Tuesday, July 27, 2004

SMART SKILLS
Promise less, deliver more in a new job
Usha Albuquerque

Sagarika had completed her MBA from one of the most prestigious business schools. She got a job in a leading multinational bank as well. However, at the workplace she began to show a lot of arrogance and attitude. She had several teething problems and became very unpopular with her colleagues. So much so that she was politely asked by her boss to put in her paper. Despite being so well-qualified Sagarika couldnít keep her job!

In today's world of cutthroat competition, it is just not enough to get a good job. It has become almost necessary to master the skill of keeping that job. An MBA degree alone does not equip you completely to be successful in a new job. You might still have a hard time accepting the new environment and the companyís manner of functioning. Hence, it is important for you to keep a few ground rules in mind.

When starting off on a job, most people make the mistake of thinking that because they are professionally qualified, they have learnt a lot and know everything. Although it is true that formal education is an asset, you must also remember that nobody is a perfect manager from day one. The first six months in an organisation are particularly crucial for any new employee. It is a sort of test period wherein you can either make or mar your career, particularly since you are constantly being watched by your colleagues and seniors. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the following guidelines in mind:

Donít be arrogant

Keep a close guard against intellectual arrogance. You may be equipped with a professional degree and the people who are there before you may not have your degree. But that does not necessarily give you an edge over them. These people have been there in the organisation and are familiar with its problems. And this is something that you still have to learn.

Identify power centres

Recognise the power structures that exist within the workplace. You must remember that designations do not always convey the real power and authority of an individual. The senior-most employee may not always be the most powerful. In certain organisations, the secretary of a senior officer may be the most powerful, and in others, the Public Relations Officer may have the power to get anybody recruited, promoted or sacked. So you must try and recognise such power structures and hierarchies. Therefore, it is important to keep your ears open and listen a lot.

Show warmth

Develop an attitude of warmth and friendliness. You should cultivate an amicable temperament in order to win over people. Make an effort to show that you are receptive and willing to learn. Also, donít be afraid to indicate ignorance where you are ignorant. But at the same time, you must also know where to draw the line. You can be friendly without becoming familiar. At work you must learn to keep your professional distance.

Focus on work

Concentrate on your job. You must concentrate on doing your job well, which is what you have been recruited for. And once you produce results, then colleagues and co-workers will automatically respect you.

Attend office parties

Make it a point not to miss any official get-together. Official get-togethers and parties are the ideal occasions for you to build official contacts and linkages. Attending these also helps a great deal in understanding the organization and its people.

Tour field areas

Tour extensively. It may be advisable, particularly in large organisations, to tour extensively so that you know the key field people personally. This will help you perform more effectively at work and if you make just one telephone call, it is likely to produce more results than a series of inter-office memos.

Be in good books of boss

Make an effort to understand your boss. Your boss holds the key to your success and therefore you must know his/her likes and dislikes, style and values. You must observe, learn and imbibe from your boss and work towards maintaining a good relationship with him/ her.

Donít create very high expectations. Always remember that it is better to promise less and deliver more than to promise more and deliver less.

Watch out for traps

Be careful of traps within the organisation. You must also remember that as a newcomer, you are not always welcome. It is quite likely that your appointment may have made several other managers unhappy. Some may be unhappy because they did not get the job and others may just be jealous of your professional reputation. These people may be waiting to lay traps for you to discredit your position at work.

Know when to leave

Know when to quit the job. If you feel that the new organisation is corrupt, or unable to provide the challenge and satisfaction you are seeking, you must immediately know when to resign. There is no point in prolonging your stay in such an organisation.

More importantly, when you join a new job, remember that it is only a beginning. You still have a long way to go. So, ask yourself what you want out of life and your career. Where do you plan to be 10 years later? What will give you job satisfaction? And what is the kind of legacy that you want to leave behind? `85 It is basically answers to these questions that will decide your career path and the way you work.

The writer has authored The Penguin India Career Guide and The Essential Career Guide