This time of year is full of graduation ceremonies, resume writing and job searches. It seems everyone is looking for good advice for those just starting a new career.
I recently asked Robert Dilenschneider for his advice for those just starting a professional career. Robert is the founder and Chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. He is the author of many books, including the best-selling Power and Influence and the newly-released The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life.
Find the Right Culture
Most job seekers think, “I just want to get a job anywhere” but you point out that finding the right cultural fit is important. Why is it important to know the culture of the organization you are potentially joining?
The cultural environment of a workplace can be critically important. If the core beliefs, value systems, and behavior patterns of many of the people one works alongside of differ perceptibly from yours, you will never feel at home, be able to perform at your highest level, and move upward in the organization. That is just a realistic fact of workplace life. Taking a job “anywhere” can upend one’s career track significantly.
When you are outside looking in, reading the recruiting materials and looking at the website, how do you figure out the culture?
Figuring out a firm’s culture from the outside may not be easy. Cultural climate and identity have to be experienced directly. But asking the right questions of a future employer, or of anyone you may know now working at a particular company, could be very helpful.
Let’s talk about the boss. You say, “Every day when you go into work, you want to determine — quickly — where the match is between your bosses’ goals, strengths, and weaknesses and yours.” What is a “match” and how do you find it? How do you create a good relationship and the right fit?
Again, verbal exchanges with your boss or manager are essential. But colleagues, who’ve been working at a specific job longer than you, can probably be a font of valuable information about the person or persons one reports to — their likes and dislikes and, most importantly, their on-the-job objectives.
Work the Grapevine
Working the grapevine is not something that most of us learn in school. Why is this so important?
Every workplace has a so-called grapevine. Issues and matters (often gossip) about colleagues and superiors can link you into relevant and revealing information about a firm and its operations you might otherwise not be aware of.
Understand Workplace Roles
You mention “The Good Mothers,” “Moles,” and “The Embittered.” Who are these people and why should you proceed with caution?
I refer specifically to colleagues (and even managers) who can be supportive because they’ve been around for a while and “know the ropes” as it were (“Good Mothers”) and those who are totally self-interested and never cooperative for whatever reasons (“The Embittered”). Because one spends so many hours of one’s life at work, this can often be a crucial determinant. As for the “Moles,” beware! They are akin to an infiltrator in whom you might deeply regret confiding.
Cultivating Your Image
I love your definition of image: “Your image is the bundle of signals you give off.” How do you cultivate the right image for your career?
Cultivating the right image on a job is, to a considerable degree, a product of who you are from a personality standpoint — whether you are likeable, friendly, good-humored, etc. or not — qualities one brings to a job. But once you are on a job, you are, wittingly or not, giving off signals all the time about the kind of person you are. That persona can, however, be worked on, improved, and enhanced. Not everyone can be charismatic and a compelling personality, but everyone has the ability to polish his or her workplace image. Reaching out to help others such as being notably cooperative is always an asset — a gesture your colleagues will appreciate and work to your advantage.
Still another key tactic to burnish one’s image is what I would call becoming an “initiator.” Go beyond what’s expected of you and take the initiative in offering new ideas, suggestions, projects, plans, etc. Give free rein to your imagination. More often than one thinks, far-out, wild, and “crazy” ideas can turn into block-busters. One’s self-image is also important. If you do not think reasonably well of yourself, don’t expect the rest of the world to do so.
Establishing Your Presence
After joining an organization, how do you establish yourself? How do you increase your influence?
My response to several of the previous queries also applies here. And, incidentally, don’t stand out for negative reasons such as sloppy attire, foul language, inappropriate workplace behavior, or early departures. Bosses and managers note such matters to one’s disadvantage.
I’m glad to see you promote the use of the local library. How do use the library to help in the critical first years of professional life?
Alas, despite the digital age we live in, young people today appear to be less informed about many aspects of contemporary life than previous generations. That’s regrettable, and that is where libraries count — either the bricks-and-mortar versions or the huge warehouse of information now available on the Internet.The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life