15 Timeless Work Habits for Career Success

Let’s say one of your kids just graduated college and
they are about to start their first real job. If they ask you how to be
successful at work – what would you tell them?

Or, you’re asked to be a mentor to a high potential up
and comer. They ask you for your best advice on how to get ahead.

You’ve only got 30 minutes. What advice would you give
them?

Here’s my list. I’ve learned these lessons through over
30 years of hard knocks, and have made a career out of helping others be
successful. A lot has changed the world of work, but I think these lessons are
just as important today.

Yours may be different – feel free to leave a comment if
you’d like to add to the list.

1.
Be on time.
While it may sounds pretty basic (like don’t
chew gum during an interview), I was in my 40s before I finally learned the
importance of this work habit the hard way. Being on time isn’t just for
important clients or your boss – it’s a way to show respect (or disrespect) for
everyone. 

2. Be
nice to people
. Or, at least just don’t be a jerk. Not
selectively nice, but consistently nice to everyone. Working with jerks is
probably the thing that people hate about their jobs the most. Don’t be one of
those people, and you’ll have a long and satisfying career. Being easy to work
with can make up for a lot of other shortcomings.

3.
Don’t trash your boss or co-workers
. Always assume whatever you
say about someone will get back to them at some point. See #2 – say nice things
behind their backs. When someone is gossiping about someone else, assume they
are gossiping about you too.

4.
Relationships are the foundation of how work gets done.
It’s
not just what you know – it’s who you know, and how well you know them. The
Chinese call it “Guanxi”. In today’s networked society and economy, I think
it’s more important now than ever.

5.
Never lose sight of what’s really
important
. Family and faith (for some) come first, and then comes
work. Yes, work hard – but don’t become a workaholic. I’ve seen too many workaholics
ruin their health, their relationships, and if they are a manager, they burn
out their employees.

6.
Every year, strive to add at least one bullet to your resume
. In
order to do that, look for “resume building” projects or challenges.

7.
If you don’t like something about your job
(or boss, or your
co-workers, etc…), you have 3 choices: Do something to make it better, accept
it, or leave. Complaining about it will only irritate your co-workers, friends,
and family and not change a thing.

8.
When it’s time to leave a job, do it gracefully
.
Never burn bridges, always take the high road, even if you feel that you’re
being treated unfairly. Remember, that next hiring manager is probably going to
want to talk to your previous bosses. Leave behind a trial of glowing
recommendations.

9. Network
ALL the time
, not just when you’re job hunting. And
remember, good networking is about looking for opportunities to help others,
not just asking others for favors.

10.
Be a proposer, not an order-taker
. Sure, we all get paid to
do as we’re told, but real success comes from coming up with new ideas, stuff
that no one’s asking for. Just keep in mind, a .250 batting average is pretty
good when it comes to acceptance of new ideas. Thanks to an awesome former
employee for reminding me about this piece of advice – it is still serving her
well in her new role.

11.
Have a can-do, positive attitude
. Look for possibilities,
not just problems. Positive and negative attitudes are extremely contagious.

12.
Be a continuous learner
. Always look for projects where you can
stretch and learn, bosses that you can learn from, opportunities to get
feedback, and have a healthy appetite for new knowledge and best practices. Make sure each new job is an opportunity to learn new stuff, not just doing the same stuff in a different place.

13.
Ask for what you want
. Don’t assume your boss or others can – or
“should” read your mind. They can’t, so it’s up to you to wave your own flag.

14.
Bring goodies to work
. This has always worked for Mrs. Great Leadership. 

15.
When faced with an ethical decision
, ask yourself: “Would I be
OK with my decision being on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper?”, instead
of: “What are the chances of getting caught?” Never compromise your ethics –
it’s the one thing where the “we get paid to do what we’re told” rule gets overruled.

I’m sure as soon as I hit the “publish” button I’ll come
up with more, but that’s probably enough of an earful for 30 minutes. Oh, and I’ll
try to say “when I was your age” too often. (-: