10 things I wish I knew when I started professionally

After having toiled through the professional world for some time, I’ve realized that I knew so little when I started, and I’m not talking about the hard skills here (those need practice and experience), but more about the soft skills: the do’s and don’ts of working in an organization.

The following ten things are based on my personal experiences, but they could pretty much apply to anyone working in any organization. Remember, the goal of these tips is to make your work life easy, they would not necessarily improve your chances of getting a promotion (as that depends on other things including hard skills, as well), but they would be a helping hand towards the advancement of your career.

Without further ado, here they go:

  1. There’s always a solution:
    All your work problems have a solution (unless of course, you’re working to cure cancer, then you’ll be the one pioneering the solution), it could be that the solution would take a lot longer than you expect, or that the solution is completely different from what you’ve thought so far; so, don’t give up, that’s a big red flag. No company wants an employee that doesn’t go beyond what they know.
  2. There’s always a better solution:
    For all the perfectionists out there: yes, there’s always room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean that we need to reach the pinnacle every time, in fact, sometimes it’s better to make a compromise, since what you do at work has a direct impact on the company and polishing the same thing over and over again would stall the progress. Be smart, and know when to put the brakes on.
  3. Break that monster down:
    Whenever you face a daunting task that seems too big to handle, start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, and if still doesn’t make sense, just pick one sub-task randomly and work on it; sometimes it’s hard to grasp the big picture immediately, but it becomes obvious as you progress by working on the task piece by piece.
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help:
    Never do poorly just because you’re afraid, intimidated, ashamed or too proud to ask for help. A good mentor at work would always be more than happy to clarify your confusions and would never consider it as a negative point when reviewing your performance. Remember though, asking for help and asking for someone to do your work are polar opposites, and you would not wanna do the latter. On the off chance that your mentor/colleague reacts hostile when asked for help, try asking someone else; you were just unlucky to run into someone who’s not aligned with the team’s growth.
  5. Talk like there’s no tomorrow:
    Well, unless you’re a chatterbox; communicating frequently (preferably face-to-face) prevents lot of misunderstandings, which are a common cause of poor peer reviews. Sometimes presenting your point-of-view via speech works wonders as compared to conveying the same via writing, simply because of a faster conversation loop. The golden rule: whenever you can, prefer call over text.
  6. Don’t argue unless you’re 100% certain:
    Here’s an argument as to why: if you’re not confident about something yourself, how do you expect to convince others? The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is as pertinent here as ever, prove something if you can, but don’t force your half-baked opinions or understandings on someone. Remember, your peers will respect you when you respect their time.
  7. Think you’re right? then be steadfast:
    If you’re certain about something, then maintain your stance and don’t buckle under pressure. If there’s any place to not make compromises, it’s when you know you’re right. It shows your integrity i.e. you would not trade the right way of doing things. There’s a big caveat though: humans make mistakes, and if you realize that you made one, then be eager to accept it and learn from it.
  8. Don’t keep on working unhappy:
    If you’re unhappy at work for any reason, convey that to your supervisor. Aside from personal reasons, working unhappy is as bad for the company as you, so, a good supervisor would always try to help you out. It goes without saying that complaining about something which is in your control would do you more harm than good, as no one wants to work with a cry-baby.
  9. Love the negative feedback:
    It may seem counter-productive to heed your peer’s negative feedback, but remember that constructive criticism is the largest impetus for growth, and you would miss out on that if you filter out all the negative feedback. Be pragmatic: if a feedback suggestion would improve your capabilities, then adopt it, else leave it.
  10. Don’t leave unless you’re excited about the next role:
    You may find yourself in a hole at some point in your professional life, but switching jobs might not be the answer to your problems. Simply put, if you don’t feel that there’s at least one aspect of the new role which is vastly better than your current role, then don’t jump the ship, otherwise you would probably find yourself miserable again.

In closing, I would just say that listen to everything, but follow what’s right for you and the company (and if it’s not the same thing, then know that you’ve hit the ceiling of personal development at that place).

Happy working!