A couple of tips for my brother, who’s starting a new job this week
Before I get to the tips, I want to tell you a funny story. My brother is almost 18 years old and this will be his second job he’s ever had. The way he got both these jobs is incredible.
The first was a fairly standard retail job. It wasn’t something he was actively looking for. In the family we call it the three-yes job. His friend and my brother were in the car and had the following conversation:
“Would you like to get a job?”
“Do you want to work for the place I work at?”
“Can you start tomorrow?”
Now for a retail job this isn’t particularly impressive. But this summer he’s almost done the exact same thing. He was looking for a job in some kind of event management and his entire job search was emailing one person my parents knew. The reply was literally “Can you bring identification with you on Tuesday? We want to get you to work as quickly as possible.”
That boy might have to record for least effort/reward in the history of getting a job.
Anyway back to the tips.
I’m no expert in job career advancement but I have been working in various professional and grown-up jobs since I was 16. The biggest problem about working in grown-up places when you’re young is that you’re always the young one. It’s difficult but not impossible to escape that position. The difference between ‘the junior’ and ‘the young rising star’ is small, but will make a world of difference in your enjoyment and the level of interesting stuff you get to do on the job.
These tips are things I’ve followed and have worked well for getting recognition in these places and being treated as an equal instead of as a junior.
1. Work hard
Back in the Netherlands people always seem a bit afraid of hard work. 9–5, do the minimum possible and you’ll be all right. Only put in the minimal amount of effort.
This is why it’s so easy to rise above the herd. And that starts with just putting in the effort. Work hard. Get stuff done. Show that you can do the difficult and annoying work. It’ll get you recognition and make people treat you as an equal instead of just the most junior people in the team.
2. Always be the first to volunteer
Small companies like the one you’ll be working for always have an infinite amount of stuff that needs to be done. Make sure you take on more work than you think you can handle. It’ll push you to work harder, smarter and to expand what you thought you could do. So be the first to volunteer to do the annoying jobs. Because then you’ll also get to do the really cool jobs. You’ll become the person everyone goes to when they need to get stuff done. That’s a valuable position to be in.
3. Ask for more work
When there’s a bit of time where you feel like you don’t have to do anything, actively start asking for work. Ask your direct manager. If he doesn’t know anything, ask his boss. You want to be known as someone who goes above and beyond. Asking for more work signals that you can handle more, and soon they’ll start giving you the more grown-up jobs. The more interesting ones.
4. Never get the coffee
While you should volunteer to do jobs, make sure you don’t become anyone’s slave. Try to find a funny but clear negative response to “can you get us coffee please?” Something like “only if you help me.” That will actually get you to connect with people as well.
Getting the coffee signals that you’re the junior who they can use for junior tasks. You don’t want that. Don’t be a dick about it though, and always get the CEO coffee anyway.
5. Always pitch new ideas
I know you’re creative. You’re smart. You can come up with ideas and creative solutions. So do that, all day long. James Altucher writes about becoming an idea machine. That’s who you should be. Pitching ideas shows that you’re deeply involved in the job, and that you have a good idea of what’s going on. It’ll show that they can ask for your opinion on things. That means that you’re becoming one of them.
If you really believe in an idea, fight for it as well. If your colleague isn’t sure, pitch your boss. Defend your ideas in meetings. But don’t be a dick about it.
6. When you screw up, tell someone. But have a plan to fix it
You’re going to screw up. That’s fine.
What’s not okay is to not tell anyone. If you can fix it yourself try it and tell people how you fixed that problem. If you can’t fix it, tell your boss but also tell her how to solve it. People love not having to think about how to solve issues.
If you tell her that you screwed up she’ll appreciate the honesty. If you bring her a solution she’ll love you.
7. Find the connectors
Some people clock in and out and do the minimal to get by. Some people work really hard, but don’t take time to connect with colleagues and others the interact with. Learn to recognise these people, but don’t become them.
Instead find the connectors. The people who always know whats going on. The people who everyone likes. Who knows when an exciting new project comes along that you can jump on. This person might not always be your boss.
8. Have fun
Work can be frustrating, hard, annoying and stressful. Have some fun! Joke around with colleagues. Make fun of yourself. Laugh with people. Laughing is the best way to make friends. Maybe you’re not always at work to make friends, but you can have a laugh.
And that’s what counts.