Early in my career (some would argue it is still pretty early), I felt pretty lost. I had no idea how to transition from school to an office. I used to sneak out to my car on my lunch break to sleep because my body wasn't used to the long days and long commute. I was pretty unsure of basically everything I did. I didn't know when to speak in meetings and didn't feel like I had enough experience to contribute anyway. I was timid around executives and clients, and I was always unsure of what was too casual for casual Friday.
So I thought I would put together a list of lessons I have learned during my seven years in corporate America.
1) Ask questions. Even if you think it might be a stupid question, seek out someone you trust and just ask. Even if you think you've been there too long.
2) Do favors for people when you can, but know when to say "no." If you are like me, you want to please everyone. Help people out when you can, but don't be a pushover. If you think the request is silly or if you have too many other tasks that day, find a kind way to decline.
3) Regarding meetings - speak up wisely, there is no need to force your way into a conversation. People pay more attention to you when you speak less often, but are precise and thoughtful when you do.
I know I said questions are good, but not always in meetings... :)
4) Be seen. Attend the happy hours, go to lunch, stop by to say "hello" to colleagues. Become friends with your coworkers. You spend the majority of your days with them, work is a lot easier when you are surrounded by people you care about.
5) Be yourself. Everyone brings something different to the workplace, you don't need to fit into a certain mold to be successful. I have been told that I am too "nice", and because of that I could never manage a staff or become an executive. But I bring a level of emotional intelligence that allows me to relate to people in a way that brings out the best in them, a great skill for a manager to have.
7) Take the time to look nice for work. This doesn't mean you need expensive clothes, it just means to take some time to shower, brush your hair and wear an outfit that you put some thought into. Dress for the job you want.
8) Don't be a corporate ladder climber. Schmoozers stand out like sore thumbs. To "move up", the best thing you can do is simply work hard and try to learn something new everyday. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities, but don't act like the executives' groupie. However, finding a mentor is a great idea. Look for someone you admire, who has a position that you find interesting, and ask if they would have coffee with you to talk about what they do and how they got where they are.
9) Don't complain about how busy you are. It is good to be busy, it means you have job security, and it means that you are trusted to get things done. If you genuinely have too much to do, talk to your manager about your concerns in private. When quantity increases, quality decreases, your manager should be able to help you prioritize.
10) Maintain a work-life balance. Like everything in life, too much of something can be detrimental to our health and our minds. Know when to stop checking emails, and don't be afraid to leave some things for tomorrow.