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Are you about to start in that new dream (graduate) job? Have you just accepted a new role or a promotion? There are a few good practices that will make you a star performer and a firm favourite with colleagues and the top brass alike.

1. Under-promise and over-deliver: always exceed expectations and deliver anything you have promised earlier than expected. The key to success here is to be slightly pessimistic about any timeline and then beat the timeline you have set for yourself. If you deliver late compared to what you promised you will very quickly be perceived as unreliable.

2. Eliminate your weaknesses, double down on your strengths: as a graduate or starting in a new company there is a substantial amount of things you will simply have to pick up in order to have a fruitful career. The notion that we can all always work on just things that we love doing is a myth. You may hate Finance, but if budget or sales responsibility is part of your job you have to make sure you are at least financially literate. With your weaknesses good enough means just that: good enough to survive in the team. The rest of your effort should go towards what you can become world class in. Take it from someone who has spent the better part of eight years working mainly on weaknesses. If you are under 175cm tall, you can still spend all your time honing your basketball skills. You’ll end up getting better. But you will never be Michael Jordan. Work on your weaknesses enough to survive, then become a rock star at what the world should see as ‘your thing’.

3. Be great at time management: This is key not only to your workplace efficiency but also to your peace of mind and work-life balance. Learn how long it really takes you to complete a regular piece of work such as a monthly report, a presentation or a summary of a piece of research. Time yourself in the beginning in any new role to get a handle on this quickly and you shall rarely be stressed and never deliver anything late. A long list of vaguely defined tasks can seem overwhelming at first, especially if some of them are unfamiliar. By writing them into a list and attaching an estimated length in hours to them you will quickly put your own mind at ease as the tasks added together will give you a clear indication of when you can in theory expect to finish the tasks. With time and practice your timings will get more accurate and you will not only manage point 1 with ease but also manage to keep promises to your loved ones such as attending that violin recital or football match.

4. Manage the boss or the boss will manage you: it still astounds me how many people walk into a meeting with a badly defined proposition and not much of an opinion. Do that with me and the following will happen: I’ll form an opinion quickly – and trust me, I’ll be able to do so regardless of the topic or your preparations – and make a decision that you might not be happy with and that is probably much less informed than if you had made the decision yourself. “Boss, please make a decision on whether the office should be painted black or green” is not very helpful and ends up wasting everyone’s time. Not to mention that you as the colours expert may not get what you need if you leave it up to me. “I would recommend green as it is slightly cheaper, matches our brand colours and 85% of our colleagues prefer it” is what I would have wanted to hear in this situation.

5. Speak well of others: if you go around telling people about your achievements you will end up brand marking yourself as a needy, pompous attention seeker. What you can/should do instead is speak highly of those around you. Agreeing to do this consistently within a team has profound psychological implications. You will feel more warmly towards your colleagues. The whole team will feel secure in the knowledge that everyone speaks highly of each other. People who speak well of others are perceived as not only a positive influence. They are also automatically attributed with leadership skills.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Nils says:

    Great read. Having started five jobs in my life so far, I completely agree. I would also add a point that might seem obvious to some people, but is one of the biggest challenges to myself. … Not just when starting jobs, but since first impressions are important …

    (6) Try to actually impress the important person in the room with loyality.

    When I’m in meetings my natural motivation is to figure out the truth and explain it to people. For example, if the important guy in the room says something that I do not think is entirely correct, my initial and natural reaction is to explain to him why he is wrong and why he should change his mind. Since I am an expert in my field and the important person in the room is not, this happens all the time. But it is exactly as silly as it sounds.

    I have had great success with suppressing my initial reaction and instead thinking about how to show the important person that I am a loyal guy that he can trust – actively ignoring any of my thoughts about whether this helps the company or not.

    More often than not, the most effective way is agreeing with the guy. But, of course, you cannot always agree, if you want to be convincing. So look out for the moments when you can, in fact, easily ‘adjust’ his opinion. And easily means: Only do it if it requires no more than three short sentences.

    Once you gained the trust of the important guy, you need to adjust this method and challenge him privately. You need to give him what everyone wants: Someone who is loyal when others are around, but someone who is helping when noone is around.

    • heryhenry says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful contribution. An important note about building rapport as well as a good reminder that personalities differ and prefer different ways of communicating especially when it comes to details

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