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Do you want to be in your current position the rest of your life? Some think that's fine, but many say "no." Being a successful employee is similar to running a sole proprietorship with low risk and limited customers. You listen around for what your primary customers (boss) wants to get out of you. Then, you learn and actually get yourself to accomplish the requested tasks.
- Know your employer. Decide if you are working for a company that has a motto or standard that you are comfortable with, and if the company goal is something you believe in. If you are working for an honorable establishment, then you will be treated with respect due to your position. If you are not happy after a time, begin to discreetly seek work elsewhere. The best time to find a new job is when you already have one and are not desperate.
- Behave professionally. This is a business, not a playground. People talk, and workers know the difference between a person who is fun to work with and a person who is always fooling around. Fun means a good personality, a joke or two, and a smile. Fooling around is wasting your time and that of others, being frequently off-task, and often being seen standing in the workspace of others instead of in your own.
- Learn to take criticism gracefully. It will provide you with valuable ideas about what people expect from you, any weak areas, and what you need to work on first. If a boss or coworker criticizes you in a way that hurts or angers you, wait until you cool/calm down and ask them if you can talk with them. Tell them how you felt, but tell them that you would like to fix the issue and want them to talk with you about what needs to be changed.
- Learn to do your job, and do it well. Whether it's menial and tedious, or tough and high-paying, learn how to do the job, regardless of how difficult you think it might be. Salary is most commonly based upon years of experience, your ability to do your job, tenure with the company, and your educational background. If you don't know how to do something, go find out; don't make excuses for why you didn't do it.
- Cultivate good relationships with the gatekeepers.Secretaries, custodians, bookkeepers, and cafeteria workers are all very important people in your organization;they are the experts in their departments. Treat those workers with courtesy, respect, and kindness because they hold more power than you realize, and your reputation with them matters. Do not hang out with other employees who mistreat, disrespect, or talk down to them. Speak to them in the same fashion you would another coworker--asking them, making polite requests, and not demanding or ordering about.
- When you get the opportunity to learn a new skill, receive training for a different activity, or take a study course paid for by your employer--do it! Cross-training, new skill sets, and further education show that you are intelligent and value life-long learning. If push comes to shove, and people are let go, you stand a better chance of being retained than those who can only do one thing.
- Keep a clean job history. Do a good job, show up on time, keep a good attendance history. When you find out someone has been let go, you often find out later that there were underlying circumstances that led to their dismissal--including frequent absences, missed deadlines, reprimands for unprofessional behavior, or too many customer complaints.
- Be ready to provide references from past employers. If your present employer wishes to contact your previous employer, do not deny their request. Leaving a company on good terms is always an asset to securing another job.
- Never be on time. Always arrive early. Be at least 15 minutes early every day. That way, if you are running late, you will be on time. If you have to park far away, you will walk in and still not be late. If your client is early, you will be there to greet him or her, and not leave someone waiting for you - even if you arrive on time.
- Ask your supervisor what the expectations for productivity are. This will immediately make you stand out from 95% of the other employees.
- Be part of the solutions. Quit whining about what's wrong and start being vocal about what's right! A positive attitude goes a long way with many supervisors. When you go to the boss with a problem, go with at least one suggestion in mind for a solution. Even if the boss doesn't take your suggestion, you will look like a problem-solver, not a complainer.
- Don't drag your feet. We mean this in a literal way. Pick your feet up and walk proud, and get right to your work - don't procrastinate or let things drag up to the deadline, and then jump in to get it done in a fast flurry at the end. It makes your boss crazy. Gain a reputation for having your act together more so than the majority of people.
- Be quiet and work. Quit gossiping and get to work. Your employer is not paying you to gossip. Of course, you want to establish a good rapport with your co-workers, and a little chatting is inevitable and desirable. But spending a half hour regaling your co-workers with your previous evening's adventures will not make your boss love you. When one of you is talking a lot, two of you are not working a lot. Note: if your boss walks by and two of you are talking, no big deal, but wrap up the conversation so that the boss won't see the same sight on her way back. The same goes for a group of you. If you are part of a group who is talking when the boss walks by, discreetly excuse yourself to return to your area after a few seconds.
- Always be productive. Don't let paper sit on your desk for days on end. Get the work done and move on to the next thing as quickly as possible.
- Don't dress like your co-workers, dress as well or better than your boss. Close-toe shoes, full-length slacks, and shirts that don't show cleavage or chest hair are your best bet. When in doubt, don't wear it.
- Hold your head high and be confident. A calm, assured energy will take you much farther than carrying yourself in a hunched up ball.
- Volunteer or be active in projects to get the job done. Don't worry about who gets credit - your boss knows much more than you think. Be a team player. In addition, volunteering allows you to choose the part you will play. If you don't choose, chances are it will be chosen for you. Either way, you'll be responsible for some facet, so be one of the first to step forward when you can.
- Don't spend a lot of time on personal phone calls. Work is for work. This includes phone calls from spouses. If your calls are put through by a receptionist or secretary, rest assured that they will not hesitate to tell others that you get personal calls "all the time".
- Stay late, even if it is only 15-20 minutes. People notice who runs for the door at 5:30 pm. One of the best uses of this time is to organize your work space for tomorrow. Take a moment to put away loose papers, empty coffee cups, wipe down surfaces, and locate things you'll need.
- Offer junior employees guidance and encouragement. Offer to show them the ropes or offer training tips. Remember how it felt to be the newbie. If you are not sure someone understood something, be willing to ask if they need assistance. Don't do the work for them, teach them instead. Be careful what you say to new employees; don't air your grievances, frustrations, or interpersonal conflicts. Don't gossip.
- Don't argue a lot, your boss's opinion is always right for him, so if you found something wrong, try to show your boss, but without arguing. Use a good and quiet way to show the problem point.
- If there is a company-wide problem or complaint, take it to your HR department or open forums, if your company supports them.
- Choose carefully the subjects you wish to bring forward in these meetings. A general complaint with no backing, such as complaining about your schedule or salary will only be briefly noted, and the company may begin looking for a way to replace you. However, an honest complaint about facilities, lack of benefits, etc. might be opening the door for further discussion, and also gives you credibility if you present the matter in a mature, non-confrontational manner.
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