Back in June, comedian Russell Brand stopped by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show to be interviewed about his upcoming tour, “The Messiah Complex.” Rather than the typical Q&A that unravels during talk shows, it quickly became clear that none of the reporters had done their homework — not even “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, who said, “He’s a really big deal… I’m told this. I’m not very pop cultured, I’m sorry.” The trio of anchors went on to mistakenly call him “Willy” and talk about him as if he’s not there, several times. (For the full debacle, check out the video at the end of the post.)
It was unprofessional and downright rude for the so-called reporters to have behaved that way, especially for Mika, who writes a monthly advice column in Cosmopolitan Magazine telling women how to succeed in the workplace. (Not that Mika has had a strong history for writing useful career-related articles — in this one from 2012, she says “backstabbing and bitchiness” run rampant in the office, thanks to women.)
The Russell Brand interview disaster reminded me of just how important it is to conduct yourself the right way at work. So here are 11 things to help you be successful while in the workplace.
1. Know your company’s dress code. This, like everything, depends on the environment. Some places will require corporate attire, some business casual, some super casual. But, as a general rule, try not to wear anything you’d be embarrassed to have your grandma see you in.
2. Keep personal calls to a minimum. Some calls need to be made during the day (doctor’s office, cable company, whatever), so that’s totally understandable. But do try to take them into a private area (a communal space, like a shared kitchen or even outside) and refrain from chatting with the bestie.
3. Don’t overshare. You and some your co-workers will likely become friends — great ones, even! Still, personal conversations at work are not always a great idea, especially not where others can hear you. Take it to the hallway, the cafe, the ladies room, or save it for later.
4. Your boss is your boss. Keep it that way. If your boss wants to try to be chummy with you, that’s fine, but remain reserved. The last thing you’d want is to spill the details of your life to your boss, only for him or her to start holding that against you professionally.
5. Keep a running list of your accomplishments. Not only will this help you feel good, but it is crucial to reference when you want to request a raise or talk about a promotion. To that end, document things you feel may be important later. Email is the easiest way to do this, but keeping your own personal records can work, too.
6. Be mindful of social media. Kendra delved into the specifics, but it’s so important to lay low when it comes to social media. Don’t constantly check Facebook and Twitter (regardless of how tempting it may be), don’t update your personal blog from work (or at the very least, have the decency to schedule the post so it’s not obvious that you published it at 10:47 a.m.), and lock your profiles. To that end, do not complain about your job on social media, if you can help it. You never know who’s watching.
7. Remember that your job is not your home. Even if sometimes it feels like you’re at work all the time or if you feel comfortable with your co-workers, your company is still not your home. So things like walking around barefoot, taking office supplies for personal use, and leaving the shared kitchen a mess may not go over well.
8. Be kind. Some of your co-workers will be great, but some will be awful — really, really awful. Remember that you are there to work and you don’t have to be friends; you just have to be civil.
9. Speak up. While civility with people you dislike is merely part of being an adult, this does not mean you must stand for co-workers who make sexist, racist, or other horrible remarks. Don’t be afraid to speak up to HR or to your supervisor. You deserve to work in an atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable.
10. Stand strong. A 2009 study said that young women expressed a sense of incompetence is by claiming ignorance, not about something specific, but in general, by uttering the words, “I don’t know.” You’re smart. Stand by your words and your ideas and try not to qualify them by uttering “I don’t know” or “This might be dumb” or “This may not work, but…” (It’s really hard, and I still do this, but I’m trying.)
11. Work smart and work well. You don’t necessarily need to be working 100% of the time. You’re only human, and breaks are to be expected, and sometimes you’ll likely get distracted. But if you are smart about your job, it won’t matter. So be innovative, think of new ways to do old things, and master your craft.
What kind of career tips have worked for you?