Uncategorized March 7, 2016

Be the Intern, And Other Tips for Growing Your Career (In the Age of Memes)

Be the Intern, And Other Tips for Growing Your Career (In the Age of Memes)

It’s only fair, since I’ve shared “The Citizen Six” style-tips for better bosses that we take equal time focusing on what makes a great employee today. After all, what truly is “work ethic” – it’s an old yarn requiring re-definition for today’s generations.

Work ethic once was defined by working long hours, seeing a job through to its completion no matter the costs, and remaining subordinate. Today, however, we know that long hours and biting ones tongue while in disagreement does not equate to great work. We know that great employees work hard in concentration, can balance their lives for optimal performance and will speak up honestly for the greater good. And it doesn’t take 12-hour days to deliver those qualities.

LinkedIn and Twitter offer no shortage of advice to employees yearning better engagement. I’ve culled a number of the memes into the above graphic. Some are clever and insightful. Today’s talent development teams own the responsibility of providing training, development, and career-growth coaching – but what about the intrinsic qualities of an engagement employee. Those qualities including a positive attitude, collaborative position and values-based behaviors are equally key for an employee’s success today.

How can we be more engaged and thereby more effective employees? We’ve created “The Citizen Seven — Attitudes and Behaviors for Employees to Lift Themselves Up.”

  1. Active Listening
  2. Continual Learning
  3. Trusting Collaboration
  4. Positively Open
  5. Thoroughly Prepared
  6. Consistently Diligent
  7. Focused on Excellence

Let’s break these down and take each one in a bit more detail.

There’s a huge difference between an Active Listener and a passive one. You know in your own social circle those friends who are go-to because they don’t just spit reactions and advice, they listen empathetically, and they reserve judgment until the end … or even withhold it until it’s invited and welcome. Too often, some of the most precocious of young employees trip themselves up by blurting or interjecting into meetings at inappropriate or unsophisticated places. PRO TIP: Listen and take careful notes rather than speaking without thinking. A strategic recommendation can be shared in the moment, but without the gravitas of experience they can fall flat. Hold back on the interjection and formulate a thoughtful recommendation when you’ve had a chance to think it through and articulate it in a welcome setting and format.

Be the Intern: One of my most favored tips to any age employee is centered on Continual Learning. Think about it. The intern is typically given tasks of varying shapes and sizes. They are asked to sift through research to find nuggets of insight. They’re asked to do menial tasks that could be mind-numbing but make them mindful and learning opportunities for the office or their classroom. PRO TIP: Attend meetings and conferences as if you’re attending college classes. Take notes strategically, and create presentations of your findings to share back to the group … at any level possible. The process of synthesizing, curating and representing great information will only may you smarter – no matter what your job may be.

Company retreats often focus first and foremost on creating Trusting Collaborators. Trust is the T in team in my opinion, and it’s a two-way street among teammates and between employees and their supervisors. There’s a very rewarding calculus involved here: The more trust one earns, the more trust and importantly empowerment one will typically receive. PRO TIP: The art of teamwork starts with doing your job impeccably well, but not in a vacuum. Be open to leading regular check-ins, status-updates and taking quality-focused breaks that will not just help you with our work, but allow you to help others improve theirs too.

One of the greatest breakthroughs in modern social psychology is the movement of learning how to be Mindfully, Positively Open. A great employee today is equally adept at working on themselves, building their emotional intelligence, as being open to the support from others. Support today comes from all manner of sources, including HR, supervisors, professional associations and continuing education. PRO TIP:  Embrace feedback as a gift. Treat your growth coaches, career mentors, teachers and supervisors with utmost respect and asking for regular and thorough constructive criticism, opportunities for training and learning. And when you receive great feedback, act on it and follow-up by showing it in your day-to-day operations and in your long-term plans.

Engaged employees could take a real lesson from the medical profession who take an oath to “first do no harm.” There is no quicker way to lose respect of peers and supervisors (and pretty much anyone) than by showing up NOT Thoroughly Prepared. It’s more than just meeting your deadlines and having something to show for yourself. It’s an attitude that preparedness engenders. PRO TIP: Practice your portion of a meeting or presentation three times. Taking a cue from the acting profession, a good tech rehearsal and dress rehearsal will only help ensure a great opening night. Same applies for work. It’s the rare person that is excellent without preparation.

An employee who is Consistently Diligent will stand out from their peers over time, which is exactly the way you want to stand out (versus causing a scene.) Work beyond your current skills to find things important in your organization that you should know. If you need to be more finance-minded, take a class. No one wants to be the living epitome of the Peter Principle (that one about rising to the level of your incompetence). We want to be the steady performer who is consistently awesome and always delivers at every level, and knows the big picture in their organization. PRO TIP: Let your teams see your great work in action and leverage it to inspire the same in others. Asking others if you can help them regularly would – it would seem – motivate them to do the same at some point. If not, they will get what they deserve, and you’ll be the better person because of it. When it comes time for peer reviews or the like, you will benefit.

Keep your eyes less on any one prize and instead be Focused on Excellence. Real superstars aren’t born. They have been groomed over tremendous amounts of hard work and self-awareness. Great leaders will choose a consistent hit-maker over the “one-hit wonder” any time. Continual improvement principles mean that if we focus on removing wasted time, minimizing mistakes and constantly asking the “What could be better?” question will result in excellence over time. PRO TIP: Without beating yourself up, take a few moments yourself after each product to analyze what you might have done differently to improve the outcome. This type of introspection will not only make you a better supervisor one day, it will make your work better each time. Bring the same approach to your teams even if your boss doesn’t ask for it. It will garner similar results and you’ll gain leadership qualities in the process.

In today’s economy and workforce, it’s no longer enough to just work hard and assume you’ll be advanced adequately in your job and career. Each employee has the opportunity to take their careers into their own hands, and importantly make the most of each opportunity they’re presented. No matter what generation you’re part of, the seven principles above will help you personally and professional be better.

Of course, the work doesn’t end there: Higher order skills of creativity and strategic abilities aren’t as easily encapsulated, nor do they come naturally to everyone. But there are ways to find training in those areas and many others that are emerging as vital in the marketplace today. But you have to have the “work ethic” to make it happen. This is no one’s job but yours.

Go forth, and take our breath away.

Written by Daryl McCullough, Chief Executive Officer & Global Chairman, Citizen Relations

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