Working for a startup company can be equally difficult and rewarding. Many of the challenges you will face also provide the invaluable lessons that make it a worthwhile experience. It may seem frustrating at times, but learning the ins and outs of this type of business will help you enormously throughout your career, whether you decide to start your own business or you decide to make your way into a fully established corporate environment.
New companies are often learning as they grow, meaning their employees are doing a bit of the same. Often roles and duties get blurred and each employee is empowered to take charge and take on more responsibilities. This gives the employees at a startup the chance to learn and develop additional skills that they may have not had otherwise. While this can seem daunting, it will assist you in your own personal career growth.
Access to the Top
One of the main benefits on working for a new, small company is the accessibility of the leaders of that company. Most interns at Fortune 500 Companies don’t have the chance to work with management such as the CEO on a daily basis. This sort of opportunity is not to be taken lightly; these leaders often can teach us some very valuable skills and lessons. Additionally, they are great people to have as part of your network as your career grows.
Another perk of working for a growing company is the ability to have your career grow along with it. Starting as the only person on the sales team and then growing into a leadership or management position as the sales team grows due to your veteran status can happen much more quickly at a startup than it would at a large, established company. Though this can be challenging as you’ll have to learn quickly, if successful, you will be propelled forward faster than you ever could have imagined.
A startup company often has many challenges to overcome, which is what makes working for one such an invaluable learning experience. Through ironing out wrinkles and putting out fires, an employee has an opportunity to see firsthand the many difficulties and hurdles associated with creating and running a new business. It also can be a great learning tool for knowing what sorts of problems tend to come up in a new company and being able to avoid these issues in the future.
Personal development is a never-ending process. There is no such thing as a fully developed employee. In order to grow, there must be constant learning and effort to continue to be better. Take charge of your own development. Don’t rely on those around you to push you to grow. You have the capability to increase your own worth yourself.
Ask for more tasks that you don’t know how to do. Request work that is not part of your job description. The more tasks you have the ability to complete, the more well-rounded you will be as an employee. It is a great way to grow your skill set; this makes you even more desirable for both growth within your company and potential jobs in other companies.
Meet everyone you work with. Be kind to each person from the cleaners to your boss’s boss. Development isn’t solely about work capabilities, but also about how we grow as individuals. You want to develop relationships with those around you because creating and leaving lasting good impressions is crucial. You never know when these may come back to help you. Maybe your coworker gets a lucky break and ends up in the exact career you’ve always dreamed of. This relationship will suddenly become extremely beneficial for you if you have left a good impression and have kept in contact with this person.
Develop your general knowledge. You can never know too much. Having a basic understanding about things such as politics, sports, food, travel, etc., can only assist you in getting to know others and finding things in common. It will also broaden your horizons and encourage continued growth.
These are just a few ways to develop yourself and grow both as a person and as an employee. Finding ways to challenge yourself and build relationships can only serve to assist you as you climb in your chosen career. Keep striving to better yourself, and your career will follow suit.
It may be something you think you’ve already done, but the truth is it’s something that you need to think about at least once a year. Goals change, paths change, and if we don’t constantly reevaluate our situation, we may very well be missing out on key opportunities. Ask yourself the following questions to determine your next steps and/or if it’s time for a change in your career.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This may seem like it’s really far away right now, and it is, but it’s important to make plans in advance. Your goals and plans may change before then, but at least you are guaranteeing that you are on a path and not just floating around until you figure something out. Not having an idea of where you want to be in 10 years may get you stuck somewhere you don’t actually want to be or, possibly even worse, in a job with a dead-end. Don’t just apply to jobs randomly, think logically about what will be best for you in the long term.
Do you like what you’re doing now or what you’ve most recently been doing?
You may have always dreamed of being in the field that you are currently in or trying to get into; however, until you have practical experience within said field, you may very well not realize that you dislike the actual day-to-day work that it requires. Most of us can expect to work full time for over 40 years, don’t back yourself into a corner doing something you don’t even like just because it was the first thing you decided to do. Planning and constantly reevaluating and considering your career are the best ways to avoid ending up in this situation.
What aspects of your current job or field of study do you most like and dislike?
Even if you love what you’ve been doing/studying, I’m sure there are parts of it that are perhaps not your favorite. There are ways to pivot your career to at least aim for something that incorporates more of what you love and less of what you would prefer to avoid. Though this is not to say that it is always possible to find a job without a single thing that you don’t like. There are, however, ways to grow in certain directions within your chosen field that will eliminate some of its less desirable aspects.
You’ll find that many of the people who are happiest in their jobs would have never guessed where they were destined to end up at the start of their careers. It’s important to be flexible and introspective at every stage of your career. We are constantly learning and perfecting our skills and new opportunities are all around us. Don’t shy away from the possibilities. Find what motivates you because this will propel you toward success and satisfaction within your chosen career field.
Congratulations! The hiring manager has seen something in your application or resume that stood out to them for the job and you have an interview. Interviews can be nerve-wracking even for the most experienced of us. It’s your moment to sell yourself as the ideal candidate for the job you are applying to; don’t squander it by letting your anxiety or unpreparedness get in the way. Below are some of the simplest, if not obvious, steps for presenting yourself properly for an interview.
- Do your research and prepare your story.
Understand the tasks and qualities that are listed in the job description. Think of things in your own life/experience that can demonstrate how you will be successful in completing the job requirements. Also think about and prepare your story – the big picture of your goals for your career and how this job fits into your plans and why this makes you the ideal candidate. For instance, if you’re applying for an accounting position at VS Integracija, you should be able to explain why that job fits into your future plans and how it isn’t just some random job or position you’ve applied to along with a million others.
- Be on time.
Even a minute late to the interview is late. However, you also don’t want to show up too early. Try to arrive within 5 minutes of the start time. Even if you show up earlier to be safe, try to wait around before you announce yourself so as not to put pressure on your interviewer while you wait for them.
- Dress appropriately.
These days workplaces are becoming more and more casual; however, it is imperative that you still show up dressed well for an interview. The expression “better to be overdressed than underdressed” is especially true for interviews. Show your interviewer that you take care in how you look as this will give the impression that you also take care in your work.
- Bring your resume.
Yes, your interviewer already received your resume when you applied for the job. It is, however, good form to bring it along. It shows preparedness and care. It is part of your sell. You have arrived on time, looking nice, and with your detailed experiences on a piece of paper for the interviewer’s reference and convenience.
- Say “thank you.”
This should be obvious, but often candidates skip this crucial step. The interviewer has taken time to get to know you, to give you a chance to sell yourself for the job. They also likely have had/will have more interviews before and after you. Stand out from the crowd and help them remember you by sending a nice thank you note either by email or post. Additionally, this helps to show them that your interest in the job is serious.
Naturally many job interviews require different preparation for things such as tests and assessments; however, this list is meant to be a base from which to propel your interview skills. The more interviews you have, the more you’ll recognize what additional steps you yourself need to take when preparing. The most important thing is just to get out there and do your best.
Networking is constantly drilled into our heads as a crucial part of both searching for jobs and growing our careers. It all sounds so easy – talk to people, meet with people, stay in touch with people – but sometimes even these simple tasks can seem daunting.
Simplify things for yourself by setting small, attainable goals. For instance, reach out to three people a week when looking for a job and three people a month when in a job to keep up with contacts and keep yourself open for potential job growth.
Keep It Simple
Don’t overthink things. Imagine that you were on the receiving-end of these networking emails. Would they bother you? Would you find them strange? It’s more than likely that the answer to these two questions is “no.” Most people you reach out to know how it feels to be in your position, so they will most likely be understanding and respond kindly. Some may not be as nice, but that is just part of the process; don’t let it discourage you.
Think More Broadly
Remember that even if one of your contacts doesn’t seem to be the person who will be able to assist you, that doesn’t mean they don’t know the perfect person who can help you or that they don’t even just have some great career advice for you. Your current network is the greatest asset you have for expanding your network.
Keep up with contacts even when you don’t need/want anything. It will be ten times harder to reach out to someone in your network when you haven’t spoken to them in years and you are looking for a favor, job, or even just some career advice. Don’t put yourself in this position; make things easier for yourself by maintaining these relationships as you go. Continue working on improving your soft skills, such as active listening and presenting, which will make networking even easier for you.
Don’t Be Afraid
Remind yourself that you have nothing to lose. What is the worst-case scenario? Someone doesn’t respond? You lose a contact? That’s okay! If you don’t reach out to them to begin with you don’t really have them as a contact anyways. Any bad result will just put you back in the same place you are now; it won’t send you backwards. And any good result will propel you forward, so there is no reason not to get started! The only thing stopping you is you.
Pay It Forward
Finally, though this was touched on before, keep in mind that you are also part of someone else’s network. Respond kindly to those who come to you for advice/help. Never burn bridges. Do your best to assist them. One day they might be or know just the person you need to get to your dream job.
You’ve determined your budget, your long-term and short-term goals, and now it’s time for your employee development plan. Investing in your employees not only yields happier employees, but also yields productivity. Instead of skipping this step, consider using your business objectives as guidelines for your plan. Do you need someone to learn a new software to teach to the rest of the team? Will your growing company need leaders who can successfully on-board and manage employees? Here’s why you should create an employee development plan to lead your team and company to success.
- Including a budget for employee development shows you care.
Choosing a few of your employees to attend a conference, training, or other special event shows that you’re interested in your employees’ tenure at the company. It shows that the company wants them to grow, bring new knowledge to their team, and stay relevant in the workforce. Consider setting a budget aside for employees to pitch their own conferences and trainings they’d like to attend as well. This will give team members a chance to find creative opportunities for growth, as well as make their voice feel heard.
- Developing internal candidates can save time and money.
Though there are occasions when you need to look outside of the company for hiring, developing current employees is often less costly. They know how the company works, the objectives, and are familiar with the team. Giving the tools to standout employees who need to become managers or takeover a new department prevents a long hiring process and keeps momentum going.
- An employee development plan gives you a chance to get to know your team members.
Is one of your team members interested in graphic design? Do you have an employee who has a language skill that could be utilized? When creating your employee development plan, talk to your employees. Figure out what skills they already have, what they are interested in, how they want to grow, and what could be useful for the company. You’ll also find that your employees most likely want to learn and improve. This shows you’re interested in giving them skills they actually want to have, and not just what you need.
- You’ll be able to assess if your business objectives are achievable.
It’s easy to make business objectives for your company, but sometimes they may not be as feasible as previously thought. When you put together your employee development plan, you can adjust your business objectives to make sure they align with what’s feasible for your company. You’ll find out what’s missing and what you actually have, and perhaps identify a new goal. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
- Employee development leads to happier employees.
Arguably this is one of the most important reasons to have an employee development plan. Research shows that happier employees leads to productivity, lower turnover rates, and an overall positive workplace culture. Google is an excellent example of a company that invests in employee development. They offer free classes, lectures, and even employee-to-employee training programs. Ultimately, the goal is to increase revenue and achieve milestones; happy employees can help do that.
Need help creating an employee development plan or interested in developing your own skill set? Head over to our contact page to get a consultation today.
At some point in your career, you’re going to have to give a presentation. You could be reporting year-end results to upper management, pitching to a new client, even trying to convince your boss to give you a promotion. It’s fairly common knowledge that many people don’t enjoy or fear public speaking. However, learning how to give a solid presentation not only makes you a better employee, but also leaves a lasting impression.
Getting more comfortable with giving a presentation doesn’t mean you need to do them all the time – though it helps – or spend all night moving around pictures and text for the “perfect presentation.” There are simple steps to making your next presentation at work your best one.
Create, Prepare, Present with the Audience in Mind
If the task at hand is to present the results of a recent social media campaign, the first step is to interpret the data. Now you need to present this data to upper management. This can go multiple ways, but let’s imagine that upper management has nothing to do with social media, and they need to understand what you’re talking about.
Assuming that your audience understands every nuance of social media and speaking to them as if they do is the first way to lose them. In this case, you’re interpreting data, but you also need to adapt your explanations to different audiences.
So, as you prepare this presentation, think about who you’re talking to. You can keep a base presentation, but you shouldn’t give the same exact one to your direct colleagues as you would to higher-ups. Presenting for your audience is one of the better steps you can take to giving your best presentations at work.
When you’re putting together your presentation, a natural inclination is to include lots of data, bullet points, pictures, and more. The key to preparing a great presentation is by sticking to one idea per slide and relying mostly on what you’re going to say, rather than how it looks. Include key information only, make sure all images are relevant, and be ready to present what the slide means. Don’t let the slide do the talking for you.
When it comes to fonts, try to stick to two for the whole presentation. This helps your presentation remain visibly pleasing and gives it a professional sleek look. Make sure everything is easy to read and the colors mesh well together. You can also implement the 10/20/30 method by Guy Kawasaki. His method is for salespeople giving a pitch, but has good standard rules to follow.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It should go without saying, but practicing is undervalued when it comes to giving a presentation. It’s better not to waste time designing a presentation; instead, you’ll want to get your key information down and then run-through the slides. Prepare in front of a colleague to receive feedback in order to improve before the big day, practice at home, and practice in the room you’ll be giving the presentation. If giving a group presentation, run-through the presentation together a few times. Practicing helps alleviate nerves, builds confidence, and can help you work through any tech issues.
A final tip: use humor with caution. There are benefits to using humor in a presentation, but if you don’t know your audience, not sure the joke will land, or don’t feel comfortable, avoid it. It’s better to keep the presentation strong without a couple of jokes backfiring.
Sometimes a change of perspective is all you need to fill in the missing blanks. It’s about finding the creative solution, implementing it, and seeing results from that creativity. This is called having an “innovative mindset.” Any employee, team leader, manager, etc., can have an innovative mindset by following a few simple principles.
Get curious and uncomfortable.
A lot of us might already consider ourselves curious people. But when was the last time you added a new podcast to your rotation, changed the route you use to get to work, or even used a new template for your reports at work?
Curiosity is all about making changes and seeing what happens. It’s about taking two different concepts and seeing how they fit together. In order to find creative solutions, you have to be comfortable with shifting your perspective. New ideas are around the corner when you change up your daily routine.
Apply this to your career by digging deeper when researching for a project, talking to team members in different departments, and being ready to accept uncertainty and where it might lead you.
Implement new solutions but be ready to move on.
One of the most obvious ways to developing an innovative mindset is being open to change and implementing the creative solutions you and your colleagues develop. It can be exciting to try something different and see how it improves your product, especially when the idea is yours.
After tracking and analyzing the results, you’re faced with an important decision: keep moving forward with the plan or scrap it and start again. Yes, coming up with innovative ideas and seeing them through is very valuable, but you have to also be ready to let go of those ideas. Having an innovative mindset means being open to failure and being ready for the next move. You own your solutions; your solutions don’t own you. If you’ve already found one innovative solution, and even if it doesn’t work out, that means you can find more.
Take a step back and observe.
To develop your innovative mindset, you may think you need to constantly be doing, taking some sort of action. However, sometimes what you need to do is stop and pay attention to your surroundings. Listen to understand, not to respond. Record your ideas in your notebook or on your phone. Take a break and notice problems, without thinking of the solutions first.
Co-founder and Chief Branding Officer of Away Luggage Jen Rubio realized that buying luggage wasn’t fun, no one was attached to a brand, and the structure itself was faulty. That’s when she observed a problem and realized she could find a solution. Observation is powerful if you’re really looking.
How are you developing your innovative mindset on your quest to be a better employee?
How Employees Can Improve Their Soft Skills
As you progress in your career, you’ll find that improving your soft skills is just as important as improving your hard skills. It’s easier to identify what hard skills you need to advance in your career, such as getting a master’s degree, obtaining certification, or gaining proficiency in a language. When it comes to soft skills, however, it can be difficult to not only figure out the ones you need to grow but also what soft skills you already possess. For example, you may be able to listen, but you might not be practicing active listening. To figure out how to improve your soft skills, you’ll need to identify your skill set, evaluate where you need to grow, and create an action plan.
Identify your soft skills
Scan your CV and search for keywords like “team player”, “adaptability”, and “communication”. If you’ve included any of these soft skills in your CV, you probably did so without thinking. Often the easiest way to figure out what soft skills you have is by looking at what you’ve already written about yourself. Take a look at the example below,
- Responsible for adapting to changes in schedule and communicating across departments.
Two soft skills are listed in that description of duties. After combing through your CV, speak to your colleagues and manager. Not only will they be able to provide you with valuable feedback, but you’ll also be practicing a soft skill: listening.
Evaluate the soft skills you need to grow
Once you’ve come up with a list of the soft skills you possess, figure out which ones are most pertinent to your job and the ones you’re lacking. While all soft skills are important, it’s better to remain focused and choose soft skills that will be immediately helpful to your growth as an employee. Those working actively on a team will benefit from a course on leadership. If you’ve got to write and present reports frequently, you’ll find business writing courses useful. Make sure you’re advancing in a tactical way, and not in a way that will cause more stress or unnecessary work.
Create an action plan
The next step is to create an action plan on how you’ll improve and implement your soft skills. Figure out if you need to take a course, if your company provides any resources you might need, and set goals so that you can gauge your improvements. Goals like presenting a big report to upper management or spending 5 minutes building relationships with colleagues are simple and easy to implement.
Look for opportunities to improve your soft skills at your workplace, too. Speaking up at meetings, handling multiple projects at once, and even planning a team building event are all daily ways to enhance soft skills.
Employees need strong soft skills because they work tandem with hard skills. A programmer needs to be able to communicate with clients, a salesperson needs to be able to persuade. If you want to get noticed as a strong employee, start working on your soft skills today.
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