably going to be asked about:
• Your university (and its latest football record)
• Your major
• Your professors (if you encounter any alumni)
• Your hometown
• Your current role (“So, you’re our new associate, eh?”)
• Your tasks (If you don’t yet know what types of projects you’ll be assigned, just smile and say, “I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be working on yet, but I’m looking
forward to getting started.”)
Also, since you’re going to be doing lots of introductions, come up with some questions for your coworkers so the conversation is a dialogue rather than a Q & A session. You can research key players online via the company website, Google, or LinkedIn, but if all else fails, look around their office for clues on topics of interest. For example, if the walls are dripping with plaques, comment on one. If their desk is filled with family photos, ask about their children.
The point here is to realize that the impressions you’re making on the job don’t have to be left to chance. In PR, they call this “controlling the message.” You can call it being effective immediately. Are you ready? Welcome to the workforce!
Newbie to Newbie
Leave the Sequins and Pleather at Home
My first real job was for a company owned by the world’s largest fashion conglomerate and located in America’s fashion capital, New York City. I figured I had “made it” and needed to look the part. I researched all of the major fashion magazines for the latest trends and developed a work wardrobe of gold pleather pants, brightly colored tops, and excessive chunky jewelry. I even took a day-to-night approach by wearing a sequined tank that would look great after work and toning it down for the office by pairing it with simple black pants. It only took a short time to notice that no one else in the office was wearing sequins or gold pants, and that I had mistaken trendy looks from the magazines’ pages for chic business attire. I realized then that if I wanted to be treated like a professional, I had to dress accordingly.
New York, New York
2 / Have Patience
Fresh out of college, many newbies think that because of their education they have immediate status and deserve lofty positions. Not so. Status is the result of accomplishment, which is the result of work. Hard, often tedious work.
Any time you are a new hire, and especially at the beginning of your career, you must build your own success from the ground up. Do not expect anyone to assume you’re talented. You have to show them—and this takes time. Usually more time than you expect.
So be patient. Don’t focus on when you’re going to move up; focus on what you’re doing now. As Sir William Osler (a pioneer of modern medicine) stated, “The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.” If at the end of each workday you can truthfully say that you worked to the best of your ability, we guarantee your success will take care of itself.
3 / Mind Your “-Ilities”
To: Entry-Level Associates
From: The Boss
Re: Mind Your “-Ilities”
Management would like to take this opportunity to welcome all of you aboard. We are thrilled that you have chosen to work for our organization, and we know that you will be a great asset to the team.
Having said that, we would also like you to be aware that all respective department heads are now actively scouting for the company’s next “young guns.” And while other newbies will have orientation as usual (that is, they’ll be given the tour and then left alone), young guns will be handpicked for the fast track. They will be carefully groomed for big chairs in the executive suite and will be first in line for promotions, top projects, personal attention, and other perks.
If you want to become a member of the club, management recommends that you stack the odds in your favor by minding your “-ilities” (dependability, reliability, humility, accountability, responsibility, likeability, punctuality, and so on). Until we’ve had enough time to sufficiently evaluate the caliber of your work, our first impressions of you will be based on perceptible qualities, like “-ilities,” we can see for ourselves. Just thought you should know.
4 / Prepare for the Brain Dump
Fact: When you’re new, you’re going to be overwhelmed. Everyone who seemingly knows everything about your office and its customers is going to randomly “dump” this knowledge on you in rapid, shotgun-like outbursts. Usually these brain dumps occur in stream-of-consciousness statements that begin on your first day, often before you’ve had a chance to locate the coffee maker. (“Ann will be your main client contact, but she’s out of the office on Tuesdays and every other Thursday. Here’s the supply closet; if you can’t find something here, there’s another located on the fifth floor. There are separate recycling containers for paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic—and all paper recyclables must be totally staple-free. What were we talking about a minute ago?”)
It’s a lot to take in at once, but rest assured, the brain dump happens to everyone. Prepare yourself by knowing that you will be bombarded with new people and new information coming at you from every direction. However, there are a few things you can do to manage the flow.
Study Your Business
In your first few days on the job, carve out some time to research everything you can about your company and how it operates. Explore your website, read your organization’s marketing brochures, annual reports, and proposals. Without breaching security policies, search around the intranet and read any reports, timelines, work plans, and other relevant documents you can find. Copy the best of these to your desktop, then format your work to look similar. This background will most likely answer a lot of the more basic questions that every new employee asks, so you can stand out with more targeted, insightful observations.
But Do Ask Questions—Even Basic Ones
When you’re new, you have about a two-week grace period in which coworkers will cheerfully answer any inane question you throw at them. Take advantage of this time now and use it to your benefit. Later on, they may not be so charitable.
When it comes to taking notes, it’s critical to keep everything in one place. Therefore you’ll want to carry your planner or a notebook with you at all times—you never know when the next brain dump will take place. (See pages 22–23 for some note-taking tips.) Also, if you work at a job where you’re responsible for multiple projects at the same time, start a new page for each one. This will give you space to go back and add notes as needed.
Never allow the brain dump to visibly stress you out. Remember, people are still forming impressions of you at this point; if you can’t handle the first week without being completely overwhelmed, they’re naturally going to wonder whether you’re cut out for the job. In truth, brain dumps usually occur because most of your colleagues haven’t thought much about your arrival before you showed up, so they’re just spouting information as it comes to them. At the end of the day, take as many notes as you can, smile often, and know that in a few months you will be brain dumping on the next wide-eyed newbie—just remember to let them have some coffee first.
5 / Don’t Expect a Lot of Hand-Holding
Regardless of where you work or what industry you’re in, there are certain processes, tools, and forms that make up the standard operating procedures of your company. Perhaps you were introduced to these through a very organized, systematic orientation. If so, great—consider yourself fortunate. If not, don’t feel shortchanged or frustrated. Instead, take initiative and master the basics on your own.
In decades past, when most people worked for huge corporations, the training process for newcomers was given greater attention. Fully staffed human resource departments handled orientation, or mid-level managers or supervisors were responsible for getting new hires up to speed.
Today, things are different. Companies have pared back layers of management and administrative functions to become leaner and more competitive. Traditional HR departments are either gone or spread thin. In addition, the world is becoming increasingly populated by small businesses, many of which have not yet developed structured processes for training new employees. As a result, basic procedures like orientation get less direct attention. (And this trend is not likely to reverse.)
So don’t wait for orientation to come to you. Go out and tackle it yourself. Ask your colleagues for help. (Be patient and persistent, though; providing this information may not be anyone’s direct responsibility.) The following chapter includes lists of questions that are typically addressed during more formal orientations.
From the Trade Paperback edition.