What are some of your positive, personal business practices?
June 16, 2008 3:58 PM   Subscribe

What are some practices/methods/things I can do to ensure a good rapport with my colleagues as well as establish myself as an outstanding employee?

I just started working at my first full-time job out of college. The job is with a large internet company and it is nothing short of an absolute dream.

I am involved in a 8 month rotational program where I will start out working in client relations. After that eight month period I will be promoted, within reason, to nearly any position of my choosing (e.g.: account executive). Since the company is facing explosive growth, there will be some great career launching opportunities.

I'd consider my current work ethic as (fundamentally): resourceful, outgoing, and efficient. I'd like to build upon that foundation with some positive habits to help myself stand out. It would be great to hear some of your reflections on what really sparked your success at a company. Maybe some positive work related habits you might have picked up at the start of your career, or even some you realized throughout your career.
posted by drkrdglo to Work & Money (25 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Work your ass off.
posted by tachikaze at 4:12 PM on June 16, 2008

Give credit to others. Notice what people do well in specific terms.
posted by idb at 4:18 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

Network. Never eat lunch alone. Try to socialize with your peers. My best opportunities came from a guy that I used to smoke with and from the husband of my friend/beer buddy.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:18 PM on June 16, 2008

Bring in doughnuts on Friday. Everybody loves doughnuts and the people who bring them to the office.
posted by Frank Grimes at 4:18 PM on June 16, 2008

Learn to be proactive without stepping on other peoples toes. Trickier than it sounds.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

here's what immediately comes to mind for me:

get your work done on time and do it well. that's probably the most important thing. also, always do what you said you'd do or what you've promised to do.
ask for more projects and responsibilities, but only if you have the time and ability to do a good job.
be on time, don't skip out early.
don't make a habit of taking a lot of fridays or mondays off. if you're planning a long weekend, don't call in sick and then show up back to work with a tan.
be friendly, but don't get in a habit of standing around chatting with coworkers for an extended time while not on your lunch break. you'll seem like a you're goofing off or shirking your work.
if you go out to happy hour with work friends, don't get trashed.
definitely don't show up to work hung over.
don't sleep with co-workers and avoid office romances.
don't gossip about work people.
offer to help, but don't develop a reputation as a doormat.

basically, all common sense stuff that you know.

and finally: no stealing post-its or embezzling funds. and definitely don't use the office microwave to reheat seafood or make popcorn.
posted by buka at 4:24 PM on June 16, 2008

say "I'll take care of it" to everything you are able to
posted by mrmarley at 4:26 PM on June 16, 2008

I'd recommend The First 90 Days as a good read upon starting a new role.
My general advice would be to avoid coming out "guns blazing" so to speak - the work world is indeed competitive, but in a way that's very different from how school is competitive. You don't want to alienate co-workers or bosses by coming on waaaay too strong - give them a little bit of time to discover all your wonderful qualities for themselves.

In terms of good work habits, think about your ability to foresee potential problems and plan strategically. That (combined with simply getting along with other people) has served me the best in my career to date.
posted by vodkaboots at 4:26 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Read the newspaper every morning before work. Don't be that guy who can only talk about work and sports. Everyone hates that guy.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:34 PM on June 16, 2008

Obvious as it seems, I get ridiculous quantities of praise from my managerial/supervisory types simply because I do what I say I will do, when I say I will do it. If I find I've misjudged my own limits or the amount of time I have available, I let them know before the last minute so they can readjust their expectations. And if I find myself with a lot more free time than expected I say "Hey, I have a bit of a break in my workload, are there projects I can help out with?"

The other thing that's been very well received in multiple workplaces is that if I have to go to a colleague with a problem I've discovered, I try to always present one or two possible solutions. Even if those specific solutions don't turn out to be the best ones, people seem to be impressed that I have actually put thought into trying to fix the problem, not just pointing it out and then expecting someone else to deal with it.
posted by Stacey at 4:37 PM on June 16, 2008

Do not, under any circumstances, fall in with the panic monkeys. At every workplace there are people who panic over the least little thing, they don't handle pressure well and they are constantly living in a state of manic drama of the tiniest of problems. Don't be that guy. If they approach you, distract them with the banana of practicality and work towards a solution, do not go to the crazy panic monkey place with them.

I've worked in both corporate and academics, panic monkeys are everywhere, but the folks that just quietly respond or better yet can calm down the panic monkeys are the ones who go quite far in their careers.

Plus, if you get a rep as the guy or gal that never loses your shit, that one day when it's really important and you do lose your shit... People will sit up and take notice.
posted by teleri025 at 4:49 PM on June 16, 2008 [18 favorites]

Avoid arguing openly in meetings, but if you spot a mistake quietly let the person know afterwards. A lot of reputation in the work world is the ability to make the whole team look good.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:28 PM on June 16, 2008

Make your boss look good, especially to his boss.
posted by TedW at 5:33 PM on June 16, 2008

Aside from the good work habits mentioned above, two other things:

1. Don't be a tattle-tale.
2. Don't participate in intra-office gossip.
posted by amyms at 5:54 PM on June 16, 2008

Always get to work 10-15 minutes early. Use the time to straighten up your desk, get a cup of coffee, make a little plan for the day. You'll look organized and committed and if you do it every day, your boss will notice. This one thing can really set you apart from everyone else, especially the stragglers and the chronically late. Plus it puts you in a good frame of mind to start the day - you'll be relaxed and ready to go.

It doesn't hurt to stay a few minutes later than your boss, once or twice a week. No doubt you've got plenty of work, so why not stick around and see what you can polish off once the place quiets down. Over time these habits will be noticed and more importantly will serve you well by giving you extra time and structure to become the outstanding employee you say you want to be.

Oh, and keep your desk/cubicle neat. Good luck!
posted by Kangaroo at 5:59 PM on June 16, 2008

This will vary by workplace, obviously, but one thing that helped me stand out (in my opinion) in my first year was to have confidence and show some backbone. Yes, you're new, but you're not chopped liver; they wouldn't have hired you otherwise. Show them what you're made of.

Take risks. Solve problems. Don't be intimidated by your superiors. Be proactive; don't sit around waiting for someone to direct you to do your job. Take advantage of training and learning opportunities. Get involved. Take your role and responsibility seriously.

And when you screw up (and you will screw up), be honest about it.
posted by jal0021 at 6:14 PM on June 16, 2008

Know when to fall on the sword.

Sometimes its easier to admit defeat and apologize, especially if other team members are involved. Knowing when is the tricky part.
posted by 26.2 at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2008

Solve your own problems. If it takes you longer than asking for help, that's fine. Just make it clear to your manager that the reason things are taking you so long is that you're trying to solve your own problems because that's how you learn.

It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but early in your career is the time to ask for permission if you're unsure about something. The corporate world is this sick minefield of weird, stilted, awkward interactions everyone hates, and if you make those interactions less awkward, people will thank you for it.
posted by crinklebat at 6:39 PM on June 16, 2008

Make friends with the programmers.

It's OK to screw up. It's not OK to cover it up.

Don't fool around with your co-workers, no matter how many other people there do it.
posted by mkultra at 8:06 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't fully agree with crinklebat; I think that taking longer solving your own problems when someone else can point you in the direction easily can show that you are inefficient. Sure, I can screw around in MS Word for half an hour until I get the formatting to do what I want it to, or I can make a 1 minute call to the tech guy at our office. I don't think the former shows that I want to learn things for myself; it shows that I'm inefficient.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:27 PM on June 16, 2008

I don't agree with craven_morhead, it might be more efficient for you to call the tech guy but it's a considerable waste of tech guy's time to be coaching n amount of office bods in using MS word.

Basically my tip is, your bottom line often does not match the collective bottom line. If you can see the bigger picture and adapt effectively, you will be a great employee.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:01 AM on June 17, 2008

I want to second what buka said: "...and definitely don't use the office microwave to reheat seafood or make popcorn." People will despise you for doing those two things.

And I want to add: Don't wear cologne or perfume. More people are allergic than you think. Ditto with dryer sheets. They give some people asthma attacks. Try the unscented kind.

Chew with your mouth shut when you are doing all that networking at lunch. And don't chew gum. Nothing makes your coworkers want to jaw you more than sitting there making repetitive noises that never cease. Plus gum chewing has the effect of making you look and sound like a mouth breather.

Finally, start training yourself to say "Happy Holidays" now. When holiday season comes you don't want to offend anyone by referring to a specific religion. Try to learn the major Christian, Muslim, and Jewish holidays so that you'll understand why some people aren't at work at certain times of the year. It shows more sensitivity and interest than to blithely say "Hey, why were you gone yesterday? Were you sick or something?"
posted by i_love_squirrels at 5:41 AM on June 17, 2008

*particularly* if you're in a nerd job (since nerds are typically socially reticent), make a point of getting up, walking around, and chatting with your coworkers and checking in about what they're doing. it's like the employee version of 'management by walking around'

i'm a network wrangler, and one of the things i do in the morning most days is go chat with the server wranglers and some folks in other groups to make sure we're all on track together, that they're not waiting on anything from me. and check that if they are having any major problems if there's anything i can do about it.

be very forthright in admitting your screwups. share credit enthusiastically.

know what you can't do and be honest about it, but be willing to try and do it anyways. use waffle phrases ("it seems like" "it appears that" "i think that") if you're not totally sure about something.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:34 AM on June 17, 2008

use waffle phrases ("it seems like" "it appears that" "i think that") if you're not totally sure about something.

No. Just say, "I don't know, but I'll check and get back to you."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:06 AM on June 17, 2008

responding to freya and crinkle, part of my perspective may come from the fact that I work in a field where everything is run on billable hours, and it's much more efficent for the overall bottom line if tech guy handles this, taking 5 minutes at $30/hr, than it is for me to do it, taking 20 minutes at $60/hr. I ask my assistant to format my memos and run copies for the same reason; it all plays in to effectively managing resources.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:53 AM on June 18, 2008

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