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What I’ve learned in the last two years as a professional

With nearly two years of real world work experience under my belt, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. Here are 10 things that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Talk is cheap.  Gain the boss’s trust by mastering the little things. This was one of my biggest challenges. I am a very prideful person.  I wanted to produce large projects right off that bat, but was given smaller line-producing tasks.  I rushed through them, yielding to small and easily avoidable errors. It made me look reckless and lackadaisical.  If you treat each small assignment with the utmost importance and are meticulous, paying close attention to the minute detail, your boss will notice. They will gain confidence in your abilities and eventually give you bigger projects with higher responsibilities.  
  2. Raise your hand for the bigger stuff. You need to ask. You can’t assume your boss will know what you want or willing to do. Give yourself the opportunity to call your own shots as far as what projects come your way.
  3. Performance reviews. Crave them. I personally get excited for performance review meetings. It’s an opportunity to have an honest and open conversation and discuss the areas you can improve on. There’s nothing worse than not knowing how you are doing, or assuming you are doing well, but in actuality you are not meeting expectations.
  4. Be careful about office gossip/politics. This isn’t high school. You’re here to do work, not to worry about someone else’s social and personal life.
  5. Take care of your mind and body. Eat healthy, exercise and get sleep. Without these things, I am a completely different person at work: underperforming and unproductive.  
  6. Learn. When you first start a new job, take time to learn about the workplace; its culture and people, before making or suggesting changes.  One of the best compliments I received from an employer is that there was an unanimous agreement at the office that since being hired, I had positively added to the culture of the workplace. But, that certainly wasn’t because I came in and made immediate changes. I took time to learn about the company’s values and those of the people. I saw what worked, and learned how I could contribute to the already existing culture of the company.
  7. Make yourself uncomfortable. Meaning, do things you don’t typically like doing,  your weak areas. I don’t particularly enjoy sales. Cold calling makes my hands sweat and my heart race. But, if I don’t face my fears, and push myself through uncomfortable situations, I will not grow and be the employee who can do it all. Rather, I’d plateau in my job and become complacent. And, no one wants to have a complacent team member.  
  8. Celebrate the tiny victories.  Keep a running list of them. It will be especially useful if you are in a point of your career you need to negotiate salary or job position. Use this list to remind your boss of all the things you have accomplished, big or small.
  9. It’s okay to have a bad day. We all have them. One bad day doesn’t mean you will be fired. And, it definitely doesn’t mean it needs to be dragged out into weeks and months. Take that bad day as a moment of reflection. Brush it off, re-evaluate and execute accordingly.
  10. Throw the plan away! It’s okay if things don’t go according to plan. That’s what can make for an exciting and fulfilling career. Embrace it. Take every opportunity you get and see where it takes you.