It makes sense that one must be business-like to fit into the business community, but what does that mean? It means developing business-like habits. Business-like can describe a full range of things from dress to demeanor, but what I’m addressing here is attitude. Whether you are aiming for a career in a laid-back techie company or a button-down Wall Street firm, there are some attitudes that will help you succeed.
The best general advice I could give is to be observant and take time to really evaluate the people around you to find one or more role models. Don’t rely on their reports of their success or failures or their impression of their relationship with management or co-workers, watch how others react to them. Find out how many of their ideas are adopted. See who has been promoted rapidly or who has
the boss’s and co-workers respect. Once you find those ‘up and comers’ try to figure out what they are doing that will work for you. You probably won’t have the same set of strengths or talents, but you can adapt their success formula to fit your style.
There are some specific things you can be aware of as the new guy. Try to exhibit the right amount of imitative. There is a fine line between appearing unmotivated and over eager. You don’t want to be either. Think of that elementary school classroom. You don’t want to be the kid who sat in the middle and never said a word, nor do you want to be that know-it-all kid who sat center front and waved his hand back and forth in front of the teacher’s face every time a question was posed. You want to be the kid who knew the material, but was respectful of sharing the limelight — the one who was prepared and helpful to both the teacher and the other kids, but didn’t demand constant attention.
Making excuses is never going to get you any positive attention. Yes, sometimes things happen that you misstep and make a mistake or aren’t as well prepared as you should be. When that happens, own up to your failure without dwelling on it and be ready with a plan for what you can do to minimize the impact. Don’t ever try to share the blame with others and don’t cite personal reasons for lack of success unless you were hospitalized or something equally catastrophic. If possible, avoid this situation occurring by monitoring your achievement toward goals and seeking help before you get into trouble. Just be sure you don’t go overboard the other direction and expect others to do your work for you. Be sure when you seek help that you aren’t slacking. Be sure you really,
really need help.
Don’t be a whiner. Complaining is never the way to endear yourself to your boss or co-workers. If you think something could be improved, first try to find out why it is the way it is, then try to find out if it’s possible to change it for the better, and then propose a suggestion for change. You want to be careful with this process, though. Remember, you are the new guy. You are coming into someone else’s territory and telling them that you are so brilliant that you can see how they could improve. Yes, perhaps it is obvious and they just haven’t seen it with your fresh perspective, but remember, you know want to be that know-it-all kid.
Be low-maintenance. Bosses and co-workers don’t want to deal with someone who is a hassle. When you make demands on others, you affect their ability to do their jobs. They will remember it. This is especially true of support personnel. Never underestimate the power of administrative assistants and other administrative workers to make or break you. They often have complicated jobs that are essential to the success of the organization, but may be relatively under-appreciated and under-rewarded. Be respectful of their time and talents.
In short, be a good citizen of the work-place. You can start to practice that demeanor while you are in college. Think of your professors as bosses and your fellow students as co-workers. Are you that good solid employee who fits in, or are you the one making waves, making excuses, always ready with a complaint and demanding more than your share of time and attention?