On-the-Job Basics

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A friend told me about some office gossip she heard at work the other day. Apparently a new employee (who shall go unnamed) with an eclectic sense of fashion featured prominently as a reason for the issuing of a dress code reminder. Sure, the employee is young. First office job out of school, etc. I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of things you need to know in order to make it in corporate America that aren’t on most college curriculums. But come on. If you just started at the company, why are you wearing wrinkled khakis and dirty Birkenstocks without socks?


If you recognize even a hint of yourself in that description, or you’re fond of continuous instant messaging, surfing the net, taking extended smoke breaks and yakking on the company phone? We need to have a talk about the basics. (I’ve got one more head shaker from the unnamed slob at the end of the blog.)


My friend’s gossip, which is by no means unique and can be heard in offices of all sizes across various industries outside of IT, makes me wonder how many of us have got the fundamentals down. I bring you, “On the Job Basics,” or things to master before you move on to the big stuff.


You don’t have to be the smartest person in the company to have your contributions acknowledged and compensated. You just need to know how to work smart and do your job well.


Be willing to learn and to improve. Be quiet and listen. Observe. You can pick up so much just by taking a close look around your environment. Learning is part and parcel of IT professionals’ make up. It’s why you pursue certifications, advanced degrees, on-the job training, mentoring, etc. Never think that you can’t improve. Even if you think you’ve mastered something. There is always a way the process can be improved.


Appearance matters. Be well groomed. That means the beard is shaved or neatly trimmed, hair is shiny with health not grease, fingernails are clean and cut if not manicured (no pinky Coke nails, please!). Clothes should be clean and hopefully wrinkle-free. How you look or don’t look makes a strong impression, and your appearance is one of those unspoken things that can hold you up from moving ahead.


Be professional. Punctuality, stick-to-it-iveness, follow-through, attention to quality and detail, organization, team- and relationship-building skills, attitude…all of these things and more are characteristics of your professional image. And don’t underestimate the value of soft skills.


Oh, and if your supervisor comes over and you’re on a personal call, don’t take the phone away from your ear and say, “Yeah?”

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