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Posted: October 06, 2011

Nine tips to help newbies build business cred

Remember: It's not all about you

John Heckers

Congratulations. You've beat the odds and your freshly minted college or grad school degree has helped you land a great job with a good company. Unfortunately, institutions of higher learning only teach you some of what you need to succeed. The rest you either get from good advice or from the vicious School of Hard Knocks. Try the easier way.

Start by understanding that you have to look and act credible or your age works against you. One thing I've noticed about many younger workers is that they seem to believe that the whole business world should conform to their ways of doing things. It isn't going to happen. The fact is, until you've earned your way, you are going to have to largely conform to other people's ways of doing things. There are rules in business for attire, behavior and speech. Ignore them at your peril. Here are a few tips to help you move ahead in your new career.

1). Avoid "fashion forward" attire. What you see in fashion magazines should be saved for the weekend unless you're in the fashion or a highly artistic industry. For business, observe someone who is established and imitate them. Make sure all of your hair is a color natural to humanity. Don't wear dresses or skirts that are too short (and, guys, you probably shouldn't wear a dress or skirt at all). Make sure that your attire (and hair) says that you understand the rules of business.

2). No straws. If you're going out to eat or going to a networking event, take your straw out of your glass before drinking your drink. A straw makes you look like a kid, which detracts from your credibility.

3). Manners. There are several good books on business and personal etiquette. Make sure you know the rules of adult behavior in adult settings. Be flawlessly polite, whatever the circumstances.

4). Don't act entitled. You aren't. A job these days, for anyone, is a great gift. Treat it as such. Don't tell your boss that something isn't your job unless it is unethical or illegal. Your job is whatever you're assigned to do (just like mine). We all have to "clean the toilets" sometimes. That certainly applies to you, as well as to me.

5). Arrive early. If you have an 8 AM meeting, be there at 7:30 AM at the latest to prepare. Nothing says "inexperienced" like rushing into a meeting 10 minutes late, out of breath and disorganized. If you really want to impress, you should be in a few minutes before your boss, take short lunch hours and leave only after the boss has left. To facilitate this, when I was young and green I never went out to party on a work night.

6). Watch social media! One of the easiest ways to get fired these days is by saying the wrong thing on social media, or posting a picture of yourself drunk, naked, or in other compromising positions on Facebook. Don't. And don't even think about updating your Facebook or other social media page at work unless you have specific permission to do so. This also applies to phones, texting, etc. Unless there is a clear policy allowing this behavior, don't do it at work, or you could find yourself out in the street.

7). Drink grown-up drinks. Nothing with an umbrella is a grown-up drink. Neither is beer. Need I tell you that, at business functions, you have a 2 drink limit?

8). Don't talk too fast or use slang. Slow down. Speak clearly and distinctly, and don't use any slang. Also, keep the jargon to a minimum.

9). Don't argue with your boss. Many younger workers seem to think everything is negotiable. It isn't. Unless it is unethical or illegal, you should do as you're instructed, and not try to convince the boss that your way is right unless he or she asked for your honest opinion. Even then, be very careful.

10). Keep your personal life out of the office. Unless you're in a very family-type company where everyone is close, let your personal life stay in the personal realm. Be very careful of any office romances. They usually end poorly. Don't fool around with someone who is married. It never works.

These are just a few of the things that will help you be credible in an office setting. For more tips, go here. Good luck on your new job!

Are you an executive job hunting? Fill your networking pipeline for a couple of weeks! Join us on Monday, October 10th for an executives-only networking event at the DAC. More info and registration here.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Nathan -- I agree that beer is big business in Colorado. If, however, you're young and trying to make an impression on your bosses as to how mature you are, and so on, it is better to order something other than beer when drinking...unless the boss and/or your other superiors are ordering beer. A good rule of thumb is to order something similar to what your boss orders. Keep in mind, again, that I write advice mainly for those climbing the corporate ladder. I certainly go along with the "be respectful" comment. I have seen my share of younger workers showing contempt for their bosses...interrupting, making inappropriate comments, and so on. This, I agree, is no way to climb the corporate ladder. Of course, if one is in a small company the "rules" are very different from what I have written above. But the vast majority of younger workers get their start in a larger firm and need to follow the unwritten (and often unspoken) rules. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 10 07
John, If we ever go out and have drinks remind me not to drink my beer with a straw In all seriousness, though... I would have to disagree with the beer comment. As we saw with the Great American Beer Festival this past weekend, beer is big business, especially here in Colorado... and ordering a sophisticated micro-brew beer with a hoppy taste and a clean finish is a far cry from being at a frat party. Also, I would like to add "be respectful" to your list. Being disrespectful of others is a sure fire way for a new employee to get in bad with the boss and - possibly more importantly - with clients. By Nathan Jansch on 2011 10 06
JOhn, you had me laughing until the "beer" comment. Again, the real world is different than your world. You've got some good general points about looking good in your article and I suppose that it works in metro areas where the unemployment is high. Outside of Denver there is little to no unemployment and it IS a different world. We just have to adapt. college is no longer the admission ticket to success. A good trade school might provide a student with more success in the job market and HIGHER pay. By John Wray on 2011 10 06

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