As I move toward closer to the end of my working career I thought I would put together some advice for those entering or recently begun your careers…

I suppose these observations are from the many working environments that I’ve been involved in over the course of my career.

Ranging from local smaller companies to large international corporations they all have similarities but more importantly opportunities for those of you ready to grow your career.

From executive corporate roles to hands on roles I’ve always kept true to my mantra of leading by example.  This means not being afraid to get your hands dirty and diving in.

By doing this you often come away with a unique perspective and understanding of the day-to-day challenges your teams face.

Not quite the undercover boss but rolling up your sleeves and working side by side enables you to see the impact of your decisions and directives within the organization.

Truth be told I learned this approach indirectly from my dad.  Although he was a labourer his entire working life he knew deep down what it took.

He would often complain that the “higher ups” had no idea what was going on the front lines.  His frustration was palpable on quite a few occasions…

Here are some thoughts to sef-reflect upon.

My advice to a new graduate or someone coming into a role for the first time is to find a mentor within your new organization.

This may take a little time, because whether you like it or not you have to prove yourself first.

Not just by showing up, but by critically thinking about your role and what you can do to improve it, but also to go beyond and delivery real value on a consistent basis.

Your mentor can help guide and coach you but also help you navigate the internal politics.  Whether we like it or not there will always be some form of politics to work around, they are there to help.

Identifying your mentor can be answered by these three questions:

  1. Do they believe in you and support you?
  2. Do they have personal credibility within the organization?
  3. Are they action oriented and seen as successful by their peers and team?

It’s important to note that this relationship is a two-way street, and that your support for them is equally as valuable.

The next piece of advice is that when you join a new organization take the time to understand the expectations of your role and that of your manager, as they may be slightly different…

Too many times I’ve witnessed a disconnect and the implications of this.

Clearly, it’s important to understand your role, the expectations, timeline and key deliverables but just as important is the ability to have an immediate positive impact while aligning with your boss.

Most organizations will give you between 45 and 90 days to find your feet but know this.  Howeverm, if you’re a contractor your timeline is significantly shortened…

The way I’ve found to do this is to “roll up the sleeves and dive in” often head first.  Being accountable and owning outcomes is what makes the difference between being on a team and leading a team.

My advice is to not sit back and wait for an invitation, but to look for ways early and often to jump in and help drive outcomes.

Don’t be afraid to lead or be a great second.

As you absorb these tips one that is often overlooked are your listening and observational skills.

Yes, it’s important to be action oriented and decisive in your decision-making however without fully understanding the situation or desired outcomes it can be disruptive.  

Most important is to listen, ask questions as you seek to understand before giving your advice.

Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed way too many consultants talk before really understanding the problem they are trying to solve …

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but as a leader its vital that you are cool, calm and collected and more often than not the voice of reason.

Consider all the facts and take advice from those around you, remember you don’t have to take their advice but seek counsel from a broad range of voices.

There have been times during my career where others have confused my passion for being overly aggressive in the workplace.

I’m cognizant of this and have to temper my enthusiasm and look for balance… easier said than done when you’re in the heat of the moment with deadlines and competing priorities.

Important to take stock in moments like this…

Also, building relationships is an vital to your long term career growth and trajectory.

My advice is to deliver on your promises and don’t get stressed on who gets the credit, remember your success is built collectively with others on your team.

The accolades and recognition will come with consistency and focus over time.

I often see newer employees come into organizations at or near entry level and want to be in the c-suite by next month.  Stay patient with your career and your expectations around it.

Finally, learn as much as you can in your current role all the while working toward your next role.

Now, that role may or may not be with your current organization and that’s okay.

The hardest part is understanding what you want and equipping yourself with the requisite skills and capabilities to take on that next role.

Don’t be afraid to take the leap and move if you believe you have what it takes.

Remember you drive your own success…now and always!

Stay hungry.