There are two components to getting off to a great start on a new job: what to avoid and what to accomplish. This post explains both components. First, there are four ways to blow it. They form the acronym LAST:
- Lazy people show up for work on time or late. Hardworking people show up early. Lazy people leave on time or early. Hardworking people leave late.
- Arrogant people believe that they know what to do, how the company should operate, and what’s wrong with management. These kinds of people are called “90-day wonders” because they think they know everything after 90 days.
- Stupid people do stupid things like cutting corners, cheating, and making uniformed decisions. (The combination of arrogance and stupidity is supremely ironic and common.)
- Tacky people do dishonest, racist, sexist, sexual, or ageist things. They appear at functions in an inebriated state, and they spread rumors. They do creepy or inappropriate things because they are untrained, stupid, or insecure.
Second, let me provide 10 tips to climb to the top of the mountain.
- Learn as much as you can about the company, competition, and industry before you start. Read all the recent news that you can find so that you are aware of the issues that your company faces. Read about your company’s history, so you can understand its DNA.
- Learn as much as you can about your company’s executives before you start. Read their bios on the company website. Study their LinkedIn profiles. Watch their social-media accounts to learn about their interests. If they don’t use social media, that tells you something too.
- Learn how to use the company’s product or service before you start. If you go to work for a large company, you will go through orientation and training, but a head start on your peers is still good. If you go to work for a startup, you should be productive before lunch on the first day.
- Follow, like, circle, or subscribe to the company’s social-media accounts. These posts and responses are windows into the soul of your company. You need to understand how someone high in the company wants the company to be perceived.
- Ask your manager what you can do before you start. Few new employees do this, so it’s bound to set you apart from the pack. And be sure to do what your manager suggests because you’ll look terrible if you ask for suggestions and don’t implement them.
- Suck up to the right people. Secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists, IT support staff, and security guards hold the keys to most organizations. Managers and executives will ask them what they think of you, and the answer should not be “arrogant,” “lazy,” or “pain in the ass.”
- Default to yes. When people at your company ask you to help, agree and do it. Pay your dues. Humble yourself. Your academic, work experience, and connections helped you get the job, but they don’t mean anything after your first week. At that point, you either produce or you don’t.
- Shut up and listen. Better to give people the impression that you’re the strong, silent, serious, and diligent type than the stupid, ignorant, arrogant, and brash type. It’s much easier to blossom later than undo negative impressions.
- Under promise and over deliver. For the first 90 days and for the rest of your career, always under promise and over deliver. Get so consistent at this that people expect that you deliver more than you say you will — which is far better and radically different from most people who over promise and under deliver.
- Get to work early and you leave late. Work hard while you’re there. Suck it up because you’re imprinting people with the impression that you are diligent. Don’t confuse working smart with working short — the two are not the same thing. Early on, you need to work smart and work long to make an impression.
Here’s a final power tip. Contrary to all the dog-eat-dog, zero-sum game, wolf-on-Wall-Street advice you might have heard, if you want to get ahead, you should make your boss look good. That’s right, good — because as your boss advances so will you.
The concept that you’re so awesome that you’ll get your boss’s job is a fantasy. Either you rise to the top together, or crash and burn together. When your boss gets more opportunities, so will you.
You can take this to the bank: if you make your boss look good, your career path will be better, faster, and easier because a rising tide floats all boats.