I remember the first paycheck I received at my first “real job” out of college. Having a job with benefits (yay for being able to afford the dentist) and a 401K option (even if I needed my dad to explain what exactly it was) seemed like one of the markers to being an actual grown-up. But adjusting to a job that required showing up at 8 a.m. every day, being productive for eight hours, and then doing it all over again the next day was an adjustment, to say the least. No naps between classes, no fall/Christmas/spring/summer break, and no spontaneous study breaks to the 24-hour diner. Somehow I survived those first few years of gainful employment, but I could have benefited from the advice Carolyn McCulley offers in “Bosses Don’t Give Gold Stars — and Other Career Advice.” Whether you’ve been at your job for six months or six years, her observations are helpful.
The first tip is pay your dues.
“In any job, it’s important to understand you have been hired to fill a position on a team with one critical mission: to make and sustain the organization’s profitability. You have a role to play in this mission, but it’s not the starring role. In fact, you have to prove yourself to the rest of the team that you are worthy of that role. It’s called paying your dues. To that end, you need to know that no one really cares about how fulfilled you are — or are not — in this role. It’s not about you, but about the organization.”
If you enjoy your job and hope to advance in the company, remember that everyone has to start at the bottom and work their way up. Be faithful in the small tasks to prove that you are ready and competent for more responsibility.
Secondly, McCulley reminds us to get to the point.
“In her book For Women Only in the Workplace, Shaunti Feldhahn writes: ‘The way many of the men I interviewed described it, they prefer the conclusion or the bottom line up front because it helps them listen. Without it, they find it more difficult to absorb the information. One executive explained, ‘There’s something about a male brain that wants the end of the story so he knows why he’s listening.’ While this might be a masculine tendency, in my observation it serves busy people of both genders. Time is the most precious commodity in the workforce because it’s the only resource you can’t renew. Profits can be restored, people can be replaced, but the passing of time is relentless.”
Another skill (that will also help you in relationships outside of work) is to address conflict.
“The first thing you need to know about conflict on the job is that you don’t need to take it personally. Most of the time, you are disagreeing about a process, a task or a function. This is not about you as a person, as much as it may feel that way. Keep your reactions (and later thoughts about them) contained around the particular issue and not the history of everything that’s ever happened.”
Conflict is unavoidable, so learning to handle it professionally is a skill that will serve you well in all areas of life. Your roommate, significant other, small group leader, parents, and younger sibling will all thank you!
And lastly, remember to put your confidence in the Lord.
“Never once have I heard someone say, ‘My life has turned out exactly how I expected it would.’ But from my mid-life vantage point, I can confidently assure you that there will be many more blessings than you anticipate and many more trials. But through it all, God’s grace will be triumphant.”
What else would you add to the list of advice for young (and not-so-young) professionals? What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve received?