Friday, July 22, 2011

College Grads: 5 Tips for Navigating the Corporate World

Some might argue that accepting business advice from me is sort of like taking mothering advice from the likes of Casey Anthony. However, my business life has not been that much of a disaster, I promise. You don’t have to be the smartest in the room, the best negotiator or the shrewdest business person to have success in the workplace. I feel I have been able to at least semi-successfully navigate the corporate world for more than a decade by following a few very simple rules.

#1. Be nice: The ability to get along with people is an important part of business success. You can teach skills, you can't teach personality. Your boss notices. You can pick your friends and pick your nose (you shouldn't), but you can't pick your co-workers. Anyone can get along with a friendly person. It takes a special kind of person to get along with the difficult ones. If you don't take things personally, stay positive, act professional and keep emotions out of it, you can have a positive professional relationship with almost anyone. Don’t let your ego get in the way. But let me be clear, don’t mistake being nice for being a push-over. You always must firmly, politely, stand your ground, without emotion, for what you believe in.

#2. Accept and respect authority: There are a lot of bad bosses out there (no Jennifer Anistan pun intended). The worst of them possess such adjectives as jerk, lazy, inexperienced, uninspiring and stupid (to put it mildly). However, defiance and a bad attitude never got anyone anywhere. Suck it up. Make the best of a bad situation. Respect your boss the best you can to their face and keep what you really think about them to yourself. I've had some REALLY bad bosses and could tell you the horror stories (maybe a blog for another day). I basically always only had two choices; learn to live with it or find a new job. I've done both. (For the record, I have also had some really amazing inspiring bosses, and it was easy to be under their authority).

#3 Work hard: News Flash – A large majority of the people that I encounter in the corporate world really don’t work that hard. It seems that most people figure out pretty quickly what is the minimum amount of work they can get away with doing without getting in trouble (or fired), and then glide on through. I learned that if you come to work every day, care about it and work hard, then you will likely shine above 75% of your co-workers. Just thinking for yourself, doing what you you are supposed to do and not doing what you are not supposed to do (i.e. web surfing, personal calls, wasting time) puts you heads and shoulders above the rest. Be helpful to others and demonstrate a can-do attitude. Bosses notice a strong work ethic, because not many people have one.

#4 Adapt to change: The only thing that is constant, is change. Over the years, without a doubt, You will get a new boss, a new client, new responsibilities, new co-workers and a new menu at the cafeteria. Take every announcement of change on with a positive attitude and do the best you can to work with the new circumstances. Strive to learn from new experiences. Show your boss you are open and willing to embrace change.

#5 Take Responsibility and learn from your mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes. We are all human after all. Admit to your mistakes as soon as you realize them. Trying to hide from, cover up or pass the blame only makes things worse. Attack your problems head on. Admit when you are wrong, accept the responsibility and learn from it. The people around you will ultimately respect you for it.

You may have noticed there is a common theme among my list. A positive attitude goes a long way. I always say, "If people at work really knew what I thought of them, I would be in trouble!" You don't have to show every emotion, say every thing you think and be "right" all the time. It is so simple: Be nice, work hard, respect authority, embrace change, and learn from your mistakes. These are the things they tried to teach us in Kindergarten but most grown-ups haven't yet grasped the concepts.

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