Some of you who have followed MCLA from its inception will recall how I went to law school and got a job. It is not my first job but I must say that it is the first career defining work experience so far as it is right up my professional alley and at it, I have learned a whole lot.
I have learned that your fancy degree(s) might get you the job but only your character and attitude will ensure that you not only keep your job but thrive and excel at it. In fact, these days, many a masters degree holder gets turned back and gets confused: but I thought once I get a masters, the jobs will be lining up for me. These days, masters degrees are a dime a dozen. Everyone and their mama has it. It’s no longer the biggie it was 10 years ago and you need to show more to get the attention of employers and recruiters. I digress.
See, this post is not really about getting the job you want. Its aim is to show how one can enjoy and excel at the job you have. Here are some tips I have discovered whilst working in my law firm. I believe they are applicable anywhere. Enjoy!
1. Understand your role and discover ways to perform your job well
As a lawyer, I get tasks as mundane as writing minutes of a meeting (this is a general summary of what transpired at a meeting for future reference etc) to drafting an entire agreement from scratch i.e. without the use of a template. I have learned that both the seemingly mundane and seemingly important tasks deserve the same level of excellence. My role in the firm is not to draft important agreements. It is to be a useful lawyer and employee. This means if what will make life easier for my boss right now is to prepare an agenda, then an agenda I shall prepare. If tomorrow, I am needed to deal with the administrative aspects of a seminar, then that I shall do. If today, it is to meet with the head of a multinational, then meet I shall.
The point is you are not just there to do the sexy deals. You are there to move the organisation forward and make your presence and in fact, absence felt. Now don’t get it twisted, spending all your time doing admin work will not fetch you much. Wisdom is key.
Further, when you identify what your role is, it is not enough to just do your job. You must do it well and with pride too. Go the extra mile. Suggest an idea that has been playing in your head. Put in the extra oomph. I have watched great models get voted off America’s Next Top Model because they are not memorable. They take great photos and walk the runway well but they are not outstanding and a thousand others do just that. You need to distinguish yourself in your role and let it show that you are different.
2. Be a hard worker
Get to work on time. Make good use of the period you are at work. Minimise your gisting and chilling. Don’t go over your allocated breaks, don’t spend the day bb-ing, chatting on your phone, updating your status, using office internet to shop (trust me, you are being observed and even if you are not, it is a thing of integrity).
It is not enough to just be at work, work hard whilst there. Hone your skills, perfect your craft. If you are in my field, this means reading books, reading emails and ensuring that you are on top of it all, writing and generally endeavouring and working towards being better than you were last month. If you get appraised yearly, appraise your self half yearly. If you get appraised half yearly, appraise yourself every quarter. Your company does its bit by paying you every month. You have to do your own bit by ensuring you do not drop the ball.
3. Dress and act like a professional
Be a professional. Talk like a professional. Use the right lingo. Dress well. In my field, this means keeping your coat of many colours to a minimum or better still, for Church. It means dressing the way the partners in your firm dress not necessarily with the price tag but with professionalism.
Be friendly. Be engaging. Don’t just come to work, do the job and pack your bags. Have buddies. Be nice even as you focus on your job. This does not mean you have to become I go dye and the office clown but you get the point…
4. Have a can-do spirit
Don’t be the one who always notices the faults and ends with the words ‘it is not possible’, ‘I cannot do it’. Even if you have the gift of identifying the problems and drawbacks with a plan, always end with a possible solution. Clients don’t always care how you go about solving their problems. They do know they have problems or potential problems so they do not need you to highlight them all and end with ‘not possible!’. Yes, it might not be possible this way, but what about that way. Remember, there is always a way. Your company’s role is to find it. You can be the solution provider! Start thinking like the boss.
5. Know and respect hierarchies
Yes, this means knowing who’s boss and treating them accordingly. Your bosses range from the MD/CEO or Managing Partner, to the other partners to your HOD to the girl who finished law school a year ahead of you even though when you were in SS3 in QC, she was in JSS 3. That’s just the way it is, at least in my industry! Until you distinguish yourself and are consequently elevated, you might need to take orders or to put it mildly ‘instructions’ from someone who would is younger than your little ones who call you ‘Sister’. Yup! Leave the chip on your shoulder in your car. Remember it is a job. Be professional. This is not your family meeting or your home. This is work. Age is literally nothing but a number, an insignificant one. The only number that matters is your years of experience and how well you are doing your job, your client score card etc, not your age.
6. Take initiative
Like I alluded to earlier, merely doing your job will help you keep it but might not mean you will excel and be a high flyer. You will be just a normal worker, nothing special, just there. You need to push the boundaries, identify voids and ways things could be done better in the company as a whole and your unit specifically. Make suggestions. If your boss is not too much of a my way or the high way person, you could even dare to make a small change here and there and share with him/her after.
7. Not everything is about better pay and commendation
As nice as it is for all your handwork and excellent attitude to be noticed by all and rewarded by the big guys, it is actually for your own good and personal development. So don’t get all grumpy and discouraged if a red carpet welcome does not await you the day after your brilliant suggestion saved the day. And please don’t give up because your wonderful ideas etc in March does not reflect in a big bonus if any. It is not about immediate applause and commendation or pay or reward. It is about building yourself to a certain level that your ‘outstandingness’ cannot but go noticed AND rewarded…
8. Be prayerful
I saved the very best tip for the last. The power of prayer for favour and grace cannot be overemphasised. No matter how much you hustle, without the touch of God, your efforts might be frustrated. Without God, the builders build in vain and without God, the watchmen watch in vain (Psalm 127).
So there you have it guys, my tips for excelling in your careers. I’m sure there are much more you can add to the foregoing. Please do in the comment section below. Even the word of God says, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” Proverbs 22:29. Also, Colossians 3:22 says, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God”. Okay, you are not exactly in a servant/master relationship but you get the drift…Then again, who are we kidding!
Have a lovely weekend guys!!!