22 Big League Career Tips You Dont Hear Every Day
By Ben Carpenter
One basic requirement for performing an outstanding job is to handle all your work-related tasks, large or small, in a timely manner.
Recent college graduates and young professionals must navigate the big leagues in an economy as unforgiving as any in history. Still struggling to emerge from the long shadow of the Great Recession, todays job market is incredibly tough and exhausting. And once they have secured a position, most are caught unawares by the demanding and often cutthroat environment in which they find themselves.
Here, I share 22 bite-sized pieces of advice that will help any employee, regardless of age, experience level, or industry, survive (and even have fun) in the big leagues:
#1 Do What Youre Good At, Not What You Love
Much of the career advice thats doled out these days encourages young people to follow their dreams and feed their passion. Doing what makes you happy is all well and good, but first and foremost, you should seek out a career that youre good at.
#2 Try Out Different Fields When Youre Young
For most people, it generally takes at least a few tries to find the best field, company, and/or position from which to build a career. Your rookie yearswhen youre young and before you have childrenare the ideal time to aggressively seek out the best match for your personality and talents.
#3 Always Ask Yourself, Whats My Edge?
In other words, what makes you unique and different? Why should other people pay attention to you? What do you have to offer? What gives you an edge over the competition?
#4 Think of Your Boss and Your Company Before Yourself
When youre a rookie in the big leagues, you have to prove that youre going to be an asset to the team, not a drain on its resources or a liability for the coach. Often, that means putting your bosss wants and needs ahead of your own.
#5 Be Creative and Bold
Long gone are the days of being handed a job just because you have a diploma. There are millions of job seekers with the same qualifications as you, so if you want to receive one of a limited number of opportunities, youll need to stand out.
#6 Comfort and Success Rarely Go Hand in Hand
At some point, you will have to decide which is more important: sticking with the familiarity of the status quo or taking a chance on reaching the next rung of the ladder. Opportunity wont find you within your comfort zone.
#7 Stay in the Drivers Seat of Your Career
Remember, life is short, and the same opportunities rarely come twice. Dont agree to just go along for the ride, especially when your own goals and potential for success are at stake. Take an active hand in charting your course forward.
#8 Dont Agree to Anything You Dont Fully Understand
Once you do have your foot in the door, youll likely want to impress your colleagues and higher-ups at every turn. And in an attempt to avoid looking like you dont know what youre doing, you may be tempted to feign understanding and nod your head, even though you really have no clue whats going on. Dont.
#9 When Youre Upset, Choose to Look Forward, Not Back
You cant always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react and move forward.
#10 Learn to Appreciate Diverse Work Styles
No matter what the situation is, always try to seek out and utilize your teams talents, even if you dont understand their methods. You can never be sure you have the best answer until youve heard all viewpoints.
#11 Know When to Overlook Selfish Advice
Look after your own career interests. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
#12 Own Your Mistakes
No matter how much you know or how hard you try, you are going to make mistakes as you pursue your career. The question is, how will you handle them? If youre a hardworking, valued employee, when you do own up to your mistakes, your confession will be viewed as a sign of strength, not weakness, by your coworkers. Plus, youll be in a position to learn and improve.
#13 Be a Good Steward of the Little Things
For example, always proofread your emails for errors before pressing send. Dont leave voicemails unanswered at the end of the day. Keep your desk and computer files organized.
#14 If You Want to be a Leader, Act Like One
If your goal is to be at the forefront of your fields innovation and growth, you may feel discouraged when your first job is composed of tasks a trained monkey could do. But dont succumb to the Ill never get there from here or the What I do in this position doesnt matter line of thinking. Instead, get a head start developing the leadership qualities youll need in the future.
#15 Do What You Say Youre Going to Do, When You Say Youre Going to Do It
One basic requirement for doing an outstanding job is to handle all your work-related tasks, large or small, in a timely manner. If your job is to get a report done by Friday, get it done by Friday. If HR asks you to fill out a form today, do it promptly.
#16 Dont Let Anyone Have Anything Negative to Say About You
Over the course of your career, youll encounter individuals whose opinions you think dont matter, and whose actions you think wont impact you. You may also believe that your own position gives you license to dispense with politeness and consideration in certain situations. Beware: Those assumptions could get you into big trouble.
#17 Dont Complain About Your Job to Your Coworkers
There will be plenty of things you dont like about your first (and second, and fifth) job. But complaining about them around the water coolereven if you have a very sympathetic audienceis never a good idea.
#18 A Single Act Can Ruin Your Great Reputation
I had a client called Hoops. Friendly and accommodating, Hoops taught me a lot about the bond market and achieved an impressive level of personal success. However, one bad decisionnot disclosing a sales arrangement to his firmknocked him out of the game forever. What might have been a negotiated discount was now an illegal kickback. Hoops never recovered.
#19 Dont Pick Fights You Cant Win
Fighting in the office is a bad idea, period. It makes people unhappy and unproductive, and is a huge waste of time and energy. Nevertheless, serious office disputes are a fact of life for many people at some point during their careers. If you ever feel the pressing need to take on a coworker, do so only if you know with certainty you will win.
#20 Dont Badmouth Your Coworkers
Never say anything negative about anybody in your office. Thats right. Dont vent about your boss in the break room. Dont gripe about your coworker with the rest of the team. Dont even make fun of Johns crazy tie, unless hes right there laughing with you.
#21 Live Within Your Means
Maybe you think that your personal finances (whether theyre good or bad) wont impact your life in the workplace. Thats wishful thinking, especially if youre struggling to stay solvent. It can be difficult to check personal stressors at the office door, meaning that if youre worried about money, your anxiety might impact your focus, your performance, and even the values you apply to your work.
#22 Dont Forget to Have Fun
If you want to succeed, youll need to put your nose to the grindstone. Just dont forget to remove it every once in awhile. While work should certainly be a priority, its also important to have fun and disengage every once in awhile. The fuller and more satisfying your life is in general, the more effective youll be at work.
Make no mistake: When you become responsible for yourself and you are being paid to do a job, you are in the big leagues. When you live and work by a code thats shaped by values, integrity, dedication, and a true team spirit, you will set yourself apart from the rookies in a way that gets you hired, recognized, and promoted. HBM
Ben Carpenter is author of The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Choose a Career, Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Be a Leader, Start a Business, Manage Your Money, Stay out of Trouble, and Live a Happy Life (Wiley, April 2014, ISBN: 978-1-118-91702-2, $25.00). He began his career as a commercial lending officer at the Bankers Trust Company. Two years later he joined Bankers Trusts Primary Dealer selling U.S. Treasury bonds. After a brief stop at Morgan Stanley, Ben joined Greenwich Capital, which, during his 22-year career there, became one of the most respected and profitable firms on Wall Street. At Greenwich Capital, Ben was a salesman, trader, sales manager, co-chief operating officer, and co-CEO.
Currently Ben is the vice chairman of CRT Capital Group. Check out additional free content including excerpts, videos, and blogs at www.thebigswebsite.com.