You have just graduated from the university, and after 40-some interviews, you are on your first real job– first full-time, paying job, anyway. Anxious? Don’t worry, you will do as you were trained to do. It sounds like you have a great opportunity. A few tips–
- When in doubt about something, pay close attention, and pace the positive intent of the organization.
- Volunteer to keep minutes for the weekly project meeting. It is what keeps everyone on-task and in-scope. There are excellent PMI standards for having a productive meeting (like these). Folks will appreciate it greatly, when done right. It also gives your project traction. When possible, set up your meetings for the purpose of gaining consensus on decisions tentatively already made in informal, ad-hoc groups of two or three. A good, well-planned meeting can take just 10 to 30 minutes. This is the “glue” that keeps you all on the same page. If convenient, you might use Remote Desktop, GoToMeeting or other software to hold your meeting online.
Say ‘No’ to requests that are out-of-scope, but say it gracefully. Decline in a positive way. Smile. Keep a “to-not-do” list of things that look important but are currently out-of-scope, because your management will want suggestions, and it helps you stay on-task. When asked to help on something out-of-scope, say: “That’s a great idea; let me check with my manager, and I will get back to you on that.”
- If you are staying late or putting in more hours than others, ask yourself if your activity is in-scope for your job, and if so, ask your boss for priorities. He/she will appreciate the heads-up. If your activity is out-of-scope, why are you doing it? Aim to under-commit and over-deliver.
- Use caution in over-achieving. Don’t “play the martyr,” who stays late to get twice the work done. It isn’t within the norm, and martyrs get crucified.
- Look for opportunities to sharpen your people skills, like the–
Dale Carnegie Course — (Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book), or a
Dealing with Difficult People Class — (DDP Brochure).
If you keep track of hours, keep track daily. Get permission before going over the number of hours you are scheduled to work.
- Bring donuts or bagels on occasion. Talk to people– find the innocent, inoffensive, open-ended conversation starter that works for you (mine– ‘So, is Dallas home?’). Pay close attention to social obligations. That optional after-hours party to entertain clients probably isn’t so optional.
- Work as if your phone calls and click-stream are being recorded, and that the security cameras are recording your activity. They probably are, and the person who audits them doesn’t see your motive, only your activity. Error on the side of being too cautious.
- When unclear about what was just requested of you, Back-track and Clarify– “So, you are saying you want me to —–, and this is important because it will help us —–? Is this right?”
- Avoid office politics and gossip. Pace the positive intent of your organization. You might be working for that other manager someday. If a co-worker insists on getting your opinion on juicy gossip– if you feel you must say something, “amazing!” has worked for me.
- Get to the office early. Management notices it more than your staying late.
- Don’t be loud and obnoxious. This sounds obvious, but some of us have slipped up on this one a time or two. A company party is still a business environment, not a frat party. Better to be understated, conservative and humble. Not the place for high-pitched giggles or new dance moves. Again, pace the positive intent of the organization.
Of course, this is not a complete list, and I’ll attempt to keep improving it. If you have ideas or questions, please post!