Work like a senior: working efficiently vs working hard (Helpful tips for young professionals)

You are new to a job.

Perhaps just came out of college. No idea what to expect.

Being selected in a position only shows that your boss sees something in you; past what all the other applicants had promised to offer. And after making that announcement that you finally landed yourself into your dream job, the celebratory mode is replaced by unnerving pressure.

So now what do you do? How do you prepare for it? How do you set your expectations?

Perhaps you want nothing more but to impress your coworkers on your first day; to prove that you really are the cream of the crop amongst the candidates.

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The pressure is only mounting and you know you have to have a concrete game plan.

So you decide to research by looking through various posts/articles; learning more about the corporate world, not realizing that you are only increasing the pressure by cluttering your brain with too much information from crumbs you pick up from the internet and from various sources.

Only to realize later on that they’re either too broad or not applicable to your work setting.

Tik, tok. Last thing you want is to have an anxiety attack and you blame everything to your luck.

You are at the right place!

I have been working as paralegal for a law firm situated in the heart of Downtown, City, for almost five years now. I had the same anxiety and jittery feelings when I opened an email from my potential employer stating I will be starting in a few days. (I think I only had one weekend to prepare for the big day!).

Although I graduated class valedictorian, I had no Canadian corporate experience then. And I have only immigrated to Canada a couple of years since I got hired. So you bet I was panicking nights prior to my first day; researching what my duties are, how to dress and act professional, refreshing my brain with all that I learned from my course— going through my notebooks, notepads, Canadian textbooks, you name it! I crammed too much information in my head which I later learned was a mistake!

(Trust me, I had to learn most things the hard way working in a corporate world… lucky for you, you don’t have to go through them and the information will just be provided to you. Below are the tips to equip yourself to work like a senior and build strong work ethics overtime)

Hang tight and let’s get right to it!

Organize your thoughts.

Don’t panic. Don’t overload yourself with too much information. Put away unnecessary chatter in the back compartments. You have to keep a mindset that your performance is crucial in the early stages so keep your thoughts work-driven/focused.

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Attaining mental clarity is vital. How you organize your thoughts will be reflective on the brief conversations you’ll have with your work colleagues. Always be mindful of your vocabulary/your choice of words and make conversations brief as possible.

Your work colleagues don’t usually care about what you had for breakfast nor how your morning commute went. And that you have a cat named Milo. (Please don’t let this be your first chat when meeting a work colleague) Always remember that you connect with these people on a professional level so knowing the right questions to ask is the key. Keep your statements professional and polite at all times. (Especially if you are like me who work with lawyers! 🙂 )

Organizing thoughts often start with good note-taking. Make sure that you will carry a notepad with you as you’re being trained or simply when you familiarizing yourself with the new work setting.

Talk less

Talking less is more (it’s actually a thing!). Being a good listener creates such a strong impact. Not only you’re leaving a good impression but you sometimes also absorb critical information from people who have been around in the field a lot longer than you. This is how you keep learning. (I often notice that newbies tend to talk more and it’s not good especially on a fast-paced working environment).

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Don’t feel pressured to impress everyone right away. (Seriously, it’s a jungle out there! Everyone is on their competing mode, with their game face on) A lot of times, people will not care about your educational background nor your achievements. You want to prove yourself in the quality of work you produce and how you treat the clients and your work colleauges.

To cut it short, what they most care about is how you are an asset to the business.

Create a system that works for you.

It is also essential that you take initiative to arrive a few minutes early before your shift starts in order to give yourself time to adjust (this is applicable when you just started). Familiarize yourself with the environment: check where the office supplies are kept, where the lunchroom is, the copier room, different offices, etc. Note information down in a small notepad.

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Every person is different so what works for you may not work for others. Experiment on techniques / practices that you can apply so you can work more efficiently. Below are some good examples (they really work for me!):

Emails

I usually start my shift, going through my emails; sorting their relevance. Do not read all emails at once before starting to work on them.

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I usually start with the emails tagged as “Urgent” (for all its obvious reasons), and work on them one email after another (open one email: get the task done, move to the next urgent email). After going through all urgent emails, I decide the priority by their subject line (without opening each email, decide how long it would take you to complete each task; start with the ones that can be knocked out by less than five minutes). If it’s necessary to peek into the content of the email to know their relevance, do so and if you decide it will consume your time, mark the email ‘unread’ or move it into a folder labeled “To do” and work on it later.

Utilize tools in your email. For instance, if you use Gmail, use the Tasks sidebar. I use it as my notepad for important notes/memos such as call-back clients, to do lists, etc. Google also has Keep, Calendar and Contacts bar so you don’t have to navigate away from the page.

Diarize

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For every file/project, assign a date when you next need to review/work on them before storing them in your filing cabinet. This will prevent you from forgetting to work on a matter or leaving them piling up in a corner of your desk.

Keep your desk uncluttered

I usually keep only a few items on my desk along with my computer and printer: a leak-proof water bottle, two blue pens, my work diary, to-do lists, stapler and paperclips. I strongly believe that your desk situation is a representation of your mind. Less clutter, the quicker for you to think straight and avoid distractions. Be mindful of items you leave on your desk. Its extra space should be utilized only to the files you are currently working on.

You may want to include tasks like uncluttering your desk drawer, re-organizing files, closing files that are completed, dusting the back of your pc and printer, etc, on a weekly basis.

Following these steps will create an impact to your co-workers that you are on your A-game! Most importantly, being organized is helping yourself and clearing your mind. If you are able to control/organize externally, you can certainly be in control of bigger work.

Hyper focused Work

As you start your shift and the moment you start working on your first task of the day, concentrate to it fully (absolutely no distractions including your own thoughts!). Work deeply and give it your full attentional space. Be consistent of keeping this mode throughout the day. Close your office door; they will surely get a hint (I do this every time I’m in my office).

I encourage you to turn off all notifications to keep yourself away from all distractions. Alternatively, put your phone on silent and leave it facedown in your desk drawer. This is a good practice to let your friends and family know that you should not be bothered when you’re at work (unless it’s an urgent matter).

Make sure that your attention is fully concentrated on the work in front of you and your mind is not elsewhere. This is how you work efficiently.

Do not multi-task (only if this can be avoided. If you are receiving internal calls from your boss, etc— attend to it otherwise, don’t be scared to let them go into your voicemail and allot a time to call back).

Fully immerse yourself into one task/project at time. This will get a lot of things done accurately and in a faster pace. This sets the difference between efficient workers who gets a lot of things done than just busy workers who’s constantly juggling tasks; sometimes doing them simultaneously.

Breaks

Make sure that you plan your day by working on your office calendar and blocking your 15 minute breaks and your lunch time. Be strict about this. This will give you a mental break from work and you will feel refreshed in getting back to it.

Take these time to fully detach yourself from work: stretch, refill your water bottle and hydrate, eat a snack, go out for a walk. Fresh air helps a lot. (Being in an office wearing a mask all day can be quite tiring; you’re lucky if like me, you have your office and you can remove your mask from time to time)

Make sure you don’t check your work emails during these breaks.

Avoid Office Drama.

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If it is not work-related or it has nothing to do with improving your workplace’s team work, DO NOT TAKE PART OF IT. I cannot stress this enough.

Resist the temptation. There will be a lot of times you will be tested to the core; someone would be persistent to hear your opinion on trivial topic non-work related/asking for your take regarding gossips at work, simply don’t entertain and take no part of it. Not only it’s unprofessional to engage in conversations like these but it would also take so much of your attention from things that really matter: your work. (Trust me, you will never ran out of things to do in an office!)

Be a team player

On your spare time, check if you can lend a hand to a co-worker; ensure you’re not disrupting by asking each of one them. Be smart in approaching who you think may need your help. Be proactive by sharing helpful information to all the team members (like posting a telephone list of the offices your firm usually contacts and pinning it to your firm’s bulletin board, teaching them a trick or two on how you can expedite work, etc)

Conclusion

There you have it. By following these tips, you are off to a great start! Not only you would impress your boss and your work colleagues, but you are on the track to becoming successful in your field of work.

I know we all have to start somewhere. And there will be a ton of things we will do wrong or overlook, but don’t be scared to quickly pick yourself up and learn from it. Remember, there’s only two things: Right and Do it again.

Keep a positive mindset. Instead of complaining (at my work, I can’t afford the time to complain 🙂 ), focus on how you can resolve an issue. If you can do something about it, get it done; if it’s not your control, delegate or bring it to your superior’s attention and let it go. Trust that things will be dealt with; don’t let the tiny issues consume your energy and take a space in your head.

Working mindfully is the primary key in doing things right.

Always thrive to learn new things at your work, gain respect and trust from your workmates, and always perform.

I hope you picked up a lot of helpful tips here and if you do, feel free to share this article to your friends!

See you on my next blog! Love,

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