5 Things I wish I had known earlier in my career
(or: things no one talks about but I really wish they would! All of the below items sound like common sense…but it truly isn’t so common.)
1. Always thank people. Whether it is something small or large, acknowledge the work that was done.
It is truly incredible to me how many times I have seen people demand that something be done and show no appreciation for the work. I don’t care if it is a light bulb being changed or an entire project or event…acknowledge it! Make gratitude a part of the culture.
2. Insist on the use of a formalized system of performance reviews that are captured in writing.
This is especially important at non-profits and smaller companies where people are afraid of “hurting feelings” or where people fear losing their jobs because they think that this is what performance reviews are for. Performance reviews are also a method of determining career growth, assisting people with improving areas of weakness (we ALL have areas of weakness!), and having a record of your time at a company.
3. Make a habit of written praise for employees who go above and beyond.
Even if it is just a quick email to them, it is something that they can keep to put in their files to show in the future, especially when they are going for a promotion or need support when a situation might not be so pleasant. Even if you aren’t someone’s manager, that praise can mean a lot.
4. Confront conflict right away, clear the air, and ensure that the individuals can move past it.
Do not allow situations to fester. Recognize that just because you wish people would just get along, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. It isn’t easy to do this! Most people do not enjoy this part of the working world. But learning how to do work through conflict will actually make things easier in the long term, and employees will appreciate your ability to deal with the hard things.
5. Learn to balance the art of consultation with the science of standing up for what is right.
Your professional opinion could enure the success of an event/project, and you may not get credit for standing up for the right thing until years later. It’s worth it. People won’t always like it, especially if it challenges their sense of authority/ego/power. I have learned from experience that if you are a young woman with knowledge and confidence, there are people who will not be able to handle that, and who will try to undermine you. (This has not happened in my current job but I have experienced it in the last 15 years in the workforce.) Recognize it for what it is, and learn methods for moving around it without jeopardizing your job.