7 Incredible Lessons From Career Role Models
Mentors at work have wisdom on matters large and small to offer those willing to listen. Here are seven incredible lessons from career role models.
1. Don’t Get Swept Up By The Drama
There are some offices where drama rules. Workers track who hangs out on social media, who comes up in late, who leaves early, who overstays their lunch hour, and who plays Minecraft (quick exit that screen). There are companies where sales people steal customers from their coworkers. In others, sabotage reigns.
When chaos is the order of the day, stay out of the fray, and focus on the tasks at hand.
One manager left this note for his temporary replacement: “Concentrate on your work. Ignore the usual confusion. Keep your head down. Don’t panic. Always do two things at one. Don’t let the (jerks) get you down.”
2. Ask For Help
You don’t want to be the needy officemate who is always asking questions and seeking reassurance. But don’t go too far toward self-sufficiency especially if you truly don’t know what the right decision is.
Don’t assume you know all the answers. You don’t! Don’t make a big decision when you’re unsure or don’t know all the factors.
One mentor puts it like this to those she works with: “When in doubt, ask.”
There’s no harm in asking—it’s a far, far better choice than potentially making a disastrous mistake.
3. Don’t Bring Unsolved Problems
Don’t be the bringer of problems—it makes you a complainer. If you want to be a mentor yourself one day, think like a manager, and become a problem solver.
When you discover an issue, come up with at least two possible solutions and a plan to carry those solutions out before requesting a meeting with your boss.
“Don’t take a problem to your supervisor until you have a recommended solution and at least one other option,” are words one senior health learned from a mentor early in her career and continues to live by.
4. Don’t Think Too High Above Your Pay Grade
We’re not saying you shouldn’t think big, but if you’re an entry-level worker, don’t attempt to solve C suite problems right away. You haven’t accumulated the industry and workplace knowledge to come up with the answers.
“To paraphrase New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick: just do your job,” one worker says. “Don’t offer your two cents on the company’s business strategy or whatever. There are a million things going on behind the scenes you’re not privy to, so just be a good corporate soldier.”
Here's what your high-level mentor wants you to know: leave high-level problems to the suits—for now. Spend your time focusing on your current responsibilities, learning how to do your job well, and working toward your goals.
5. Watch Your Pronouns
Even if you’re working alone on a project, be careful how you phrase that to your boss’s boss or in a client meeting. That advice didn’t come from a mentor. Better if it had. Instead, the worker’s boss shot her down during a conference call with a client for saying “When I write this content…”
Instead of using “I,” take a team approach when describing progress as in “We expect to be finished by Friday.”
But there are times when using “I’ is best—yep, you guessed it—when you make a mistake, use “I” to take the blame. Even if the mistake wasn’t 100 percent your fault, taking the blame instead of pointing fingers is the mature road to take. Then describe what you’ll do to make the situation wright.
6. Help The Company Make—Or Save—Money—But Don’t Rush
Your company is in business to turn a profit. Help that happen by keeping your eyes open for new clients and other ways to send profits higher.
“Look for ways to help the company make and save money,” one mentor told his listeners.
Sometimes, though, when you get excited about a new idea, it’s tempting to rush. Don’t do it. Remember, this will be the first time your boss hears your proposal. Don’t make it the last time.
“When you have a grand idea, do your homework before bringing it to the boss,” one worker learned from a key mentor. “Ideas that are truly lucrative should be sent up line with a cc to your boss, if you want credit for said idea.”
7. Keep And File The Kudos
When your boss or anyone else has something good to say, especially in writing, save it in a folder. That folder will come in handy at your performance review or when you look for another job.
“Keep a file for just your stuff,” one worker learned early on from a good mentor. “Put in letters praising you along with notes of things you did that helped the company. If you look for another position you can put the things from your file into clear sleeves in a nice leather binder to take to interviews.”