The hope of new college graduates is to identify a meaningful and lucrative career path that is filled with intellectually challenging and important work which can be completed in eight hours a day. Throw in some great perks like free gym memberships, unlimited vacations and all-inclusive food -- and the vision of the "dream job" is complete. However, this vision is almost never reality. In every entry-level position, there is often a healthier dose of work than there is of fun. Of course, that is why people are paid to work. Here are a few tedious but necessary aspects of entry-level positions that, if handled well, can help you get ahead.
Documentation. Even the word isn't exciting. Creating a record of things that you do, people with whom you speak and activities to be completed in the future doesn't sound intriguing. However, documenting these things is a very important part of work today. Let's say you are in customer support. A customer calls in to say that they didn't receive their product. You write down the address and product requested, agree to resend it, hang up and move on to the next call. The problem happens again one week later. Why? Because you never changed the updated address in the CRM system that the shipping department uses. There might have been an additional opportunity to deliver better service (or catch the repeated mistake) by also requesting a future follow-up call from customer service to check in to make sure the product was delivered.
Documentation not only records what happened, but it creates a guide for more efficient future transactions. Additionally, it can be used to proactively plan to deliver exceptional service by following up on issues or anticipating needs. It should be clear and concise and often requires adherence to an exact procedure. Digital records are the lifeblood of successful companies. Give documentation the importance it deserves.
Confidentiality. Social media has made sharing the intimate details of our everyday lives much more common these days. However, work can be filled with career-limiting moves for the loose-lipped employee. Let's imagine you are an accounting associate in a large company. As you are reviewing invoices from vendors to submit for payment, you notice that a consultant has a bill rate that seems unbelievably high for someone who doesn't seem to be doing all that much. Over lunch, you tell a co-worker about your discovery. Unfortunately, you are overheard by a manager from another department who reports your breach of confidentiality and your lack of judgement to your supervisor. Best-case scenario, you have a very uncomfortable conversation with your supervisor about your mistake. Worst case, you are terminated because lack of discretion and professional judgement in an accounting department is a huge liability.
Here are some topics to keep to yourself: your pay rate, the pay rate of others, corporate expenses, awkward habits of co-workers, the personal lives of others, performance reviews and financial results that have not been officially released. Also, be careful about sharing information to others outside of the company, like proprietary processes, stealth projects, sales prospects and internal corporate communications. In short, being trustworthy is very important for long-term career success. It is very difficult to rebuild your reputation once it is tarnished.
Details. Clever employees recognize that success can come through mastering details. Why? First, because we all appreciate getting things the exact way we want. The proliferation of Starbucks and its culture of making customized coffee orders exactly the way you want is a perfect illustration of this point. But the second reason mastering the details is so critical is that most people will not take the time to do so. This means that delivering on the details automatically puts you ahead of all the others who underwhelm with their performance. Your manager will recognize it, your co-workers will appreciate it, your customers will value you for it and you will get ahead.
Attitude. Come to the job ready to work every day. Keep an eye on the big picture, and don't let an ego get in the way. Be interested and open to the feedback of others who have more experience than you. Aim to be the best at all that you do. Take responsibility for your mistakes and be responsible for your own success.
You will be asked to redo work when you didn't do anything wrong, but someone just changed their mind. You may be given the same request five times in a row because a client got too busy to review what you did the first, second, third and fourth times that you submitted it to them. You will have someone take credit for your great idea. However, you will be paid to do (and redo) and endure all of those things. There are many unglamorous parts of professional employment. Recognizing the steps that you can take to make the seemingly tedious things work for you is an excellent tactic for career success.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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