Thursday, July 14, 2011

Steps to Workplace Success

1.  Ask questions.  Especially ones you think are stupid.  There is the cliche that somebody else is probably wondering the same thing--which is probably true, but it is also really inefficient to not ask something when the opportunity arises and then do elaborate workarounds on the parks you don't know.

But don't just ask factual questions, ask perspective questions too.  What does it look like to you?  How did you arrive here?  How do you see it?  This helps you learn from other's peoples successes and failures, which is way more efficient than trying to have all of those experiences yourself.  When you are new somewhere, you don't have time to have all those experiences yourself, and need to understand the experiences of your teammates to be effective working with them.

2.  Set your goals in both concrete and abstract terms.  Self-imposed deadlines are crucial for getting stuff done, but it's not just what and how much you complete, it's what do you want to accomplish, what are the benefits of accomplishing it, and what do you envision as the ideal outcome of what you are doing?

3.  Don't make stuff up, admit you don't know.  And go back to item 1.  Really, knowing you know something is so much better than knowing you don't and trying to work around it without letting on to anyone else that you don't know.  As silly as it seems, this can come up time and time again, no matter how long you've been working.

4. Clarify.  What is going on, what you think other people mean, what you mean, what you need in order to get past an obstacle.  Really, it is so much better than not doing it and letting things go, but the thing is, it also comes across as helpful, competent and confident, even if you think you're just clarifying something other people already know.  Adults really suck at paying attention and listening if you let them get away with not doing those things.

5. Follow up.  This is similar, but frustrates the heck out of endeavors if nobody does it.  It can also be intimidating, because one hates to feel like a broken record or breathing down someone's neck when the follow up is just checking to see if somebody else has done something yet--but things get lost in some crazy vortex sometimes if you don't do it.  Sometimes if you don't bring up something from a past encounter directly, other people will never mention it again, no matter how important it might be.

6.  If the time is right, ask bold questions.  Question even the most basic assumptions, how things are done and why.  A lot of times things are this way Because That's The Way They've Always Been, and sometimes that is a good thing, but sometimes that is an extremely idiotic thing and somebody needs to do something about it.  Do learn how to differentiate these situations, however.

7.  Want it.  Want what you are doing.  Care about it, a part of it anyway.  Otherwise you won't do as good a job as you could, and you'll know it, and a part of you will hate yourself for it, and you'll feel mediocre and miserable.  You don't have to, and probably never will, love absolutely everything about your job.  There may be parts of it you really don't like.  But you have to want the big picture, or at some part of the work that makes up for the part you don't like, or you'll never end up being very good at it because some reaches of your brain will be elsewhere.

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