This is a series of blog posts, dormant for a while, resurrected for a while. These would be career tips #15, #16 and #17, meant for young people entering the work force. Little practical nuggets gleaned a few years in the grind.
Do It to Yourself First
“Whatever you choose to do to yourself, will be less painful than if done by others”. Another present-day boss is fond of saying this, and applying the little dictum to internal audits and reviews.
The idea is to change and improve your own processes first, to spackle those efficiency gaps, rather than be forced by outside persons and events.
On the home finance front, not too different from subjecting a household to a draconian debt repayment plan, rather than being hounded by outside creditors.
Look for Grey-Haired Knowledge
In other words, find a mentor. With the disappearance of pensions and the change in culture, long tenure at companies has become a bit of a rarity. In some companies, there may be still a few who old-timers around who have put in their thirty or forty years at the company.
Leaning on an experienced person to learn is a viable strategy in life, let alone a budding career.
Besides operational or job-specific knowledge, a seasoned pro can impart little bits of company lore and legend. Hoary old stories about past campaigns, initiatives, and more importantly, lessons learned, may not necessarily be retained in company training manuals. In fact, just the opposite may be the case.
When these grey-haired persons leave for that final retirement, a little bit of knowledge goes away.
It’s to your advantage, young person, to ensure that it sticks around. And what better place to have it stick around than your own head first?
This is a good tip I picked up from a former boss. He would always be ready for a meeting five or ten minutes ahead of schedule, enter the room and sit down in a very deliberate way. Arrange his folder, his pen or pencil, and then sit back calmly and watch or greet who entered next.
I asked him about this, and his response has stuck with me to this day: “If you look rushed, people might think you don’t know how to manage your time”.
It’s also good policy to not exaggerate and even comment how busy you are, even if you’re on in over your head (as most of us are in these lean-staffed days) and about to explode from stress.
A familiar business small-talk intro is “Staying busy these days?”. The common answer is roll eyes and bemoan the lack of time, people, resources, etc. What is less common is an insouciant shrug and an answer of, why yes, pretty busy, but we manage and by. This projects an image of can-do competence, confidence and optimism. All good things.
At least that’s what I’ve been told by a gray-haired old-timer.