Congratulations on securing your new position. In many respects, it is probably a relief for you, having achieved your objective after what is often a time consuming and emotionally draining job search. The following “Top Ten Tips on How to Help You Keep Your Job” are presented in order to help you preserve that investment of energy and resources.
While it is hoped that your job will provide a professionally and financially rewarding experience, it is unrealistic that from now on, it will always be “easy street”. The recruitment and interview process through which you have been put was a way of introducing yourself to your employer and the employer’s way of providing you with a hopefully realistic portrayal of the job. However, even in the most comprehensive selection process, it is impossible to learn everything about one another. In addition, there are many situations foreseen and unforeseen which had not taken place. Therefore, it is important for you to grow together.
While it might be obvious to some, it is critical that you obtain a formal letter of offer from your employer before starting a job. This letter will define the nature of the job, the terms and scope of the employment relationship, and the compensation package. This is a formal agreement which protects both employer and employee in their respective roles. Please note that an offer letter is not a “contract” as in most cases, there is employment-at-will and therefore no job indefinitely. But, without an offer letter, there is no agreement and no stable job.
From time to time, you will be confronted with situations that will be challenging. Some of the challenges will be interpersonal. Conflicts may arise between you and a co-worker, a supervisor, a peer, or a direct report. Some conflicts are professional; others are personal. Conflicts are never pleasant. However, to expect that they will never come up, even in the best of jobs, is totally unrealistic. It’s part of life! The objective is to manage the conflicts effectively and be able to move on. There is no single formula that can be followed which will guarantee success. In addition, there are some short-term resolutions that are also incomplete. Open and honest communication, give-and-take, accepting feedback, and respect are all part of the equation. This applies to the first day, first week, and throughout one’s employment with an organization. The ultimate objective as an employee is to demonstrate that you are trying your best and seek to contribute to the organization. While you might have valid ideas about how best to perform your job, those ideas are not always shared by management, right or wrong. You have to know your place.
Especially in today’s economic climate, it is quite common for organizations to try to try to get by with less staff. This has led to increased workloads and longer hours. Those hours and the demands for your productivity will likely not be identical to previous employment contexts in which you have been. This applies to those who have been in the workplace before and certainly applied for those new to the workplace.
The myth that your job will be rewarding often is a precursor for your contemplating “next steps”. Reacting to conflict by leaving the situation is almost never the best response. You could walk away from the situation by quitting or resigning. You can also leave a job by withdrawing psychologically, emotionally “checking out”, or demonstrating avoidance. (Avoidance often leads to quitting or being terminated.) Leaving a job voluntarily without having a solid offer on the table is not only financially catastrophic, but can also be a career killer. No potential employer wants to hear a candidate for employment speak negatively about a previous employer, as it can reflect not having been a team player. In addition, leaving a job after a relatively short stint will invariably need to be explained to potential employers in an interview or cover letter. This does not show employment stability and commitment on one’s resume. Those who have been successful in their careers will invariably have a track record of consistency, stability, and longevity. So, you should seriously consider the consequences of leaving and try to make the best of your situation.
One productive strategy is to speak with mentors or other individuals who have preceded you to be a sounding board for your issues. The fact that they have “been there, done that” will provide you with valuable advice in coping. Seek their counsel and take their recommendations seriously. Experience is packaged with wisdom.
I have put together a list of “Top 10” tips that will help you remain a valued employee of your organization.
Tip Number 10 – Know what is expected of you.
Almost every job changes or regularly evolves. The job that you started with a few years ago has probably changed. It’s very easy to fall back into the idea that the job you started with, is the job that you currently have. As a step to improve your position and your job, it is highly suggested that you periodically talk to your boss or other superiors to find out what they really expect of you now and what they really want to see you accomplish in the future.
Tip Number 9 – Don’t gossip on the job.
It’s always been a good idea not to gossip anywhere, either at home or away from home. It could very well be that in an employment setting, that gossiping is an easy way to lose your job. First of all, if others hear you speaking that way, you give him the impression that you have very little in the way of values. If he/she sees you sitting around gossiping about other people, it will convey a certain attitude about you not to mention that you seem to have time on your hands. It is also possible that the one you are criticizing or complaining about could wind up being your next new boss. It goes without saying that in today’s age, one never wants to put any such discussion into email. This creates a “paper trail” which is stored on the company’s server and can be forwarded to others with your identify ascribed to it. So, think carefully before putting anything into email. While you should avoid gossip, you should not be totally oblivious to “office politics”. You need to be aware of office politics and you should not spend your work life “living under a rock”. Be aware of changes in management, policy, and developments in that particular business sector.
Tip Number 8 – Have a positive attitude.
You don’t want to give people with whom or for whom you work, the impression that the only reason that you are there at the job is to collect your paycheck. You don’t want to be viewed as an unmotivated person with a negative work ethic. It is quite possible that when staff reductions are to be made, management may first look at those with a negative attitude, especially if the sentiment is polluting the work atmosphere. Don’t send the message to the effect that since you don’t like to be there anyway, you will accept a layoff.
Tip Number 7 – (Constantly) update your skill set
You can always make time to research recent developments in your field, read a book, read a journal, or take a class, in order to improve your skill set. Some companies offer access to training classes for those who ask as well as tuition reimbursement for courses (and degrees) which are relevant to the job. Keep current with technology in general and specifically that which relates to your field. Don’t create an image that you are “old school” or anachronistic. The more value you are to your employer, the more likely you are to keep your job. Keeping current demonstrates a level of enthusiasm and desire to do well in your job. Obviously, if you do well, so does your organization.
Tip Number 6 – If possible, take on more work or responsibility.
It also reflects well on you if you take on additional responsibility or at least offer to do so. This might mean taking work home, staying after hours. Doing this can help convey the impression that you are indispensable. If you send a message things can’t get done without you, you’re less likely to be subject to a staff reduction. The opposite of this is of course is to “punch the clock”, arriving no earlier than required and not staying a minute after that.
Tip Number 5 – Network.
There is the old adage it’s not what you know, but who you know. This is relevant as your next boss may end up being a coworker, a friend of yours, or even a competitor. Whenever possible, it is key that you build as many positive relationships with others. In the world of employment, some job openings will not be advertised publically. So, knowing many different types of people lots of people will improve your chances of finding that next job. Joining a relevant professional organization in your field and attending their scheduled events is a great way to stay current with current developments, as well as people and job opportunities.
Tip Number 4 – Avoid all things personal at work.
Limit personal phone calls, online surfing/shopping, and e-mails at work during work hours. Your use of these channels can and will be tracked. Using company tools and time for personal benefit will not sit well with your supervisor and organization. Your supervisor or coworkers should not be hearing you are make personal calls, sending personal emails, surfing the Internet, or doing online shopping. This will not reflect very well on you as an employee. It goes without saying that you should not be running any side businesses or ventures on work time or on your office PC.
Tip Number 3 – Remain active.
Take notes when you’re in a meeting or on the phone. Keep a record of what you do. Occasionally share your notes with your boss. Face time is very important. Obviously, if your boss only sees you around the water cooler, that is not a very good sign; your boss should also see you working. The boss should see you coming in early and/or staying late. It is very helpful to document what you have accomplished. It is helpful to be able to relate to your boss (either during performance reviews or at other time) what you did and accomplished on a given date.
Tip Number 2 – Relationships are critical.
Many people who work in the professional world prefer to maintain a distance on a personal level. Consequently, you may not think that is important to recognize those with whom we work. You should be respectful and pleasant to others in the workplace. While it may sound trivial, you should be aware of special events like birthdays, engagements, or “Secretaries Day” which others celebrate and recognize them appropriately and consistently. It is important for you to find a balance between personal/social distance and professionally appropriate closeness as it pertains to your specific situation. These relationships may ultimately be the difference between keeping a job and losing it.
Tip Number 1 – Follow the rules and be a team player so that you don’t give your boss an excuse to let you go.
At minimum, you should follow the basic rules and protocols of the organization. Coming in late and/or leaving early does not look good. Missing deadlines or complaining does not cast you in a desirable light. If you need to leave early for any religious or family obligation, it should be done with the explicit prior approval of management. It should not be with a sense of entitlement and should not occur frequently. For anticipated absences based on personal circumstances or religious observances, offer to make up the work (preferably BEFORE the time off) and secure coverage for your work and responsibilities. And offer to do the same for co-workers. This will create a sense of good faith and cooperation, conveying that you are a team player. In most cases, management will be reasonable and will understand and accommodate special schedule requests. But, personal and/or religious reasons should not be an excuse for giving less than 100% to the organization while you are employed there. It is important to identify what is an “absolute” observance and what is discretionary. Multiculturalism and flexibility are not excuses for attending every event to which you have been invited. Planning in advance for things that are predictable and offering the organization something in return comes across more positively than perpetual last-minute requests. Try to play down any differences between yourself and others. Play up how you do fit in, and are an asset to the organization who wants to be there.