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Build a Good Reputation at Work

Build a Good Reputation at Work

Easy Steps for Laying a Career Foundation

By Caroline M.L. Potter

When you're a new hire, you want to establish a good reputation, and that's especially true if you're a new professional in the workforce.  

Below are several tactics that should complete your game plan for winning favor and establishing a good foundation for your career.

Earn Respect Before a Special Request

Life sometimes gets in the way of everything, including work. On occasion you may need to ask your boss for an extra privilege -- but it's best not to do so straight out of the gate.

"This generation has been pegged as one that expects everything up front at the beginning," says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach. "That's not always accurate, but new graduates should remember that they'll have to pay their dues before they can have it all."

She recommends adhering to company policies and endearing yourself to your boss before asking for flexibility. "You want to prove that you perform well and it's worth it to keep you content," Crawford says. So, if your hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., make sure you're at your desk at those hours. Down the road, after you've demonstrated your reliability and value to your boss, you may be able to negotiate more flexibility in your arrival and departure times or lunch hour or take a vacation before you're technically due one.

Tackle Something Without Being Asked

One of the best ways to gain the gratitude of your supervisor is showing initiative. "So many people get into a new job and think their supervisors are going to say, 'This is exactly what I expect you to do,'" Crawford says. "But this isn't school. You're not going to get clear-cut homework assignments. You have to ask, 'What can I help with?' or you can just dive into a task."

Crawford recommends taking on a project everyone else is avoiding. Perhaps the supply closet is a mess. Or there's a major backlog at an important filing cabinet. Maybe an important database is woefully out of date. Put in a few extra minutes each day so your pet project doesn't interfere with your primary responsibilities. When you're done, you'll have won your boss's admiration and your coworkers' gratitude. "You have to step up if you want to get ahead," Crawford says. 

Offer Opinions with Tact

You've been hired because your boss and others at the company saw promise in you and your skills. Your opinion is valuable to the organization's growth and future. However, remember to offer it gently and with respect. "Blurting out things as if you're a seasoned consultant isn't the best approach," Crawford reminds new grads. "It's great that you have a fresh perspective, but you need to present it in the right way."

Rather than inquiring why something is done a certain way, ask if management has ever considered doing it another way. Suggesting a new process rather than questioning a current one highlights your forward thinking without insulting your boss's or the company's approach. "You don't want to come off as a know-it-all," she says.

It's Business, Not Personal

Work friends can become some of your best friends, in and out of the office. But, as Crawford reminds her clients, "You need to remember that these are professional relationships first." Even if you work for a hip company where fun is a part of the company culture, she says work is not a frat party.

If you're invited out to lunch or an after-work drink, don't overindulge in alcohol and don't overshare. "You have to be smart," says Crawford. "If you don't want other people to know about it, don't do or say it." Over time you'll learn a lot about your coworkers and vice versa, but it will happen organically.

Figure It Out

It's important to ask a lot of questions when you're new to any job, and your boss understands that. But don't pepper her with queries all day long. "You have to know when you need to go to your boss and when you don't," Crawford says. "She's really busy and can't always hold your hand."

Crawford urges new employees to learn to work independently of their supervisors by reaching out to other key people related to their jobs and get to know them. Your supervisor will appreciate the fact that you've figured out how things work and that you've begun to build relationships throughout the company. "You don't want to keep falling back on the fact that you're new -- because that gets old," Crawford says.

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