It was (just) two years ago when I found myself opening the big glass doors of a multinational, to mark the start of my first day as an employee.
Since then, by working with a lot of interns from various countries, backgrounds and fields, but also listening to a lot of managers, i kept noticing the same recurring behavior of people that became high-potentials and ended up loving their job quite early on.
Therefore, I have decided to put together a short list of five* principles that might work for you as well.
- Don’t worry about passion! It will come with time.
Too many people my age (20 something) are falling into the trap set by Steve Jobs with his Stanford commencement speech, where he was telling the young audience, in a very passionate and convincing way, to follow their passion and never settle until they find it. However, if you take a closer look at his biography, he never actually followed his passion, he was putting in the work necessary at that moment and then with time, passion slowly started to show up in his life. Having many years of experience means you had enough time to get better at what you do, but also develop strong relationships with your coworkers and see many examples of your work benefiting others. And this is what makes you love your job on a long run. Do the same: Start with the current job you have, no matter what this is, and focus on becoming ridiculously good at it. With time, passion will follow for sure. Don’t listen to Steve Jobs, but do like he did.
- Ask your peers: How can I help?
No matter what you have to do, make sure you always find ways to become more efficient, so that you can make room for a couple of hours of helping others. Every time you meet someone, especially at the beginning, make sure you tell them that you have some free time in the next period, and since you would like to learn as much as possible, it would be great if they had something to give you. You always want to help, because this is how you gain knowledge and eventually become indispensable. It really doesn’t matter if the help needed consists in copying papers, or sorting badges. At this point, they need to see that you can be trusted to deliver a basic task. Once this is done, more complex tasks will follow, step by step.
Then, when the time comes and if it’s necessary, ask these people that you’ve helped for referrals. If you’ve done your job well, they would be more than happy to return the favor.
- Initiate projects that make our life easier
My first manager always used to say: “Responsibility is rarely given, but always taken”. So take responsibility, and initiate your own projects.
There are 2 reasons why you want to be doing this: One, because obviously if you make our life easier, you gain more knowledge on the way, but also because you are becoming more indispensable and valued as an employee. Second, because once you’ve initiated a project, you should always invite people to help you. People love to be part of interesting, relevant projects, meet and work with new peers. And this is what you want to be doing, invite as many people as neecessary for your project, because this makes you known to others, and slowly you’ll see how people will start wanting to meet you instead of you begging to meet them. This is how networking should be done properly.
- Ask yourself: Do people ever come to me for advice?
If yes, pay attention what do they seek your expertise for. Is it helping them with understanding data, or designing a presentation, or feedback on a text? This will give you an indication of what you are really valued for, so you can maximize these strenghts as much as possible.
If no, follow point 2 and 3 until someone does.
- Make sure you always follow-up
It can be with a simple “thank you for the conversation of today” or if this is the case, with a summary of the points discussed and what are the next steps. The reason this is crucial is because on one hand it helps you gain more clarity in what you have to do, and on the other hand it makes the other person feel that their time was worth investing, and you want to acknowledge that. Written follow-ups keep the conversation going.
*Needless to say that all this is almost irrelevant if you don’t have a plan for what do you want to get out of your professional life, or if you don’t constantly look to consciously improve your skills through deliberate practice and feedback.
That’s it. Simple. I would be curious to know what your stories are once you implement this.