Seek, Be Taught and Teach
At Brand Connections we often hire young interns, usually fresh out of school, ready to take on the world. Having once been in their shoes, I’m often asked about the “secret to success” in business. My first and foremost advice is “Seek information and be taught.” Just because you threw the cap in the air doesn’t mean your lifelong education journey is over. Whether you’re 23 or 83, you alone control how much you apply yourself to learning and expanding your knowledge in your chosen profession. The earlier you take a proactive approach to your professional education, the more likely you will be to achieve the goals you have for yourself.
So first, take your growth into your hands and SEEK information. One common theme I notice among young people is their expectation to “be trained.” They compare notes with their former classmates about how different company training programs rate. No matter how robust a company’s training program is, some still have the expectation that every time they have a business question or are presented with a new scenario or technology, that it’s their employer’s responsibility to train them on it. My advice would be NOT to wait for someone else to teach you, ever. There is so much information readily available at your fingertips that you should make it a daily habit to research new things that have crossed your desk. Every article you read, every Wikipedia page you click, expands your knowledge and will likely set you apart from your peers. Keep a page in a notebook or a note on your tablet to jot down new terms, acronyms, or anything else unfamiliar and LOOK THEM UP! Come into the office 30 minutes early and use this uninterrupted time as your daily education session. You might just run into one of the senior executives who made it a habit to start their day early. There is no surprising correlation to early risers and successful people. You can look that up, too, if you don’t believe me.
Second, position yourself to BE TAUGHT by those in the best position to help you succeed. Mentors have to “invest” wisely. We use the word invest frequently in financial terms, with the principal that you can’t buy $100 of stock in every company on the stock exchange, so you heavy up on the ones that have the highest probability for the greatest return. The same applies to how leaders manage their time mentoring people. Someone who clearly demonstrates their strong desire to learn and ability to apply knowledge is a much better time investment than someone who has an excuse for every mistake, repeats mistakes or doesn’t seek out advice.
And remember, mentors come in many forms. An administrative assistant that takes you under their wing could help cut your learning curve about things like company culture or the best way to get noticed, for the right reasons, by the leadership team. A senior manager might be more interested in investing in your growth if you are inquisitive, show initiative and are willing to do some “grunt work” in order to be included on an important project. And most certainly DO some grunt work. Someday you will appreciate not only having done the work, earning the lessons only firsthand experience can teach, you will later appreciate no longer having to do it when you are promoted and get to hand off that responsibility to someone more junior. It seems obvious, but can’t get experience without experiencing, so go get some!
Lastly, pay it forward. Share what you’ve learned with your peers. A mentor will spend twice as much time teaching someone when they know the student will spread their knowledge. Sharing can happen in multiple ways, from calling someone over to show them something cool you discovered, to reiterating words of wisdom that were shared with you through the course of natural conversations or in other appropriate forums available at your company.