Advice to a New Hire
Earlier this year, Emma Louise Farquharson started work in her first job out of college. She is employed at Cornell University. You may recall a blog I wrote about the interview process back in February.
On the morning of her first day, it struck me that while I helped her with what came before she was hired, she was woefully unprepared for actually working in the professional world. Below is the actual email that I wrote her and her eventual response. It has nothing to do with sales but it is a good read, IMHO, and applicable to any new hire. Here goes ...
As I was sitting in the dentist’s office today, I got thinking about some suggestions for you as you start this new job. There is a way of doing business in the Real World that is unlike anything you have experienced so far, and though many of these suggestions are probably no-brainers, I’m constantly surprised at how few people follow them. Take them, ignore them, but here they are:
- Carry yourself professionally — Speak and act with integrity at all times. This should be your primary and guiding rule.
- Do not engage in gossip — Now, you might be thinking to yourself "I would never ... " but that’s what we all say, and we all fall victim to the temptation to share information or listen, and I urge you to avoid this. You will find many similarities between Cornell and Foodies when it comes to the "high school never ends" mantra that you’ve heard me repeat. People will be petty and shallow and thoughtless. You will be tempted to share some thoughts with others. Resist. Similarly, you will hear your fair share of comments regarding coworkers whom you know and don’t know. Find something nice to say in return as a way of telling that person, "I don’t gossip."
- Be careful not to talk about work outside of the lab — Let’s say you are in an elevator and a coworker asks you a question about what you are doing. Unless you are completely alone, I suggest that you hold the conversation later. I am stunned at how many people talk about the intricate intimate details of their job on airplanes, for example. Blows my mind.
- Assume that everything is confidential unless you hear otherwise — Apple does an outstanding job of training its employees about confidentiality, and I think you could take a lesson from your sister on this one. It impresses the hell out of me the way she holds in private information. She understands the need for security. Once you get labeled as a source for information, it will follow you and believe me, never serve your career advancement.
- Never badmouth another employee — Ever.
- Be appreciative — Say "Thank you" a lot and remember that the written word is more powerful than the spoken word. Most of us feel unappreciated. You will be remembered for your consideration in this area.
- Be curious — Certainly you want to ask about your job and the intricacies, but remember that people love talking about themselves and their families and their backgrounds. Listen without comment. Ask questions and instead of following up by providing information on your own, ask another question. This is the shortest distance between you and workplace popularity.
- Take Tim McGraw’s advice: Be humble and kind.
There is an old story about Henry Ford, a tyrannical employer who used to test his new employees by handing them a sealed envelope and issuing these instructions: Do not open this and do not give it to anyone else but me. Keep it safe. Sometime later, he would send one of his assistants to collect the envelopes from the new employees. If they handed them over, they were terminated on the spot. After all, Ford told them not to give them over to anyone but him. It was a cruel test but an effective one.
These are just a few pieces of fatherly advice that I hope you consider. You are a Professional now, and as such you must elevate your game to a professional level. Just like in high school, you will gain a reputation at work. Who do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived? What do you want others to say about you? Your personality will shine through as will your passion. That comes naturally to you and you have made everything better and everyone around you better in every job that you have ever done. The next level requires a new set of rules that can only come from maturity. You can take years to learn them on your own or you can take these thoughts and use them as a starting point.
I know that you will do great and hope that these suggestions are of value to you.
I love you, Emma ...
This was great to read. I have already been tempted to gossip, but I end up saying something nice. Or I'll ask about the social dynamic of something but I follow it with something positive I've noticed about them. I overuse thank you, and I am very positive.
But I definitely think I'm not sure what is considered confidential. I am lucky because the stuff I do is detailed and I know most people don't understand, so I don't explain in detail.
Thanks for the advice.
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