Career Lessons You Can Learn From 10-Year-Olds
Remember when you were little and thought that being an adult would be the most fun ever? Remember when you discovered that the ability to choose your own bedtime wasn’t so great when it came alongside your inability to choose not to pay bills?
Time for a role reversal: rediscovering your inner child could be your ticket to workplace success. Here’s how to ensure you’re always top of the class:
Put Your Hand Up
You know those kids at school who always had their hand up in the air the second a teacher asked a question? Maybe you were one of them. If so, congratulations – children who regularly raise their hands achieve more highly than their skulking peers.
While waving maniacally at your boss from your desk isn’t quite the look to go for, speaking up in the workplace brings similar benefits. Whenever you’re working on a collaborative project or find yourself in a company meeting make sure your voice is heard. Volunteer to give reports from your department, and always comment when asked for feedback and suggestions. You’ll come across as engaged and enthusiastic about your job – a big plus in the eyes of managers!
Remember that when it comes to bonuses and promotions, half the battle is about visibility. Speak up around managers and they’ll remember you.
Say Please and Thank You
Manners cost nothing, our mothers always told us, but they can pay dividends in the workplace. Are you a manager? Over two-thirds of employees say they’d show strong loyalty to a boss who regularly thanked them for the work they do. Asking for something nicely, and personalising your appreciation when someone goes above and beyond in their job makes them feel valued, and when people feel valued they work much harder.
Even those of us still dreaming of the day we have an assistant to dump our boring admin on can gain from learning the power of our P&Qs. Psychology studies have shown that showing gratitude makes people feel more positively towards you, and makes them more likely help you out. Pretty nifty for the next time you need a colleague to cover some of your workload or help you unjam the printer for the thousandth time!
Be The Teacher’s Pet
I know, I know – nobody wants to be a brown-nose. But consider this your daily dose of reality – you could have the most determinedly fair-minded boss in the entire world, and they are still more likely to promote or hire someone they like. They, like all of us, can’t help it because our brains are all stubbornly hardwired to be biased by the “halo effect”, where our overall impression of a person strongly influences our opinion of their abilities.
But before you dash down to Tescos to stock up on Granny Smiths, remember that cultivating a good relationship with your boss does not mean agreeing with every last statement they utter (“You had lasagne for dinner? That’s like the absolute best food choice ever!”) or being sickeningly sycophantic. Instead, focus on projecting a positive, proactive attitude for every task they ask you to do. If you have a genuine interest in common with them then play it up, and make a point of asking them for advice. People love to feel knowledgeable and important, and you may even get a genuinely useful insight. Just get your timing right – they won’t appreciate it if you approach them when they’re flustered or busy.
Think About What You Want To Be When You Grow Up
Chances are, long gone are the days when you dreamt of being an astronaut, a ballerina or a dinosaur. Yet adults still have career goals, and asking ourselves where we want to be one year, five years, or even fifty years from now is a great way to ensure we’re heading down the right path.
If you’re not currently in the industry or role you want to be in, consider what it is that’s preventing you from achieving what you want. Whether it’s a skill gap or a lack of experience that’s holding you back, break it down into smaller and smaller steps until you come up with something that is achievable now. So if you’d love to work with computers but don’t know how to code, start by looking up evening classes or MOOCs which fit your lifestyle and budget. By starting from the basics and building up, even the most daunting tasks can suddenly become manageable.
Just Try Your Best
The financial crisis. Falling wages. Workplace politics. An average of 85 applications for every job. For many of us, climbing the greasy pole seems more challenging than ever, and the pressure to consistently over-perform is overwhelming.
It is time we told our employees what we tell our children: nobody is the best at everything, and if you try your hardest then that is good enough. If you’re struggling with a task or feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you’re taking on, then admit it! Ask for help from colleagues, ask your boss to reassign some of your workload, ask clients which deadlines should be prioritised and which ones could be pushed back.
This may seem like a one-way ticket to unemployment, but any decent manager will appreciate your honesty. Working crazy amounts of overtime or completing a task incorrectly because you don’t understand it fully is not good for you or your company. Overworked employees are more stressed, less creative and have lower morale… all of which sends their productivity through the floor. And any project completed badly will have to be redone, costing the company in time and money.
Jobs, like school, can be boring and hard work. Follow the rules, however, and getting that promotion will seem like child’s play.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check them out if you’re looking to hire an intern or interested in graduate jobs London.