Happy Halloween and happy work anniversary to me. October 31st is the anniversary of my first official day working full time. Since that first day I found myself walking into a corporate Bay Street office, I have definitely learned a few career and life lessons.
* Always be careful what you say and do outside of the office. On the Saturday evening before starting my first full time job, my friends and I found ourselves on a subway platform for an evening on the town. Little did I know when I arrived at work on Monday, one of my new colleagues greeted me by saying they saw me at the Eglinton TTC station on Saturday night. Luckily in my case, it was a great conversation starter and made me feel welcome immediately. He became my first work friend who sadly passed away four years ago but I will forever remember how welcome he made me feel.
* First impressions matter so getting the first day an employee starts right is so important. Remember to introduce your new team member to everyone, invite them to lunch with the team in advance so they aren’t eating on their own, set up their work station with supplies and have an agenda for them. Make the environment inclusive and inviting.
* When speaking about others, never use names in public for privacy and confidentiality.
* Remember you will not always become friends with everyone you work with nor will everyone like you. Many will not care for you. Learn not to take it personally.
* Don’t burn bridges. The world is small and a good or bad reputation in the workplace will follow you. One never knows one day who might be on the other end of an interview. Aim to be professional, a team player and kind and you will earn the respect of others whether they like you or not.
* Avoid gossiping, backstabbing, bullying, sabotaging and throwing others under the bus. Take the high road. Do not get caught up in these destructive and toxic behaviours nor promote them. We all need to do our part to create happy, respectful workplaces.
* Never say it isn’t my job.
* Dress for the position you aspire to or at the very least to impress. Always dress up for any job interviews, informational meetings and the first day of work. If you can wear it to the nightclub or the beach, do not wear it to work. First impressions matter. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask someone with a fashion sense you admire for tips.
* Always be nice to the receptionist. They are the most important person you will ever meet when you have an interview.
* Please, thank you, excuse me, saying good morning and asking how someone is goes a long away in business and in life. Manners never go out of style. Take an interest in others and get to know them personally. I remember once working for a team where no one acknowledged you or said good morning. I vowed to never be that person. Connecting with others makes a world of difference.
* Always take notes. When you get busy and have too many things on your mind, you will forget.
* Don’t hide behind email and social media. Pick up the phone or meet people in person. Face to face interactions help build relationships.
* Always use formal business communication in the workplace. Leave the text talk and emoticons for your friends and family. Don’t send emails when you are angry and always read them for tone to ensure they do not come across as rude or abrasive. If your verbal and written communication skills need improvement, commit to working on them. They are an essential skill in the workplace and in life and will serve you well. In my first job, I was lucky enough to have my team member critique my written correspondence and it helped me to become a better writer. I continue to work on it today and am forever thankful to her for that lesson.
* People get hired on technical skills but often fired because of their soft skills and inability to get along. Emotional intelligence is very important in the workplace.
* If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it. Be proactive to come up with a solution to change it or move on. Negativity leads to toxic environments.
* Trust your instincts.
* Just because your friends are taking a certain career or education path does not mean you need to. Determine what your strengths are, what you are passionate about and what will make you excited to go to work everyday. Follow that path.
* Always be learning formally and informally. If there is an area you want to learn about, tap into a subject matter expert to discover more. If are looking to grow in your career or struggling to move into a new area, sign up for continuing education classes or gain your experience via a volunteer position. In my opinion, if you’re not learning, you’re dead. Be curious and ask questions. Knowledge is power.
* Always take time to share your knowledge with a new graduate, someone growing in their career or a newcomer to Canada. We were all in similar positions at some point. Commit to sharing your learnings with others.
* Take your vacation time. While you may not have the budget to travel, take the time to recharge and take care of you. This is absolutely essential for your own health and wellness.
* Do not spend all your time working that you miss out on having a life. There will never be enough hours in the day to do everything. Your job will not love you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Life is short and retirement is not a given. Live life without regrets.
* YOU are your brand. Determine what your life values are, your own personal mission statement and your life compass. Live and breathe your brand.
* Building a resume is not the same as building a legacy. Decide what you want your legacy to be and constantly be in pursuit of it.
* Be authentic. Never be a cookie cutter version of someone else. Be YOU!
Without a doubt, the most important life lessons I learned were from my amazing role models – my parents. They both moved to Canada from Finland as children and taught both my brother and I to work hard, to be interested in others and to treat them as you would want to be treated. Important lessons that have definitely guided me in work and life too.