Fall semester is well underway and young kids and adult learners are back in school. This is my second week of being a faculty mentor for law students, offering guidance to build their mentor relationships, cultivate their personal network and navigate professional challenges. Next Monday I will co-speak, at a coffeehouse event for law students, on ways to survive and thrive in school and beyond.
So, how exactly does a super ambitious and mega driven, yet overwhelmed and inexperienced, up-and-comer survive and thrive in the real world? Here is a reliable list to help you be an amazing professional:
1) Zero in on the stuff you love. Don’t try to do it all or be an expert in all things. It’s not wise to use your time that way. You don’t have time to do everything at the same level of quality and thoroughness. Prioritize what really matters to you and where you have the most impact.
Decide what you want to stand for and be known for. Focus on what you’re really good at and build your personal brand around it. Notice what lights your fire and do those things exceptionally well. Take ownership of projects that resonate with you, pique your curiosity, and spark you into creative action.
2) Work around the stuff you hate. Delegate or barter tasks that are wrong for you. Let go of the thing you can’t stand. Find a teammate who enjoys it and have them do it.
But if there’s no getting around it, look deeply to find something about it that you like. If you loathe the process itself, you might be fascinated by the deliverables or the clients it serves. Hone in on the good points instead of dwell on the drawbacks. Redefine the assignment to deliver the same, if not better, results in your preferred way.
3) Get used to being uncertain. You don’t know everything. Smart colleagues and mature bosses don’t expect you to know everything. The sooner you admit you don’t know the answer, the quicker you can start figuring it out. Get help, ask questions and seek recommendations. Those who pretend they know everything suffer from blind spots and missed opportunities.
The more comfort you have with the unknown, the better you will be at acquiring new knowledge, taking worthwhile risks, overcoming hurdles, and delivering remarkable results in the face of uncertainty.
4) Learn from your mistakes. Experts, not just rookies, make mistakes. Simple, routine work can have peculiar nuances. Complex projects take you into unchartered territory. Sometimes you need to improvise to move forward. Don’t let past failures stop you from accepting challenges, trying new things, or taking critical action.
Mistakes teach you how to get things right. Mistakes are rarely permanent and can usually be fixed. Just don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, which will earn you the reputation of being a screw-up.
5) Have an awesome attitude. The way you treat your colleagues, approach your responsibilities, and show up each day affects the workplace tone.
Truly connect with others and acknowledge their contribution. Communicate clearly, directly and consistently with your stakeholders to encourage trust and heighten visibility for you and your team.
Offer solutions and alternatives, instead of judge and complain. Create systems, processes and approaches that make work easier for everyone. Do more of the right things without being told.
An awesome attitude will help you inspire your team, build your credibility, get cool assignments, and sell your ideas.
# # #
Photo by: localjapantimes