It’s been nearly 30 years since I left a college campus and entered the cube. But I have enjoyed every minute of it. I have had the good fortune to work with a lot of wonderful people, in all corners of the globe, and on some very exciting assignments with a variety of clients. Most of that time with Ogilvy & Mather, an international marketing and communications firm.
From my perspective as an employer, team leader, client service manager, partner and boss, I have seen a handful of traits or characteristics that turn up in employees that we know are going to succeed. Here are a few them to keep in mind as you enter the work force:
- Intellectual curiosity and passion. Great ideas and insights are the currency of many businesses in today’s economy, and ideas can come from employees at all levels of a company. Wouldn’t it be great if you brought great ideas forward in your first year in the workforce? You can, and you should. But great ideas rarely come from passive observers of the world outside your window. Stay curious. Read the newspaper. Remain current on issues that interest you and your employer.
- No job is too big or too small. Just this morning, I opted to walk three blocks to deliver a package rather than send someone else or hire a delivery service. It’s easy to fall victim to the “that’s below me” syndrome, and take a far too self-important view of yourself as you climb the corporate ladder. Remember, a well-functioning team culture is a huge asset, and people tend to like working with others who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done. No matter what it is.
- Grit under pressure. Deadlines, financial pressure, high expectations—these are all part of an average day at any job. From a start-up to a Fortune 500 company, tense moments are not partial and happen in all working environments. The people who succeed are able to perform under that pressure, and keep a positive and collegial demeanor. A colleague of mine once said, “we are looking for Navy Seals, not baby seals.” I am sure you get the point. People who can handle pressure without complaint are noticed and turned to for bigger and bigger assignments.
- Honey attracts more flies than vinegar. This is a saying that my own mother taught me, that isn’t too far from the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. As I look at some of my most successful colleagues and peers, all of them are a pleasure to be with at work and afterwards. Don’t misread the message here and assume I am saying that a party attitude will take you places professionally. It won’t. But a combination of charm, grace and charisma are key ingredients of professional success.
- Lastly, pick up the phone and make the call. Or better yet, deliver the message in person. A personal interaction will always drive better results than a cold text or an email. I have always opted to walk, drive or fly somewhere to sit with a client or colleague rather than send an email. Of course, some communications are absolutely appropriate for electronic channels, but when it’s really important make the effort to do it in person.
Good luck. And keep a positive attitude.