As individuals, we’ve been taught to react at face value and assume someone else has thought of all the implications. This is not true for the workplace, there’s a whole new set of expectations - to think.
In the work industry, there’s a set of unspoken rules no one tells you about. These rules are things managers expect but don’t tell you, or things that top performers do without realizing. Gorick Ng, Harvard career advisor, states that what separates high performers from mediocre performers is up to you to figure out on your own. He calls this trial by fire.
In this article we’re breaking down six things Gorick has discovered in his time that you should put into your own practice when starting your career. After concluding this read, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to implement these objectives into your everyday agenda to stand out from peers.
One of the unspoken rules is if you’re meeting expectations, you’re falling below expectations. The expectation is that you’re going to go above and beyond. However, the struggle lies with people not telling you what going above and beyond looks like.
It’s transitioning from simply keeping up to stepping up. This starts with asking yourself why you are hired in the first place; to help your company achieve its goals. Once you identify what those goals are, you can work backwards and find a way to make yourself useful.
Gorick gave a personal example from when he was given one of his first assignments to create a meeting agenda for his manager. He approached the situation as he would with a previous 6th grade teacher; they provide you with the expectations and if you meet them you get an A. He later realized approaching the situation with this mindset without being told the expectations were different. In turn, his manager was not pleased with his work.
By following instructions too closely, you're not putting yourself in the best position to succeed. It’s important to anticipate what people want, what could work well, and what won’t work well so you can come to the table with all grounds covered. This leads to the next thing you should know when starting your career - having an ownership mindset.
An ownership mindset is putting yourself in the driver’s seat rather than in the passenger seat in everything you do. If we continue with the previous example above in regard to the meeting agenda Gorick’s manager told him, “The first time I’m thinking about this is when I start this meeting with you. The last time I’m thinking about this presentation is when this meeting ends because when this meeting ends, I’m off fighting another fire. I’m counting on you to manage this whole process end to end. I want you to come to me and say, ‘Actually, I don’t think we should be doing this at all. I think we should be doing this instead.’”
In all that you do, you want to polish your work like a diamond and make it as good as you possibly can. Take the ownership and make your work something you're proud of.
In Gorick's words, the CEO notices people who matter. By implementing these principles, they end up rising to positions that may not have existed before. He gave a story of an individual who joined a marketing firm. He took a number of steps while with this firm: he built his human capital, built his social capital, and built his reputational capital.
You can develop your human capital through inviting yourself to meetings, taking notes, coming up with a point of view, and going to your team with new ways of doing things. Over time you’ll develop subject matter expertise in your role.
The individual grew his understanding of the subjects at hand. By inviting himself to so many meetings, he ended up knowing everyone well in the organization thus growing his social reputation. In doing his job well, he built his reputational capital and became someone who mattered and could be trusted. CEO's notice these types of people, and they become the go to people of the firm.
The ability to ask why you’re doing certain things in business is one of the greatest skills. The answer tends to be, “Oh, we’ve just always done it this way”, and leaves no room for growth or improvements.
At Dakota, we recently made an adjustment with our Dakota Live! Calls. After simply asking why, we have now improved the experience for our members and any prospects that listen in to our call. The ability to ask questions and think about a problem drives everything in interpersonal relationships at a company.
If your organization is in a growth mindset, asking why is so crucial. From this simple question you come up with great points and reasoning for what you do. If you can’t come up with any true reason other than, “We’ve always done it this way”, maybe it’s time to rethink and come up with a better option. It forces collaboration and communication with your team.
Another unspoken rule Gorick highlights is to switch from thinking about the task to thinking about the broader goal. These are the people who end up outperforming in the industry. Gorick said this was something he wishes someone had told him earlier; no one gets hired to create more paperwork, send emails, and pick up the phone. These are all just means to an end, and the end is accomplishing some broader purpose.
When assigned a task, Gorick provides four questions you should ask yourself, or if you’re unsure ask the person you’re working with, “Why? What? How? By when?”. Asking these questions can provide clarity on the task at hand.
Being task oriented is what school teaches you to do. If the professor says hand in assignment by 2:00 PM, you hand in your assignment at 2:00 PM. As an employee with goal orientation, you’ll be able to produce more work that matters and work that will get used. It leads to more productive teams because it’s not just about work, it’s about work for a broader purpose.
In the end, meetings always have a hidden objective: to make a decision, share information, or get alignment. From a task oriented perspective, analysts will create hundreds of slides that probably won’t get looked at in a meeting. From a goal oriented perspective analysts will understand the goal of the meeting, to make a decision to advise a client.
If you’re the analyst in the meeting presenting 50 slides, you still can. However, it’s important to give the translation of what’s important. Say, “Look, I know you can see the information, but I’m going to do you the favor and tell you exactly why you should care about this.” Telling them why this matters to them.
Understanding the hidden objectives will save you time, save you stress, and provide better alignment between you, your clients, and your team.
There are plenty of things that might sound like common sense, but if you're entering your first job out of college, or you're starting somewhere new in a new field, the tips above can help you stand out from the crowd and set you off on the right path.
Start by tackling one at a time, and set goals to challenge yourself to incorporate more over time. By keeping these six things in mind, you'll be on the right track to success.
To view a full session with Gorick Ng, and for more tips for starting your investment sales career off right, register for Dakota Rainmaker.
Written By: Morgan Holycross, Content Marketing Associate
Morgan Holycross is the Marketing Associate at Dakota.
November 02, 2023
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