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In Relation to Work
However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.
Many young businesspeople feel that minor chores are beneath their dignity and unworthy of their college training. They expect to prove their true worth in some major, vital enterprise. Actually, the spirit and effectiveness with which you tackle your first humble tasks will very likely be carefully watched and may affect your entire career.
Occasionally you may worry unduly about where your job is going to get you—whether it is sufficiently strategic or significant. Of course these are pertinent considerations and you would do well to take some stock of them. But by and large, it is fundamentally true that if you take care of your present job well, the future will take care of itself. This is particularly so within large corporations, which constantly search for competent people to move into more responsible positions. Success depends so largely upon personality, native ability, and vigorous, intelligent prosecution of any job that it is no exaggeration to say that your ultimate chances are much better if you do a good job on some minor detail than if you do a mediocre job as a project leader. Furthermore, it is also true that if you do not first make a good showing on your present job you are not likely to be given the opportunity to try something else more to your liking.
Demonstrate the ability to get things done.
This is a quality that may be achieved by various means under different circumstances. Specific aspects will be elaborated in some of the succeeding paragraphs. It can probably be reduced, however, to a combination of three basic characteristics:
• initiative—the energy to start things and aggressiveness to keep them moving briskly,
• resourcefulness or ingenuity—the faculty for finding ways to accomplish the desired result, and
• persistence (tenacity)—the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference.
This last quality is sometimes lacking in the make–up of otherwise brilliant people to such an extent that their effectiveness is greatly reduced. Such dilettantes are known as “good starters but poor finishers.” Or else it will be said: “You can’t take their type too seriously; they will be all steamed up over an idea today, but by tomorrow will have dropped it for some other wild notion.” Bear in mind, therefore, that it may be worthwhile finishing a job, if it has any merit, just for the sake of finishing it.
In carrying out a project, do not wait passively for anyone—suppliers, sales people, colleagues, supervisors—to make good on their delivery promises; go after them and keep relentlessly after them.
Many novices assume that it is sufficient to make a request or order, then sit back and wait until the goods or services are delivered. Most jobs progress in direct proportion to the amount of follow–up and expediting that is applied to them. Expediting means planning, investigating, promoting, and facilitating every step in the process. Cultivate the habit of looking immediately for some way around each obstacle encountered, some other recourse or expedient to keep the job rolling without losing momentum.
On the other hand, the matter is occasionally overdone by overzealous individuals who make themselves obnoxious and antagonize everyone with their incessant pestering. Be careful about demanding action from others. Too much insistence and agitation may result in more damage to one’s personal interest than could ever result from the miscarriage of the item involved.
Confirm your instructions and the other person’s commitments in writing.
Do not assume that the job will be done or the bargain kept just because someone agreed to do it. Many people have poor memories, others are too busy, and almost everyone will take the matter a great deal more seriously if it is in writing. Of course there are exceptions, but at times it pays to copy a third person as a witness.
When sent out on a business trip of any kind, prepare for it, execute the business to completion, and follow up after you return.
Any business trip, whether to review a design, resolve a complaint, analyze a problem, investigate a failure, call on a customer, visit a supplier, or attend a trade show, deserves your special attention to return the maximum benefit for the time and expense. Although each business trip will be unique, and the extent to which you must do the following will be different for each, as a minimum, be sure to:
• Plan the travel. This is more than just reserving transportation and hotels. Consider all eventualities such as lost luggage, missed connections, late arrivals, unusual traffic. Those you are meeting have arragend their schedules for you, so don’t disappoint them—arrive on time and be ready to perform. Follow the motto: “If you can’t be on time, be early!”
• Plan and prepare for the business to be done. Prepare and distribrute agendas before you arrive. Send ahead any material to be reviewed. Be sure everything (e.g., samples, prototypes, presentations) is complete. Practice any presentations, however minor they might seem, beforehand. In short, be fully prepared and allow those you visit to prepare fully.
• Complete the business at hand. You will not always be able to carry out a business trip to your complete satisfaction; others may control the outcome to a different conclusion. Nevertheless, if you have been sent out to complete a specific task, perhaps to analyze a failure or observe a product in use, and the allotted time proves inadequate for whatever reason, stay until the job is complete. Neither your supervisor nor those you visit will like it if someone else has to be sent out later to finish what you did not.
• Execute the appropriate follow–up. Often a seemingly successful trip will come to nothing without adequate follow–up. Use meeting minutes, trip reports, and further communications to your best advantage.
From the Hardcover edition.