This April, I completed 10 years of my professional experience in IT. I have learnt a thing or two about work, managing people and myself. Here are my lessons in no particular order –
1. Always go the EXTRA mile, where ever you can.
Job descriptions are pretty exhaustive already and doing EXTRA for the salary is not convincing enough. Trust me, the best opportunities came to me when I went extra mile without being asked for it. It shows that you are genuinely interested in your work. No matter the situation, always go the extra mile. One day, it will be noticed and rewarded well.
2. Smart work is required, not hard work.
In my early days of career, I slogged day and night. Every issue was critical, every email was very important and had to be answered right away. As days went on, I transformed my working style from hard work to smart work. For things to get accomplished, it is very crucial to understand the top factors contributing to your overall performance and never let them slip. And, not every email comes with BOLD RED. Some should be taken time to answer.
3. However stupid your boss may seem to you, he is NOT.
I would say that this is one of the biggest learnings in my career. I’ve had bosses who were verbose to death, and who would just send an email with “?” as the subject line. Even worse, I had bosses monitoring my Tea breaks, lunch sessions and how many commas my email should contain. Yes, all of them. In the beginning, I detested their style and was very aggressive towards them. Over time, I realized that apart from being boss, they are human. We all have strong and weak points. Being in a leadership position makes them more vulnerable. Always be positive with your boss. I don’t mean going behind them as puppy, but give them the benefit of doubt wherever you can. They have tough things to handle than you think.
4. Build expertise in your area of work.
This is highly cliched – but one of the basics of professional work. Whatever your work area may be – get called an “Expert”. Read the manuals, study old case studies, talk to people. Display genuine enthusiasm towards learning your subject area. Keep doing consistently and build expertise. When people approach you, they have a sense of respect for you, simply because of the effort you put in to learn the subject.
5. Ignore the messenger, Not the Message
I’ve had people giving me lots of feedback in all stages of my career. As a human, it is hard to accept that we have flaws and so glaring that others have to tell us. It happens all the time. The very fact that people give you feedback is because they deeply care for you. Thank them and never rebuke on the spot. Leave it a day or two, and discuss with your loved ones on how valid the feedback is. One of my best bosses from Singapore told me that I had very little tolerance for alternative opinions. I came home to see my husband nodding to the feedback. Since then, I’ve made a policy to listen all the opinions before declaring mine as the best.
6. Keep your personal and professional lives SEPARATE
I had people at work with whom I shared real good camaraderie, but did not know them well outside work. At the same time, there were people with whom I had my share of disagreements at work, but were really good friends personally. It is extremely important not to mix up the personal and professional aspect of our lives. It helps to retain the professional image, and at the same time – build great relationships.
7. Always have best friends at work
No matter how much I loved my job, there are days when I just dont feel like working. Those days, the very reason of chit-chatting and meeting my best friends at work motivated me to go back to my desk.It helps bigtime to RANT about things you don’t like although you can’t change them. It fosters strong friendships and creates a sense of belongingness about the workplace.
8. Keep Learning
As mentioned in point 4, it helps to be an expert in your area of work. Over a period of time, things get familiar and we get lazy. Picking up a new technology or another department’s pain point and solving them will keep us motivated. And if that doesn’t work – I’ve always went to my boss and asked him how I can help them with any of their current issues. I usually had positive responses and more challenges to learn.
9. Visibility is more important than work
This is the best and hard hitting lesson in my entire career. Every office has diligent office workers who slog all the way from morning to night and no one knows they exist. And another set of people who do decent work, keep good networks and get noticed for all good things.Just imagine, how would a department head identify a star employee if he is not confident enough that he is a star employee? Market yourself. Let the bosses know about the difference you bring as an employee. Everyone does work, but who is visible is who tells others about it. At the same time, it is equally important that you do things worth talking about.
10. Keep your old professional Connections Alive
I’ve changed 4 companies and worked with hundreds of people meanwhile. I did not realize the power of networking enough and have lost out on many good people. Once you leave the company ,people slowly forget you. Make a list of people who mattered to you when you worked there. Keep in touch and ask how they are doing. Who knows, they may get you the next client or that dream job of yours!
What are your career lessons so far? Share with us below.
Photo Source: Feliciano Guimarães