Simon Fraser is a current Praxis participant. This post originally appeared on his blog.
More and more “inexperienced” young people are getting hired every day without degrees, thanks to Derek Magill and his rogue advice. Though they might not have much experience, they’ve adopted certain habits that clearly set them apart and make them seem like an expert.
Employers are constantly complaining about the lack of good employees. Most college graduates have zero experience and don’t know what it means to be on time, or follow through. Here are some of the most impressive, easy traits that blow employers’ expectations out of the water – degree or not.
Rock solid communication
This goes for email, text, slack, phone calls, everything. Be an over-communicator. Be fast. Be concise. Be effective.
You may find yourself communicating about things that your employer doesn’t necessarily need to hear about. But when you’re starting out, doing this will quickly give you a reputation of somebody who doesn’t miss any details and is always on top of it.
This will lead to more responsibility and more trust.
If you ever find yourself asking the question: “should I let my Business Partner know about this?” then the answer is yes. Nobody has ever ruined something by communicating too much, but things have been ruined by lack of communication.
A practical tip: Schedule yourself to check email at 10 am and 4 pm (or two other times that fit in your schedule). Blocking your time like this will keep you from wasting time tracking email during the day, while also allowing you to be punctual and not miss anything.
Clearing the path
In his latest book, Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday writes, “Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.”
It’s hard to know exactly what you could do that would be valuable for the company you want to work for when you’re just starting out or trying to prove your value from scratch. It can be scary when you don’t feel like you have the experience to be effective.
A good rule of thumb is to look at what somebody who currently works there is doing, and do one thing to make their job just a little bit easier. Clear the path for them to the best of your ability. Whether or not it provides real value for them, by trying it and following through, you’re showing that you’re ready to help, and you’re capable of completing a task. This goes a long way.
It can be as simple as sending them 3 good stock photos for their blog, or sending them a cold-email template along with 10 customer prospects. When they see that you are willing and capable, they will trust you, and you will eventually carve out a place for yourself and earn more responsibility.
You don’t have to get results right away – just show them that you’re willing to take on a project and follow through.
Genuinely listening to understand
The principles for building strong, meaningful relationships apply to both personal and professional relationships. Summed up, the most important thing you can do for any relationship is to genuinely listen to understand.
Be interested. Ask questions, and learn about the people you work with. The goal of this isn’t to make it seem like you care, but to actually care. Don’t fake it. Fish until you have something of interest to both of you, and develop a real connection by understanding who they are and why they do what they do.
When you approach your relationships in this way, you will:
- Truly enjoy your working relationships with people because you know them as friends and human beings.
- Become liked by almost everyone because you are able to connect with them on a human level.
When you’re just starting out, asking too many questions can make you feel like you’re inexperienced and not good enough. This is common, so you’ll have to push through that feeling and ask anyways. People realize that you’re new, and it’s more of a red flag if you stay quiet and act like you know everything already. This goes back to communicating, but there’s more to it.
If somebody at your job asks you to do something and you don’t understand why, question them. Don’t be aggressive, but if you genuinely don’t understand why, ask. You aren’t a robot who’s put there to do tasks. Creatively solving problems and bringing new, valuable ideas to the table is an opportunity to show your unique strengths, regardless of how much experience you have.
Always make sure you understand the mission of your company. If you’re just starting out, it’ll take some time for it to fully sink in. So ask questions until it sinks in. Realize that you’re doing the company a disservice if you avoid taking the extra time to fully understand the vision. If you don’t, it can be difficult to put meaningful energy into it, and the results will lack because of it.