10 things that made me successful at work
It's ok to not know everything. Don't nod and pretend, just ask people what they mean. People love to share their knowledge and they are not always aware that newcomers or outsiders do not always know what they mean by their abbreviations, terms, and references. Often people are not even aware that many of those terms do not even exist outside their companies. So just ask when you need clarification.
2. Make notes
Write everything down. The process of writing notes down helps you remember the information better. I favor a pencil over a pen, but these days I use a Bambook with erasable sheets (I guess Rocketbook is the alternative if you live outside the EU). Anyway, I always take notes.
3. Talk to people
You can send e-mails or slack-messages. However, when you meet people face to face, it will improve your connection. You will get more information and people will be more inclined to help you out.
Don't hesitate if you do not yet know someone. If you need information from them, find out where you can find them or how you can reach them and connect.
I've been in a company where they said they needed me on a project because I knew so people from all these departments. All I had done was use their intranet to see who was responsible, and on what floor that person was on, and then go to that floor and ask around.
4. Start with smalltalk
Especially if you're from IT, people might be a little intimidated by you. Also, you may feel pretty insecure yourself. To fight that, I often started with a little small talk. About the weekend, about something irrelevant. If you did something clumsy, share it. It allows people to open up, and share stuff they are insecure about themselves.
Make sure you keep the small talk limited to approximately 5 minutes or so. In the end, time is valuable and you came to that person for a reason.
5. Know your stuff
You come to a person because you need something from them. Often they need something from you as well. Nothing builds more trust than letting them know you know your stuff. Sure, you might be new to the environment, but that's why I take notes. And read books. And learn my profession the best I can.
Knowing a lot, in combination with some small talk and perhaps sharing something of your own insecurities or clumsiness is very strong. It opens people up and builds trust. You will become a person people will want to help and to go to.
6. Don't fight, facilitate
Often, you encounter conflicts. Sales want A, customer support wants anything but A. Don't start running in between and do their fights. Just bring them together, facilitate the meeting and see what conclusion they come up to.
7. Always focus on the customer
All conflicts are easy to resolve because everything in a company exists for the customer. So whatever happens, always keep the customer in mind. It will guide your way out of any conflict.
8. Know the informal route
Most companies have a hierarchy. It's good to be aware of that. Always be aware that when you jump over a hierarchy line, that someone might feel threatened by that. If so, take that person with you to that meeting.
However, much more interesting is to learn the informal hierarchy. The informal lines are your shortcuts through the company. Learn them and use them.
9. Don't prepare interviews by jotting down a list of questions
It's the worst tip I had ever received. To prepare an interview by preparing questions. It will make you stop listening and connecting. Just know what the two or three things are that you need to know. Then enter the interview with the sincerest curiosity. You will get a much better interview instead. The best question is the follow-up question.
If you need some preparation to overcome your insecurity then only prepare for the first two or three minutes of the conversation. So you can get the thing started.
Don't take it all too seriously. Just watch, play along and enjoy the ride. And don't be afraid to follow some unique paths in your career. Success is nothing more than how you define it.