Even though plenty has changed since the days we, the parents, were entering the job market, the important things havenít. The fundamentals of hard work, integrity, respect, perseverance, and so forth still lead to successóso when advising your child, feel free to draw on your own experiences.
Make a point to have a conversation about the lessons you think he or she most needs to take to heartóperhaps over a celebratory dinner or while packing up their dorm room. Most of all, help your child to understand that when you live and work by a code thatís shaped by values, integrity, dedication, and a true team spirit, you will set yourself apart from the other rookies in a way that gets you hired, recognized, and promoted.
Here are the final 12 tips to share with your child (read the first 10 here).
1. Know when to look after your own interests. In my book, The Bigs, I share how my bossís boss, Mack, reacted when I announced my intention to resign my position and move to another company: After gliding confidently around the ring a few times, he settled on a plan of attack and started swingingónot wildly, but with deliberate and measured blows. A right jab, "youíre making a huge mistake" Öa left jab, "that firm is too small" Ösetting me up for a right uppercut, "you will regret this." For 10 minutes Mack worked me over the best he could.
If Iíd been a newbie, I might have believed that Mack really did have my best interests in mind. Fortunately, I was six years into my career and had already changed jobs twice, so this Mack Attack didnít faze me. I knew that Mack didnít care about me or what was best for my career; he was working toward the best interests of the company.
I certainly donít hold that against Mack, but the incident did serve as an important lesson that you should pass on to your graduate: Look after your own career interests. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
2. Own your mistakes. No matter how much you know or how hard you try, you are going to make mistakes as you pursue your career. The question is, how will you handle them? I caution all graduates not to follow in the footsteps of a former coworker I refer to as "Never," who never took responsibility for any mistakes and never apologized for anything.
Never was actually very good at what she did, but her insistence on passing the blame and refusing to admit her errors cost her all of the respect, support, and goodwill she could have earned. Hereís the lesson: Refusing to own your mistakes doesnít make you seem more competent; it reveals cowardice, callousness, and untrustworthiness.
Tell your child that if they are a hardworking, valued employee, when they do own up to mistakes, their confession will be viewed as a sign of strength, not weakness, by co-workers. Plus, theyíll be in a position to learn and improve.
3. Be a good steward of the "little" things. For example, always proofread your e-mails for errors before pressing "send." Donít leave voicemails unanswered at the end of the day. Keep your desk and computer files organized. Call your clients to share progress, even when a report isnít required.
Most people donít think much of letting the so-called "little thingsí slide." They think itís okay to cut "unimportant" corners. So when your child pays attention to small, often-overlooked details, they'll distinguish them self from the pack. Trust me, putting in just a little more work than most people are willing to is a great way to propel yourself toward success.
4. If you want to be a leader, act like one. If your graduateís goal is to be at the forefront of their fieldís innovation and growth, they may feel discouraged when their first job is composed of tasks a trained monkey could do. But donít let them succumb to the Iíll never get there from here or the What I do in this position doesnít matter line of thinking. Instead, advise them to get a head start developing the leadership qualities theyíll need in the future.
The best way to move up in the ranks is to lead in whatever position youíre in now. Even if youíre the lowest man or woman on the totem pole, you can still display leadership qualities like having integrity and a good attitude, providing others with helpful feedback, and treating them with respect. The fact is, very few employees consistently show leadership skills. If youíre the exception from day one, the Powers That Be will notice.
5. Do what you say youíre going to do, when you say youíre going to do it. One basic requirement for doing an outstanding job is to handle all your work-related tasks, large or small, in a timely manner. Tell your graduate that if her job is to get a report done by Friday, get it done by Friday. If HR asks her to fill out a form today, do it promptly.
Yes, meeting deadlines sounds like a no-brainer. But youíd be surprised by how many professionals donít live by this rule. I canít tell you how many times Iíve been handed excuses and requests for extensions instead of the finished product. But I can tell you that that type of behavior is not going to do your child any favors in the workplace.
“ Even if someone is a pest, rude, or stupid, instruct your child to always treat him or her respectfully.”
6. Donít let anyone have anything negative to say about you. Over the course of their careers, many people encounter individuals whose opinions they think donít matter and whose actions they think wonít impact them. These people may also believe their position gives them license to dispense with politeness and consideration. Beware: Those assumptions could get your child into big trouble. In many companies, for example, the most hated people are the assistants who treat people in a high-handed way because they work for the boss.
Everyone your child comes in contact with should have a positive experience with them. Even if someone is a pest, rude, or stupid, instruct your child to always treat them respectfully. One day your child may be working with, or for, that person. Also, mention that how their boss views them will be heavily influenced by what people in the company tell that boss.
7. Donít complain about your job to your co-workers. There will be plenty of things your child wonít like about their first (and second, and fifth) job. But complaining about them around the water cooleróeven if they have a very sympathetic audienceóis never a good idea.
If negative comments get back to your childís boss, they will develop a reputation for unprofessional behavior. Moreover, their boss will wonder why they didnít talk directly to them. Anytime your child is unhappy with something at work, whether itís their workload, the tasks being given, or how they're being treated by a co-worker, instruct them to bring those concerns directly to their supervisor. If they feel that isnít possible, tell them to continue to do the best job they can while looking for a more suitable position.
8. A single act can ruin your great reputation. In The Bigs, I tell the story of a client called "Hoops." Friendly and accommodating, Hoops taught me a lot about the bond market and achieved an impressive level of personal success. However, one bad decisionónot disclosing a sales arrangement to his firmóknocked him out of the game forever. What might have been a negotiated discount was now an illegal kickback. Hoops never recovered.
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but a single act can destroy it. Most mistakes can be corrected and donít do lasting damage to a personís reputation or career. However, some things cannot be undone, and, unfortunately for Hoops, his transgression was one of those. Donít allow your child to play fast and loose with their reputation. Make sure they don't assume that "it will never happen to me." Tell them not to do anything they would be embarrassed to see as a headline on the evening news!
9. Donít pick fights you canít win. Fighting in the office is a bad idea, period. It makes people unhappy and unproductive and is a huge waste of time and energy. Nevertheless, serious office disputes are a fact of life for many people at some point during their careers. Tell your child that if they ever feel the pressing need to take on a co-worker, to do so only if they know with certainty they will win.
While I was the CEO of my firm, an employee Iíll call Mr. Nuts began bragging to his co-workers that he soon expected to have my job! Now, Mr. Nuts had a sledgehammer way of dealing with people and the bad reputation that comes along with it. I had tried to coach him on how better to deal with others, but the lessons never seemed to take. So, when I found out he had turned on his one supporteróme!óI couldnít believe it. The next workday was Mr. Nutsís last day at that company.
I still shake my head in amazement that this man thought he could pick a fight with a CEO and get away with it. Admittedly, thatís an extreme example, but you and your graduate can take this lesson away from it: Donít do anything that could antagonize someone who has the power to influence the direction of your career.
10. Donít badmouth your co-workers. This is my personal golden rule for business: Never say anything negative about anybody in your office. Pass it on to your graduate: Donít vent about your boss in the break room. Donít gripe about your co-worker with the rest of the team. Donít even make fun of Johnís crazy tie, unless heís right there laughing with you.
These comments have a way of getting back to the people theyíre about. One of the things Iím most ashamed of in my career is badmouthing a colleague for no good reason. The things I said had a negative effect on our working relationship for years, until I finally reached out with a heartfelt apology. And guess what? Even if the other person never becomes aware of what you said, your colleagues will still make judgments about your character based on your willingness to bash someone else behind his or her back.
11. Live within your means. Like many young people who are just beginning to support themselves, your graduate may think that their personal finances (whether good or bad) wonít impact their life in the workplace. Thatís wishful thinking, especially if your child is struggling to stay solvent. It can be difficult to check personal stressors at the office door, meaning that if they're worried about money, their anxiety might impact focus, performance, and even the values they apply to their work.
You probably know from personal experience that the easiest path to achieving financial security, or at least reducing financial stress, is to discipline your spending habits. Hereís what I told my own child: "If thereís any way you can help it, donít spend more than you earn. If you donít yet make a lot of money, donít acquire a taste for expensive things. I promise you will be happier in a small apartment, driving an older car, drinking cheap wine than you will be in a big apartment, driving a fancy car, drinking expensive wine, and having to worry about how to pay for it all."
12. Donít forget to have fun. Finally, remind your graduate that while they'll need to put her nose to the grindstone, they shouldnít forget to remove it every once in awhile!
I mean it! While work should certainly be a priority, itís also important to have fun and disengage every once in awhile. The fuller and more satisfying your childís life is in general, the more effective they'll be at work. Plus, part of living a happy life is having friends and family to share it with.
Related Article: Part 1, Tips 1-10
Ben Carpenter is author of "The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Start a Business, and Live a Happy Life." He began his career as a commercial lending officer at the Bankers Trust Company. Two years later he joined Bankers Trustís Primary Dealer selling U.S. Treasury bonds. After a brief stop at Morgan Stanley, Ben joined Greenwich Capital, which, during his 22-year career there, became one of the most respected and profitable firms on Wall Street. At Greenwich Capital, Ben was a salesman, trader, sales manager, co-chief operating officer, and co-CEO. Currently, Ben is the vice chairman of CRT Capital Group, a 300-person institutional broker-dealer located in Stamford, CT. He resides with his wife, Leigh, and three daughters in Greenwich, CT. For more information, visit www.thebigswebsite.com.