Every department has necessary jobs that people tend to shun. Those are exactly the jobs that you should make yourself available for. It doesn't mean becoming a patsy. Rather, it says that not only are you a hard worker and willing to get your hands dirty, but you recognize your newness to the organization and are willing to work your way into the hierarchy. Taking on the less-desirable jobs and getting them done ranks high on an employer's list of traits to be admired and rewarded.
What are attributes that every boss looks for? Here are a few:
- Get things done. So many people spend their working days exploring ways to accomplish a task, rather than attacking and finishing it. Learn what you need to know about a particular job and do it! Better to complete a job, even though it has areas needing improvement, than to continue asking questions and never get to it. A finished product can be improved; you can't improve on something you haven't started.
- Make no excuses. With the exception of crisis-type situations, a boss does not want to hear why a job wasn't done. Again, do it; don't explain it away.
- Set realistic goals and keep your superior informed of progress. Promising to complete a task in an impossibly short period of time and then having to report that it isn't done (with the inherent excuses) impresses no one. As for keeping your manager informed of your progress, it doesn't mean belaboring the point with repeated conversations. A periodic short note will do, and leave the excuses out of it. The assumption is that you'll complete the job in the allotted amount of time.
In line with this, don't hesitate to inform your superior of bad news having to do with a project. Again, pick your time; don't lay bad news on your boss at the end of the day, or just as he or she is going out to lunch. But be quick to let superiors know of legitimate problems that have developed that might eventually reflect unfavorably upon them and their department. Never leave your boss open to negative surprises. If you happen to work for someone who can't tolerate bad news, it might be time for you to put your feelers out for another job.
- Suggest answers. If you must bring a problem to your superior, carry along a few solutions. Bosses have enough of their own problems and expect those working for them to have explored answers before laying problems on the desk.
- Be a good listener. For instance, if your boss says to you, "I've been thinking about having you take over this project," it probably means you will be taking it over. People try to avoid giving direct orders, preferring to state ideas and then wait for everyone within earshot to act upon them. A good boss will be more direct, but that doesn't get you off the hook. Learn to listen and to interpret.
- Get along with your co-workers. Your boss wants results and won't take kindly to squabbles between employees being at the root of failure. In line with that, make it a point to spread your wings and meet people outside your department. One of the most valuable things you can contribute to a department is an understanding of the problems others are having that might affect the work you and your peers are doing. For instance, if you learn at lunch in the cafeteria that another division is having a particularly pressing problem that your group might be able to solve, bring that knowledge back to your superiors. That information can trigger action in your department that, if successful, will boost the esteem of your boss and your department in the eyes of upper management.
- Develop a sense of order. Stay late a few evenings, or come in on the weekend to organize your workplace. The first days on a job are often chaotic and confusing. If you allow that chaos to dictate how you set up your physical surroundings, you establish a potentially troublesome situation. It goes back to the concept of organizing yourself during the job search phase of your career. It's extremely annoying for a busy executive to ask someone in the department for an important piece of paper and be told it can't be found. Being organized takes extra effort; however, it not only pays off in avoiding that kind of situation, but ultimately saves you time and effort.
- Contribute to your own "personnel file." All it takes is a hastily scribbled note in a file folder or notebook. When the time comes to call upon it, the material is there and you won't have to depend upon vague recollections of past achievements and contributions.
- Be a team player. I can't stress enough the need for all persons in an organization, no matter what the job, to view their activities as part of an overall corporate objective. The company wants profits, and the activities of everyone within it should be devoted to that goal. No one stands alone in a company, and it is the interaction of employees that ultimately decides a company's success or failure. Nothing is more important for your career growth than to develop and nurture this philosophy. Team players are valued in a business; loners are not.