1. Be motivated and dedicated.
If you aren’t motivated to do the best you can for the interests of the company, and are just a clock watcher, or are using your job as a paycheck until something better comes along, you’re bringing other people down, and are stealing from the company.
2. Have intellectual curiosity.
In school, and in entry-level jobs, you’re taught most of what you need to know, and told a few other things to learn. In real life, when working a higher level job, you’re expected not only to learn what you need to know, but to be able to discover what those things are on your own.
3. Ask all the right questions.
During meetings, ask questions, and make sure you understand what other people are discussing. You don’t have to understand every single technical detail from a different field, but it’s important that you understand the general idea of what’s going on it the company, and understand certain things that you’ll need to know how to do. It’s also important that you understand the way your work with impact other people’s projects, and vice versa. This doesn’t mean to ask questions just to be asking something. Everything you say should be significant and have a purpose.
4. Take notes.
Really. Take notes on everything. If you’re talking to someone, you should be taking notes. Make a shortcut to Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac) and use it. Use Evernote, Google Docs, or a traditional pad of paper and pen (gasp!). Do impress your boss, coworkers, and customers with your ability to retrieve information from a previous conversation. Don’t make them repeat themselves.
5. Take it seriously.
People often say that you should be easy-going, or to take things lightly, so that you aren’t stressed out, and are generally more pleasant to be around. I say take things seriously. Too often I see people not taking part of their profession seriously. I don’t mean their entire job – I mean the little things. When your boss tells you to do something, it may not seem important to you, but it’s important enough that someone who makes a lot more than you decided it was a good idea. Treat the task as such.
6. Do your job as if you own the company.
Don’t just do the bare minimum. To say to do your best isn’t quite right either. If you aren’t doing everything you can to make the company succeed, you’re stealing money from its owner. There’s someone else who will do better. Your job isn’t to just do what you’re told – it’s to make money for the company.
7. Dress the part, or better.
At my last job, I remember walking in for the interview wearing my best suit, and someone sarcastically asked, “who died?” The CTO was wearing an old t-shirt and cut-off jean shorts. Obviously, there was no dress code to speak of, and this was reflected in the attitudes and work performance of the staff. Dressing professionally gives other people the impression that you’re a professional, and it makes you feel like one. This helps you to actually be a professional. My girlfriend’s old boss didn’t just wear a suit – he wore cufflinks. She was so used to only seeing him as a professional, that when she saw a picture of him in street clothes, she couldn’t believe it was him. This is directly related to the next point.
8. Be all that you can be, and aim high.
When I was in the Marine Corps, we had a saying: always do the job of the rank above you. If you’re a Private, you should be learning (and doing) the job of a Private First Class. If you’re a Corporal, you should be doing the job of a Sergeant. Set goals, and constantly move the achievement bar higher. Don’t fall into a rut where you get comfortable doing just your job, which is really just the bare minimum.
9. Be confident.
When you’re talking with people, act like you know what you’re talking about. (It helps if you actually do know what you’re talking about.) If you act like you’ve got a purpose and are confident, people will assume that you’re well-informed and an expert. Otherwise, they’ll see a weakness, assume you don’t know what you’re talking about, and will walk all over you.
Spelling Counts. In high school, a student raised his hand during a math test and asked, “does spelling count?” The teacher replied, “spelling always counts.” Remember, this was a math class. Nobody expects you to be an expert on grammar usage, or to be a walking dictionary or thesaurus, but you need to be able to express yourself intelligently to your boss, coworkers, staff, and clients. In life, spelling always counts.