Aesop’s simple yet notable fable ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ paints a vivid picture of realism in everyday context. The Ants futuristic approach towards surviving through the winter had them collecting grains all summer. I cannot say the same for the grasshopper who made merry all summer and ended six feet under during winter.
When we are at the starting line of our career, more often than not, we gravitate towards the road that the ‘Grasshopper’ had taken. Oblivious to the future with casual indifference towards the outcome of current choices made, we wake up from our slumber much later in our career only to find ourselves at the bottom of an already crammed pack.
But if your aim is to leave the crammed pack behind and progress upwards (i.e. knowledge wise, level wise or both), start by chalking out your career blueprint right from the get-go; ‘your first job’. If you haven’t given it much thought, then you should. Keep in mind that how you play your cards during the initial stages of your profession will help you fast track your career in leaps and bounds.
Hence, a change in perspective will help you tune in to the desired frequency to hit the right notes, provided you play it right. Here are six pointers (i.e. career advice) to lead you in that direction.
1) Be like a Sponge. Soak it all in
The initial period in the corporate world is always fascinating to a pair of fresh eyes. A new journey, sea of unknown faces, unfamiliar territory, different rules unlike College, a lot to absorb on your first job. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into unfamiliar surroundings can be unnerving to most. While it is natural to feel unsettled, try to relax. Take the time to assimilate your new environment and the people around you. Observe. Understand the dynamics of your team, the nature of your work. Be curious, ask intelligent questions. Treat each day as a learning experience. If you want to move up the ladder in two to three years, this is what you should do. Listen, Observe and Learn. Soak it all in, just like a sponge.
2) Snap out of the Honeymoon Phase
When introduced to a new system (in this case, your work environment) extra hands lend you support till the time you get into the groove of things. You are cushioned. Work is assigned in small portions; not force fed down your throat. A certain amount of latitude is given, since you are ‘new’. Sounds peachy doesn’t it? It is, provided you realise that you will not be spoon fed indefinitely. So get on your feet and run with it the minute you know how to tie your shoe laces. The ‘Honeymoon’ phase is just that; a phase.
Image Courtesy: CreativeCommons.org
3) Shed off the old skin. Blend in; be Professional.
Once in the system, your mind-set needs to undergo a makeover. While this change is gradual, make a conscious effort to evolve by observing the right people. You are no longer a college student waiting for an opportunity to bunk classes and make mischief, but a Professional who needs to be taken seriously.
Image Courtesy: Huffingtonpost.com
Start by toning down your overall demeanor. Say goodbye to your high-fives, the unnecessary giggles and dramatic gestures. Even if you have a tendency to be hyper and overtly melodramatic, try to appear calm and composed on the outside (especially in front of your seniors and Boss).Tough to do, but with practice you just might get there. If you want to fast track your move up the ladder, you need to be seen as an employee who is mature enough to take on extra responsibilities and handle situations under stress.
4) Cement your Foundation. Design your Career Blueprint
At the entry level we often dream of moving right to the top. In our mind we virtually promote ourselves to VP’s, D’s and MD’s. As long as you have a check on reality, dreaming big is fine. Let’s take a video game for instance. If you need to win the game you need to clear each level to move forward. Every level has its own set of challenges and hurdles which you need to overcome if you want to move ahead. Even the slightest misstep can take you backwards. Same is the case with your career. Always remain alert. Stay grounded, focused and be patient.
You are at ground zero. To work your way to the top, your foundation needs to be rock solid. Learn from scratch. It doesn’t matter how mundane it seems, deep dive into it; embrace it; avoid short cuts. Understand the importance behind even the simplest of assignments and how it impacts other teams and the organisation at large. Better yet, imagine if your team did not exist at all, what would its absence imply? Automatically you will understand the value that your work brings to the table.
Keep building your base. Once you are confident, take on more responsibilities. Understand how other teams within your department and other department’s function, how each function is linked to the other. Think different; be innovative and also focus on those competencies that are required for you to be effective in your role. From there on, you will be in a position to design your career blueprint.
5) Look beyond the Wall
If you have erected walls inside your head, knock them down. Be curious enough to look beyond your self-imposed boundaries and comprehend how teams in other departments operate. Each division is as important as the other in its own right. Just like the function of the human anatomy. Can you say that your hands are more important than your feet? Or that your sight is more important than your hearing? Discard the notion that your team/department is the most important function on the planet. It really isn’t. You cannot work in isolation can you? Every aspect is inter-connected.
Keep your eyes peeled open for information on the latest happenings in the organisation, be it the highlights or lowlights; profits or losses, the company’s vision etc. Store every essential nugget of information in the crevice of your mind. Over a period of time you will be in a position to understand the big picture and align your goal to the organisation’s larger objective, thus enhancing your value and credibility.
6) Ask for Feedback
Last but not the least, never hesitate to ask feedback or career advice from your Seniors on a periodic basis. With the right feedback you will be in a position to tweak yourself and move in the right direction.
So be a smart cookie and have a ‘no holds barred’ approach. Go ahead and explore the unknown. Step out of your comfort zone. Learn more; be innovative and think outside the box.
Hopefully this career advice will help you go a long way during the course of your professional journey. Wish you luck tenfold!
Do Not Miss Reading: