What I Learned in Business

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While working in business for many years, I picked up tips along the way that made my career more successful than it otherwise would have been. Some of these I learned later in my career rather than earlier, so I thought I would share the results of my experience now. Here are 10 tips for those of you at the beginning of your careers or who are about to embark on a new career:

1. Make sure your boss is the first to be informed of issues and concerns.

If there is a problem you caused or something went wrong in your area of responsibility, inform your boss as soon as possible. Don’t hope no one will find out. You never want to have your boss hear about a problem in your department from someone outside the department. This would cause great embarrassment for your boss and would prevent your boss from being able to mitigate the situation, and eventually, this could hurt your relationship or your standing with your boss.

2. Take responsibilities for mistakes.

If your action or lack of action resulted in a problem, don’t try to shift blame to someone else or to some external circumstance. People, including your boss, will be more forgiving if you take full responsibility. They may not like the negative result of your mistake, but they will respect you more for owning up and your reputation will not take as big a hit.

3. Only speak well of others.

If you have a negative encounter with a colleague or someone from another department, or if you find out something negative about another person at your place of employment, do not share that information with colleagues or even with your boss, unless you discover something is illegal or can have serious consequences for your department or business. Relaying negative information or opinions, even in confidence to a trusted colleague, can poison your relationship with the person you are accusing if they ever find out you were the conveyor of that information.

4. Improve your communication skills

If you wish to progress in your career, your ability to speak correctly and write well can be a major contributing factor. You will be able to reach certain levels in an organization only if your communication skills are up to par. You can improve your writing ability by obtaining books on writing for business. To improve your public speaking or presentation abilities, join Toastmasters. This organization will help you practice to speak extemporaneously and teach you how to avoid speech inhibitors such as “you know” and “uh”.

5. Follow good email etiquette

  • Keep your emails short and to the point.
  • Never send an email in anger; wait until you have cooled down and can be more rational.
  • If you receive an email from someone in the organization and others are copied on the distribution list, do not automatically reply to all - determine whether you absolutely need to send it to the whole copy list or whether it will be better to reply to the email’s author only.
  • Emotive words in an email carry more power than in conversation, so if you feel strongly about something consider whether having a one-on-one conversation might be more effective and sound less confrontational.

6. Dress professionally.

Many businesses and organizations have adopted a casual dress code for every day. Exceptions are organizations where a uniform is required such as the military, police, hospitals, etc. However, even if your place of employment is fully casual, the better your casual wardrobe, the better you will be perceived. This perception on the part of others may well be unconscious, so try to look as professional as you can given the dress code parameters in your organization. However, you don’t want to overdress either – wearing a suit when everyone else is wearing jeans may mark you as a snob or as someone who is flagrantly vain.

7. Volunteer for assignments

Yes, we’re all busy, but volunteering occasionally will raise your profile in any organization, and when there is an opening for a position that would be a promotion, people who go the extra mile will more likely be considered first. However, make sure the assignment you volunteer for is within the range of you skills and capabilities.

8. Don’t always be the last to arrive and the first to leave

This is pretty much self-explanatory. Different organizations have different expectations on work hours, but unless you are on a time-clock system, always arriving late or leaving early or as soon as the clock reaches the official ending time will not help in your quest to advance or be perceived as a dedicated employee.

9. Find out as much as you can about what is going on in your company.

In articles that offer suggestions on how to make a good impression when interviewing for a job, one of the suggestions often listed is the applicant should find out as much as possible about the company before the interview. That is true, but it shouldn’t stop there. Once you have been hired and are working in your assigned position, the more you find out and know about other areas of your organization, the better you will be perceived. When an opportunity arises that meets your skills in an area different from yours, if you have shown a wide interest in the organization over all, your chances of being considered will increase.

10. Make your boss look good.

You may be thinking “Why make my boss look good? Shouldn’t I try to make myself look good instead?” Yes, of course, doing a good job will result in people having a high opinion of you, but if you also do things that help your boss look good in front of the boss’ superiors or in front of other departments, guess who will also benefit? You! Bosses tend to reward staff members who help them. They will speak well of them in front of other bosses in the organization, and they can sometimes take an employee along if they get promoted, which may result not only in your boss’ promotion, but yours as well.

George Alland

George Alland is a full-time instructor in the General Education program at the Rasmussen College Brooklyn Park campus. Prior to his current position, he spent more than 30 years as a manager at several Fortune 500 companies. He has a B.A. in mathematics from the City University of New York and has done graduate work in mathematics at the University of Arizona. He also holds an M.A. in French literature from Boston College and an M.S. in library science from Simmons College in Boston. He currently teaches mathematics and literature courses at Rasmussen.

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