As Stan, the sage manager of Chotchkie’s, once said in the movie Office Space:
“Now, you know it’s up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or, well, like Brian, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair…Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that…”
Sure, we love our weekends and our lives outside of work; those are important elements to our balance. But if you’re a young professional dedicating 40+ hours a week to a job, and ultimately a career, you shouldn’t just be showing up to the office.
You should be knocking it out of the park.
Here are 15 habits that you should adopt right away if you want to distinguish yourself from the corporate commonplace and secure a permanent spot on the A-Team…
1. Get to the Office Earlier Than Most
Studies have shown that we are most ripe for intense cognitive exercise about two hours after we’ve started our engines. That means the earlier you get going at the office, the more you’ll get done while nobody is around, and the more productive you’ll eventually be for the first few hours after the B-team crawls in.
2. Book Meetings in the Mornings
Following from the above, we are most easily distracted between 12pm and 4pm. Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time, but they sure will be if nobody can focus. Get to work early and have important meetings before lunchtime; this routine will induce better results from everyone.
3. Take Notes on Paper in Meetings… And Then Re-Organize Them
Taking notes by hand will help you absorb the content as it comes at you. Then, when you go back to reorganize and summarize them, you’ll lock it all in and be quicker to generate an action plan.
4. Block Off Specific Times to Go Through Emails
Always keep an eye out for super-urgent emails, but if you can’t figure out how to focus on one thing at a time, you will always be shy of your potential. Book meetings with yourself, make sure they’re in your (shared) calendar, and don’t let anything short of an emergency pull you away from plowing through emails during those slots.
5. Always Have a Proposal
If there are alternatives to be considered, try to develop a well-considered recommendation before you send an email or address anyone from the peer to the executive level.
6. Understand What Everyone Does and Why
Everything runs smoother when the right people are looped in at the right time. Build up knowledge of what everyone does, what they are doing right now and why they are doing it.
7. Always Think at Least One Level Above You
If you’re getting paid to be an independent contributor, think like a manager. If you’re getting paid to be a manager, think like a director. The more you apply the perspective of senior leadership, the more likely you are to join the ranks.
8. Spend Time Outside the Office with Colleagues
The success of most companies comes down to people working well together, and people work together a lot better if they like each other – and most of all if they trust each other. Get to know the people with whom you’re working and let them get to know you.
9. Don’t Take Things Personally
Once the whistle blows, it’s all about performing a role to help execute the best product in the shortest amount of time. Criticism, disagreement, reiteration and healthy doses of frustration are all part of the gig, so try to do your best to focus on the goals for which you are getting paid to achieve.
10. Stay Away from Gossip
Obvious effects on productivity aside, you want to be known as friendly; but more so, you want to be known as honest and forthright. Enabling a reputation of back-channel snickering is counter-productive to a strong, meaningful career that will always, to some degree, depend on the support of others.
11. Pitch in to Improve Inefficiencies
If you really want to shine, show your company that you are not just willing to make your own life easier but that you are dedicated to making the whole company stronger.
12. Put a Lot of Thought into Slide Decks and Presentations
Rarely will you find someone who is wildly successful in an organization but is terrible at presenting information and ideas. Unique, fluid, memorable delivery will always give you and your ideas a leg up.
13. Don’t Deny Your Mistakes
You should always want to be a part of the optimization process, not posturing to avoid looking like its poster-boy… even if it does sting a little. Plus, trust and loyalty are critical in business. If people think you’re always shielding your personal image at the expense of company progress, you’re doomed.
14. Offer to Take the Lead
The best employees are the ones who appear to be playing the long game and provide leadership and additional support when it is needed. No, it’s not necessarily “your job” to pick up slack and assume a leadership position in certain circumstances, but the stars take every opportunity to shine.
15. Make “Learning” a Permanent Goal
Repetition is not synonymous with knowledge, so never dismiss an opportunity to gather more information and perspective. Challenge yourself to learn something new about your company, your products, your profession or your industry every day. In business, everyone actually loves a know-it-all.