Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Key Ingredients to a Successful Working Life

Back when I graduated in 2012 and first stepped through the doors of the Blue Fin Building, I was daunted by the prospect that this was the start of my career. Fresh out of University, I was stepping into an entirely new adult world, an unknown environment where I wasn’t sure how to act. I never imagined that now, two years on, stepping through the same doors every day that each time I would understand a little bit more about working life and how to become a successful professional.

In my last blog post, I began to share some of what I believe to be, crucial ingredients towards building a successful working life – initiative, confidence, communication and the ability to work with different people. It has taken me a while to develop these skills, not only through everyday experiences but also through my own reading, both of which have aided my personal development and made me able to write this blog post today.

So when I first entered the doors of IPC, there are things I wish someone would have told me about how to be a successful professional, but there was no fairy godmother. Instead when I stepped through the doors of IPC, I was beginning a journey of learning. One of the first successful ingredients I learnt was the significance of having initiative. Back then I had no idea how to interact with a colleague or a boss. Previous to then, the only interactions that I had were with parents, friends and teachers. So it was really in my first role as marketing assistant, when my managers gave me projects, that it became clear to me that being able to think and do for myself had to be second nature. There was no time for spoon feeding. Admittedly, I didn’t know this until my manager told me that I had to start thinking about the bigger picture. That’s part of what initiative is all about. It was not just about completing every task that was handed to me, but thinking in terms of a beginning, middle and end, anticipating potential obstacles and being proactive in all this as opposed to reactive. Once you know it, it’s easy, it’s just learning it and knowing it that’s the hard part. So I learnt early on that showing initiative and being proactive was going to be crucial if I was going to be a successful assistant.

Another thing I’ve learnt about being successful is that it’s not only what you do, but how you do it or how you act. I’ve read a few communication skills books and attended courses. The long and short of it is that tone of voice and body language counts far more (around 90%) than the words you actually say. So confidence can be faked just by the way you communicate as opposed to the words you actually communicate. Thus, you can start to present yourself as successful and be perceived that way. If  this is an area of interest for you, a great book I would recommend is How to talk to anyone by Leil Lowndes, featuring 92 little tricks for big success. There are others though, so feel free to email me for any more recommendations or visit my books page.

Finally and most vitally, the ability to work with a variety of people will count every bit towards your success. For me, it wasn’t really until when I became a PA in the advertising department, wherein everyday I was communicating with a complete mix of personalities and managed an assistant, that I truly started to understand the significance of working with different people. It’s one of those successful ingredients that I wish I had known from the get go, but it’s one of those things that is a constant. What I mean by that is you always have to work with people, and they themselves can become helpful in making you successful. I always remember this quote - ‘be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down’. There will always be challenging situations with people, but the real test is how you can positively deal with those situations and learn something from it.  

All of what I have shared above is just some of what I have learnt throughout my professional life so far. I frequently state that having a working life or career is an on going journey, so although I’ve developed skills in all the crucial ingredients above, I’m still learning everyday, which makes the whole journey that bit more interesting.

For all those recent graduates turned professionals – what have you learnt about working life? Does any of the above resonate with you?  

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