"Your job is to get your manager promoted."
At my advanced age, I can't even remember who gave me this advice, but it is advice I have repeated not only to friends and co-workers, but also to people who were being managed by me. Yes, I'm the manager you want to get promoted. When you make him or her look good, you look good.
So, what makes you look bad? Trying to upstage your manager, particularly if you are a lot younger than them. New ideas are always welcome, but you should always be taking them to your manager first. I see many hardworking, successful millennials in the workforce, but there are some I wish I could just course-correct a little bit, to give them an edge towards that next promotion.
1) If your manager dresses "business formal" you want to do the same.
You have to at least try to match their dress level. If they are a hipster, you don't have to be one, and if they wear a golf shirt and pleated khaki pants every day, you don't have to wear those, either. But you can never go wrong with business formal. It's easy, it's professional, and your manager isn't the only one who sees you dressed this way. Dress like you want to be the next president, not the mail room clerk. With no offence to mail room clerks.
2) Be on time.
Better yet? Be early. Be prepared. If you realize you are going to miss the mark, apologize in advance and make sure it doesn't happen again. While it's unfair that no one really notices that you're on time all the time, they certainly will notice if you are late all the time. It's unprofessional and personally rude.
3) Don't swear at the office.
It might be cool where you work, but it's easy to have it fall so easily into your vernacular that you can't turn it off the next time you move offices. Many people are offended by it, so why take the chance. It shows a lack of imagination and disrespect for others around you. Do I sound like your mom yet? Good. I am your mom.
4) If you can possibly avoid it, don't take an unpaid internship.
I know, I know, it's experience and a foot in the door, etc., but you are making your parents subsidize your employment (normally to a large company who has a bit more money than poor ol' Mom and Pop) and you are perpetuating the idea that this is an OK thing with young people. It is not. If you want to freelance and get paid next to nothing, I'd be happy to give you some professional writer's tips.
5) Don't enter a boardroom and say "Hey guys!"
First of all, there's a good chance half the room will be women, a.k.a. not "guys," and secondly, there's a good chance some of them will be senior to you and we don't like being called "guys."
One of the biggest mistakes I see young people entering the workforce make is behaving as though their job either bores them or is beneath them. While both of these things might be true, you simply cannot display this reaction and expect to earn respect, and most importantly, a promotion to the next job which hopefully won't be quite as boring or quite as demeaning.
Remembering that everyone above you got to their position by starting at the bottom, somewhere, somehow, is important. I have sat in on firings of people who were incredulous that they could be fired because in their mind, they were not only excelling at their jobs, they were obviously qualified enough to do their own manager's job.
Whether or not this was the case (and mostly, it's not), no manager wants to have an employee who feels they are better than them. It's easy to fire people you don't like or respect. Easy from a decision making point, and easy from a procedural point. Attitude counts.
Kathy Buckworth is the author of "I Am So The Boss Of You". She is currently at work on her 7th, and not yet titled, book which will also likely boss people around.
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