first-year professionals

each day i get e-mails from linkedin about articles that might interest me professionally.  today i clicked to read kathy caprino’s insight to the 7 negative behaviors of first-year professionals that limit their success.  before you go any further in my post, take about four minutes to go read hers.

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done reading it?  excellent!

i myself was a first-year professional just about five years ago now.  fresh out of college from the university of georgia, i had no idea what the real world held for me.  i knew how to be polite, how to treat people more senior to me, and the basic do’s and don’t’s of professionalism.  what i found was the case, though, was that i had to twist and turn to find my role in a place where i had no experience.  luckily i came into an organization that was fairly small (only about 40 employees at the time) and was thrilled to get their hands on young, untapped brainpower.

our company continues to bring in recent university graduates, as our college-hire program has proven to be a wild success over the past seven years.  we’ve created a place where younger minds can freely explore the different offerings in our workplace, truly promoting a “sky’s the limit” mentality.  many of us are still here while others have gone on to pursue their passions in different positions.

this article piqued my interest mainly because i have had the chance to observe the first-years around me.  after reading caprino’s article, i, a former first-year, can say she has literally hit the nail on the head.  hm, how about that?  i think it’s an interesting thing when someone with the first-year experience in the not-so-distant past has the self-awareness to say that these things about our generation are true.  they may not be completely inclusive or applicable to all first-years, but to a very specific point, there is much to be gained from this insight.

the points that i see most around me and think are most detrimental are items 1, 2, and 5, all of which i feel go hand-in-hand with one another.  it’s that word, that feeling of ‘entitlement’ that makes me go bonkers.  you don’t even have to use that word for me to know that’s how you feel.  so you passed some tests and think you deserve a raise?  well, let me burst your sweet little bubble, darling:  obtaining certifications is part of your job.  yes, they make you more valuable to a degree, but can you prove that knowledge in a client-facing situation?  i need you to show me your skills rather than talk about them, for what good is talk without the game to back it up?

we all have to start somewhere, and even though you may not like it, most organizations have some type of structure in place to define where you begin and where you can go.  depending upon your experience, professional or educational, you have to do the work to earn the paycheck and, as applicable, the promotion that may come with it.  proving this worth comes with its fair share of responsibility, much of which is out of your control at times.  as they say, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you that really defines your character.  your character is largely affected by your work ethic, and if you don’t have that, then why should we keep you around?

now as for me?  i don’t have a single person who reports to me.  i’m a consultant and am not in a position of management, but i can tell you with certainty that if i notice any of these traits in you, then folks in upper-level positions are definitely aware of them as well.

i believe that the root of these traits is largely attributed in the way a person was raised, but that doesn’t mean i’m here to point out who was parented better.  i’m here to say that if you read through these traits and feel any of them apply to you, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself why.  then, if you truly want to better yourself and the future of your career, do something about it.  look at how other first-years behave and interact with others and then figure out if you yourself can mirror it.  talk to successful people and ask them about their experiences as young professionals and why they believe they are excelling.

if you do the same thing you’ve always done, you’ll get the same thing you’ve always gotten.  to further that point, you’ll also feel the same way you’ve always felt.  self-improvement is a cross we carry all our own.  it’s up to you if something changes.

“the death of business casual”

okay, so i don’t think i would really consider myself a fashionista.  i simply don’t have enough free time to read through style magazines, watch e!, or peruse the racks at tj maxx and marshall’s for steals on designer brands.

but!  i do know how to put myself together, and thanks to my dad’s critical eye, i know what works with what and what needs to be worn where.  after being in the corporate world for nearly five years now, i also have plenty of experience dressing for clients and colleagues and c-level personnel.  i don’t let my personal style suffer too much, but sometimes you do what you gotta do.

now, with all of this being said, i came across a very interesting article on linkedin today for the men in the audience.  mr. rob madelmayer takes a very quick look at what the styles of corporate men once were and how they compare to what you gentlemen are sporting today.  his generalization is just that, a generalization, but it evoked a moment of pause in my afternoon to think a little more on it.

i will never forget my first day at work, back in june 2010, when my then coworker emmanuel showed up to the office in a suit and tie.  this man knew how to dress himself, and he was looking sharp, and even though a couple of more senior folks gave him a little jab about it, i think a certain level of respect was nearly instantaneous because, whether we like to admit it or not, first impressions do matter.  throughout his time at my company, he continued to dress for success, and it is something people continue to remember about him even though he hasn’t worked here in almost three years.

you might want to say that looks don’t matter, but the clothes you put on your body say a lot about who you are.  they tell, or maybe don’t tell, people “hey, i looked in the mirror this morning and was confident this outfit would be an acceptable way to present myself.”  and even if you never meet a person, if they see you in the grocery store or the local sub shop for lunch, what do you think they’d have to say?

just a little food for thought.