In last week’s column, I discussed the “7 Keys to a Killer Job Interview”. Once you’ve got that new job, here are the six habits for becoming a super star employee:
- “Lights on…lights off”. Do you remember the movie, ‘The Karate Kid’? One of the most memorable scenes was when master martial artist, Mr. Miyagi, agrees to train Daniel in the art of self-defense. For what seemed like months, Daniel’s training consisted of waxing cars and Miyagi would incessantly repeat, “Wax on, wax off!”…much to Daniel’s frustration. As it turns out, this ‘work’ was basic training for effective blocking techniques that Daniel would later use to defeat his archenemy. The point, in this context, is that practicing over and over builds habits that will serve you well throughout your life. It’s the discipline that makes the difference.
Before I started my first job, my father gave me this advice, “How you conduct yourself in the first six months of work will set the tone for how your employer sees you forever.” Make an effort to be the first one at the office (lights-on) and the last one to leave (lights-off). Your employer will notice and in his or her mind, will see you as a hard worker.” I took that advice and found that what started out as a 6-month goal became a habit that helped me start my own business. One side benefit is that more time on the job equated to more job experience and a shortening of the learning curve. I also found that folks were more willing to mentor the ‘new kid with hustle’. So, start your new job with a secret weapon, “lights on…lights off!”
- Adopt a ‘Whatever it takes’ attitude. Don’t be a ‘That’s not my job!’ type of employee. Most businesses in America are small businesses and everyone needs to be prepared to help where needed. In fact, ideally you want to become the ‘go-to’ person when a special project comes up. When we hire someone at our two firms, our job description is: ‘Whatever it takes’…then we proceed to outline what we call ‘Primary Areas of Responsibility’.
- Be a team player. American’s are innately competitive by nature but in business, the greatest success comes from cohesive teams. You know you have a good team when members are willing to help each other without concern for personal recognition.
- Do the unexpected. What can you do outside your normal job responsibilities to help or add value to the company? Roxie, my personal assistant, makes sure I have lunch every day and Lauren, our receptionist, takes it upon herself to take lunch orders every day, sort through everyone paying their share and pick up the food. This has been instrumental in building inner-office relationships since on most days we eat together. Ramona is part of our administrative group. She attends the Brock Business School’s monthly networking breakfast and uses it as an opportunity to promote our company. Jeff, our systems administrator, often works on our systems at night or weekends. I have similar stories for virtually every associate. No one has asked them to take on these extra efforts but management certainly notices and appreciates them for doing so. What can you do to help your company that would be unexpected?
- Think like an owner. Too often there’s a sense of ‘us versus them’ between employees and management. Think of how you’d act and what decisions you’d make if you owned the company and let that help guide your activities and office-related conversations. If you have a suggestion for improving the company, let management know. Conversely, if you have a problem that needs management’s attention, be sure to have at least one possible solution to that problem. Understand that owners will notice when you are thinking like an owner.
- Embrace the concept of ‘continuous improvement’. Every day think of what you can do to improve your skills at least a little bit. In particular, look at where you are and where you want to go within your company then ask yourself, “What do I need to do to prepare me to move to the next level?” It may be more education or experience in another area. Once you decide, lay out a plan of action and either implement it on your own or with the assistance from your company. In our companies, we require all advisors to have advanced education such as the Certified Financial Planner designation and we have a program that financially supports that goal.
In the end, you are in charge of your own destiny. By proactively taking these six steps, you’ll become a superstar employee and be on your way to maximizing your career potential.
One final thought: If you are not a new employee but rather a seasoned pro, how many of the six habits would your coworkers attribute to you?