How Not To Screw Up At Work

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by Steve Holt on March 12, 2013

Looking back over the jobs that I have had ever since I started working, I can see some valuable lessons learned. I learned some things from some very wise people, and I learned alot of things the hard way, because I was hard-headed. So I was asked the other day by some college students what my advice to them would be as they are getting ready to embark out into the job market to land that first big job. After getting over the shock of young people actually wanting to know what I think, I shared the following list of things with them. Here is how not to screw up at work, and this applies to all of us, not just young people:

1. Show up early – When you are late to work, people notice. People look at you differently, and eventually folks will get ticked at you because they can show up on time and you can’t. So don’t be late. In fact, be early. The added benefit is that you’ll be amazed how much work you get done before the work day officially begins.

2.  Stay late – One of the early mistakes I made in my career was that when 5pm hit, I was halfway out the door. My first boss set me straight. Let other folks be the ones with one foot out the door. Hang around and stay a little bit later than everyone else, and your boss will notice. And you’ll also be surprised again at your productivity.

3.  Help others – Find others who are struggling with something, or need help with something, and help them.  When you do that, people will respect you and look at your differently.

4.  Return email – This is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I believe it is just plain rude to ignore an email that a work colleague has sent you regarding something that they need an answer to.  If you can’t respond to the person immediately then respond to them and tell them you will get back to them with an answer within # days.  Then do it.  I don’t care if you hate email. Email, like it or not, is how business currently communicates. So respond to your emails.

5.  Be proactive – If you see something that needs to be done, just do it. Don’t wait till something gets in a bad situation before taking care of it. Be proactive. Here’s a crazy idea… don’t wait till the deadline to get something done. Get it done before the deadline. Be proactive.

6.  Finish – If you tell someone you are going to do something, for God’s sake, do it. I have lost count of the number of people who told me they would do something for me who just never did it. Nobody likes that guy.  So don’t be that guy.

So there you have it.  I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the best parking space at work, or that corner office. But I guarantee that you’ll set yourself apart from others.

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