So, you've beaten off stiff competition to land a coveted Spring Week, Vacation Scheme, Internship or Graduate Job. Congratulations. But before you bask in a sea of self-congratulations and complacency, this is just the beginning.
If you're someone who finds themselves always running five minutes late or forgets to brush their hair in the morning, then you could find that you're talking yourself out of a potential new career before you've even started, and before you even realise it's happening. Here's our guide to five sloppy traits to avoid if you want to get ahead.
1. Sloppy appearance
Being presentable is one of the basic rules of professional etiquette. No one is asking you to be across the latest fashion trends, but creating the right impression via your appearance is vital. Good grooming shows you have made an effort and you're more likely to be taken seriously. We all judge and thinking that people will look beyond your appearance is sadly naïve. Of course, if you're a hot shot entrepreneur such as Branson or Zuckerberg, anything goes.But if you're starting in a new role, you can't quite behave like these two chaps just yet. And while Steve Jobs always wore a black turtle neck and 501 jeans - a personal style he developed - it was all part of brand-Jobs. Even though it was casual, he was never scruffy.
So before you head off to work each day, make sure you're dressing the way in which you want to be seen. Smart, professional and ready for action. Brush your hair. Check you haven't spilt toothpaste down your front. You're highly capable. Don't let your appearance let you down.
2. Lack of flexibility
You're there to impress. No one is expecting you to know everything, but your boss will want you to demonstrate proactivity and to take the initiative. If you're too wedded to your job description or your perception of what you think your role should be, you could run into trouble early on. All experience at this stage is of value, no matter how menial the task might be.
Remember, you're not going to have to do this particular role forever. You want to make yourself indispensable to your employer. You want and need to become the go-to-person. So accept what comes your way and take on every task with gusto. Having successfully made (good) cups of tea at very specific times for over a month for the CEO of a publishing business, I was duly promoted from a general assistant to the research department. Make your work count, show willing and you'll be on the right path.
Drop the attitude, even if inside you're questioning the point of a particular task you have been asked to complete. Believe me, we've all been there. Thinking any project or to-do task is beneath you will earn you no favours.
3. Being negative
Most workplaces have one bad apple. If you're lucky, you will not have one on your team, but there are no guarantees. Almost certainly however, you never want to become the bad apple. Bad apples are the negative voice behind every company decision/announcement. They're the ones who think they should be running the company yet all-too-often so consumed they are with their own frustrations, they fail to provide any real and tangible solutions.
If you've had an annoying day, or feel like something is unfair, the best thing to do is learn how to process things internally, without resorting to gossip with colleagues. The old adage when you manage a person is to praise in public, criticise in private and the same manta can be applied to when it comes to venting work-place frustrations. Negativity can create a downward spiral and will do nothing for your well-being both professionally and personally.
4. Poor time keeping
In the age of instant communication, it has become normal-etiquette to rattle off a text or email telling someone you're running a few minutes late. It has also become the norm, at least on a personal level, to send a text at 5.05pm to someone you were supposed to meet at 5pm, to say 'you're going to be 5 minutes late.' All of a sudden, 'five' minutes late has descended into fifteen. Quite substantial. Oops.
Whilst this slippery lack-of-time-keeping slope has infiltrated our personal lives, when it comes to creating the right impression, such etiquette will not serve you well in the workplace. Being late, even only by a few minutes sets the tone that you don't care. While of course you might say 'a few minutes, is only a few minutes' your lateness doesn't just affect you. The chances are, your tardiness will impact on someone else, either because they have spent the time finding out where you are, or because they wanted to talk to you.
If there's a reason as to why you're going to be late, let your line manager know as early as possible. Broken down trains / snow / illness all happen and can make us understandably late. But consistently so? Unlikely. If you're on time, you demonstrate you're in control, organised and ready to take on any task - exactly what your peers and colleagues want from a team member. Think about it - if you were the boss, what would you be looking for in your next successful recruit? If you're rushing, you won't do a good job. Be that rushing to get somewhere, or rushing to finish. And remember, being one minute late. Just one, repeatedly is perhaps one of the most frustrating poor habits of any employee, be they new or old.
5. Office politics
Three words: Stay well clear. Gossip and chit-chat can be your undoing… and once you've lost respect, winning it back is so much harder. Not only does gossiping at work disrupt productivity and creative thinking, you could also find yourself on the slippery slope of becoming that bad apple. Of course, keep abreast of office communication and all comings-and-goings.
It's also good to be aware of certain political situations should they exist, but never ever get caught up in it all. Even if you decide that this company isn't for you, gaining a reputation for being a gossip could follow you to your next role. It's a small world out there and as someone wise once told me, you're only really as good as your last job.