From Rookie to Rockstar: 7 Ways to Stand Out At Work

Employees in the Customer Care Center in a recently renovated part of their building. Employees at energy information firm IHS in Englewood, give their perspective and outlook on their jobs and careers on Friday, Mar. 16, 2012. Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post

Congrats, you’ve landed your first job! You may be filled with excitement and dread, normal feelings as your embark on your journey into the professional world. The first days, weeks, and even months can be a challenge. TheElizabethian can give you tips that will help ease your transition into your new job.

Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions: Ask questions! Ask many, ask frequently, and be sure to actually apply the feedback given to you. A good way to make certain that you keep track of advice, tips, and better practices offered to you is by dedicating a notebook to helpful tips/advice. Having a “helpful” folder or notebook where you can have written record of learned information is a great reference to keep from asking the same questions.

Also, write down any questions you have during the day, so you can check-in with your manager or colleagues to ask your bundle of questions without interrupting too often.

Questions show curiosity and the drive to know your position and the company itself. People who discourage questions discount their value. Understanding your position is not only important to your personal growth but, ultimately, important for the advancement of the company.

Alison Green from US News & World Report says it’s essential to ask question when you’re new: “Frankly, it’s unnerving when a new employee doesn’t ask questions, because this signals you’re either too shy (bad-how will you get what you need?) or not paying enough attention to realize what questions you should have (really bad).”

Managers usually appreciate your being proactive about getting the information you need to be successful. Your company may have a orientation program, but it often won’t provide all of the information you need. If there is something you need to know—ask.

Find mentors: Mentors can be a formidable advocate for your career growth. Research has shown that people who have mentors usually have “higher salaries, more frequent promotions, higher job satisfaction, and stronger commitment to their organization.” Mentors are there to help you set career goals and assist you in navigating through difficult situations in your profession.

Mentors are paramount in guiding you through your initial on-boarding period. It’s helpful if you have someone who can be your point-of-contact for any questions and concerns you have about your position. A seasoned employee who knows the ins-and-outs of the job can be your guide in the responsibilities and even help you navigate the office politics. They’ve been in your position before and can offer valuable insight in how to be successful. If your job doesn’t assign you a mentor, strike up a relationship with a colleague who feel comfortable with.

Mentors are not only people who can offer guidance in your career but are your cheerleaders. They are people who are advocates for you and truly believe in you. They give the brutal truth and encouragement at the same time.

Be clear on what’s expected from you: Having a conversation with your boss on what it takes to perform well in your role will help set you up for success. And of course, it gives you milestones to work towards. Having scheduled check-ins help as well. When I started my current job, my boss and I set-up weekly meetings to discuss my goals and progress. It’s important to have a clear idea of performance expectations. This can help ease the self-doubt that is prevalent when you’re new to the job. Knowing where you stand and where you need to be helps focus your efforts and target your goals more effectively.

In your meetings, prepare questions, bring concerns and a list of your goals with a plan of action. Consider having a notebook/folder designated for these meetings.  It’s also cool to look back and see your progress!

Take advantage of being new: During the “honeymoon” period, your colleagues and manager will go out of their way to ensure that you’re well taken care of, you’re happy, and getting everything you need. Additionally, you come in with a fresh perspective. Don’t let your new status hold you back from taking off running, pitching in with new ideas, speaking up at meetings, making suggestions. Although, be careful of staying in the past and frequently referring to “how they did things at your old job,” it’s like comparing your current boyfriend to ex. Don’t be that person. Having said that, avoid being obnoxious and be careful of stepping on anyone’s toes.

 Hours into my first day at a new job

Embrace the discomfort of challenges of the unknown: New surroundings, new people, and a new position, you’ll have a lot of learning to do. As the new kid on the block, it can be distressing trying to settle in an unfamiliar environment: trying to figure out where everything is, who everyone is, and most importantly, what you’re supposed to be doing. It can be extremely uncomfortable and overwhelming. Our first reaction is to run away from the unknown to seek familiarity.

Here’s some truth. At first, you might not like your job because it doesn’t come naturally. Riddled with doubt, you may feel constantly unsure of yourself, stumble along and make errors. You might get frustrated because your position is challenging and question if you’re even good at it. Perhaps, workplace culture is important to you, and you haven’t become instant besties with your co-workers and your status of “new kid” makes you feel slightly left out.

It takes time to transition and adjust. Unless you’re in a really negative, unhealthy environment, try to tough it out. This is an opportunity to expand your skills, knowledge and grit. Jobs will always have professional challenges where you will be tested and pushed beyond your comfort zone. That’s called growth.

It’s okay to not always have an answer or feel completely at ease.  Remember, failure is your friend. Own and learn from your mistakes. You’ll eventually find your own rhythm, your position will become second nature, and you’ll be a mentor yourself one day!

Be confident: You have to believe in yourself and get out of your own way. People can smell your self-doubt. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying or doing, other people won’t either. To reiterate a point I made earlier, it’s okay if you don’t have an answer. Confidence doesn’t equal cockiness. Putting on airs and  pretending you know what you’re talking about doesn’t amount to true confidence. Confidence can also demonstrated by decisiveness, initiative, and taking risks. A person can still be confident and not know the solution, but they go and find one.  In short, it’s being comfortable with yourself. When you’re short on confidence, remember that they hired you for a reason. You convinced them that you are an asset to this company!

Work hard but with intention: Work harder than anyone else, but be smart about your time and energy. Don’t reinvent the wheel, mimic the top performers. How do the stand-out employees start the day? Do they do something you could implement in your own routine? Think about what makes them excel and try to adapt qualities or processes that could work for you.

Good work ethic doesn’t mean that you work yourself ragged, you still want to have a work/life balance to prevent burning out and dreading going to work. After all, you’re more likely perform better when you don’t feel like all life has been drained from you the previous day.

Photo credit: denverpost.com