Most new college grads entering the workforce have aspirations of a successful career; a mental road map of time-lined goals is in place. Unfortunately, discovering that the climb up the proverbial corporate ladder is not always a clear and easy one can be a hard pill to swallow.
Marsha Egan, a professional coach and CEO of The Egan Group, a corporate consulting firm, provides tips on how to be a model employee in today’s competitive workplace:
First and foremost, model employees embrace the vision of the organization.
“Ideal employees care about the organization as much as their leaders do,” says Egan. “It is those people who get promoted. They don’t focus as much on their individual role, but on the organization’s role as a whole. Embracing the culture of your organization is a ‘win-win’ situation.”
Do your homework.
“If you want to climb the ladder of your organization, you have to know the goals and the numbers,” says Egan. “What is the organization trying to achieve? You have to care about that – it can help to pave your way.”
Egan also recommends building strategic alliances within the organization to create a synergy that gets things done.
At the base of office etiquette is respect.
Successful employees abide by a standard of ethics and integrity, and they focus on excellence.
“The best employers have good guiding values,” notes Egan. “Just about every written guide notes the core value of respectful behavior. When we are talking about etiquette at work, being polite never goes out of style.
“Model employees respect those around them. This includes communicating clearly and not ‘throwing people under the bus.’ Respect your co-workers’ authority, space and rules – it can be very beneficial to your own success.”
The age-old “dress for success” adage still holds true.
“Dress for your next job – the one that you aspire to,” says Egan. “I’m an advocate of authenticity and being yourself, but you must manage your impression with the people that matter; they may be older than you and a little more conservative.
“When employers evaluate their employees, they look at the entire package. Decide who you want to be at work and strive to be that person every day.”
Volunteer and volunteer quickly.
When it comes to getting noticed, Egan gives this piece of advice.
“Ask for additional responsibility – volunteer to chair a task force or campaign. Part of being noticed is to do excellent work. The next part is to take on tough and visible assignments. Being an energetic, positive and willing participant gets you noticed,” she says.
Egan does offer a word of caution on this subject: “Don’t over-commit. Some people volunteer too much and then can’t get their core work responsibilities done. You do have to find a balance.”
Don’t make these classic mistakes.
“No backstabbing,” says Egan. “Many times, employees are positive in a meeting, but are then negative outside of it. Having been a boss myself, I know that management usually recognizes who is truly onboard.”
Another classic mistake made by employees is assuming that excellent work and timely task completion is all that is necessary for success.
“Go to lunch with people – socialize professionally after hours,” advises Egan. “Let me tell you a story of two employees. The first one, who actually did better work, was hard-working but ate lunch at her desk and never participated in work-related events. The second one made it a point to go the extra mile, socially. The first employee was overlooked for a promotion because the employer wanted a leader. It’s more than just work; it’s creating working relationships.”
Lastly, never assume that your boss will automatically notice your good work.
“Sometimes you have to let them know what you’ve been working on,” says Egan. “There is a difference between ‘brown-nosing’ and simply sharing information. Find a way to say how excited you are with the results of your project, and explain how it will benefit the company. Not, ‘Hey look at me and what I did!’ You have a duty to let your boss know what you have been working on because, many times, they are too busy with other things to notice your individual contribution.”
Is it possible to be successful at work and still maintain a healthy work/life balance?
“I totally believe it is possible to be successful in your career while maintaining a work/life balance. Matter of fact, most of the best companies to work for promote it,” says Egan. “Maintaining the balance is in your control. It means being intentional about how you spend your time. Don’t keep all of you windows open 24/7.”
Egan notes that she has actually been hired by companies to conduct training sessions on how to turn digital devices off.
“It is healthy for you to switch tasks and switch focus,” she says. “By doing so, employees go back to work the next day refreshed and ready to work.”
Marsha Egan, PCC, CSP is a keynoter, facilitator, author and ICF-certified workplace productivity and business leader coach. She serves as CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., a professional coaching firm in Nantucket, Mass.