It can be hard to feel empowered when you’re still the coffee boy or the girl who answers the phones. Entry-level jobs, while essential in corporate America, are often the least respected and most overlooked positions in an organization.
What many new professionals don’t realize is that there are a large variety of skill levels in entry-level jobs that senior employees can frequently fail to notice . While some receptionists may have five internships and two years of work history, there are others who have little to no prior experience working in the same position. It is much easier for top level executives to lump all of them into the category of inexperienced college grads before they get to know them.
Even though some skilled new employees may have plenty of ideas and a desire to lead, their perceived lack of talents and experience can make them nervous about reaching out and volunteering their opinions. They may observe a process or a system at work and think “Couldn’t this be done better this way?” but not say anything for fear of either not being heard or sounding overconfident and arrogant.
There may even be a project outside of their department that needs someone with their expertise, but they are reluctant to offer their help to avoid criticism. Some people simply don’t like their jobs. They want to be leaders, but the process of doing their assignments every day hardly gets them excited enough to put forth the extra effort that would make them look like aspiring leaders.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry. These are merely barriers holding competent and capable future CEOs back from the countless leadership opportunities all around them. Barriers to becoming a leader in the workplace can be overcome with preparation, networking, and doing the best in the job you have. Here are 10 ways to make that happen:
10. Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Getting to know yourself is an essential part of being a great leader. When you know what your strengths are, and where you need a bit of improvement, it is much easier to know what skills you can contribute at work and make career goals that are realistic.
If you flourish in a creative work environment, and your current entry-level position doesn’t allow much creativity, you could look for opportunities to exhibit your ideas. A great leader also knows when to raise their hand and when to refer someone else to a task, thus making sure a project goes well.
9. Prepare For Work
Leaders don’t just show up to work and start calling the shots. Preparation and strategy is key to achieving your leadership and career goals. Doing research (and reading articles like this one) on great leadership techniques is the first step to learning how to be a great leader.
Once you know how to position yourself for leadership, create a strategy based on your chosen career path. Preparation is key for everyday responsibilities as well. Don’t forget to do all assignments well before the deadline and to the best of your ability. A fully prepared employee is always leadership material.
8. Look Like A Leader
Almost everyone has heard “Dress for the job you want!” at least once in their career. There is no doubt; appearance plays a substantial part in your professional journey and smartly-dressed employees are generally taken more seriously and are believed to take their jobs more seriously.
You should always take notice of and dress for your company culture, but don’t blend in too much. A nicely fitted blazer or freshly polished shoes may stand out when everyone else is in khakis and frumpy sweaters.
7. Keep Learning
Even if you’re trying to avoid the entry-level stigma of being inexperienced, chances are you still have plenty to learn. It’s important that you keep a learner’s attitude in order to be a great leader, no matter how high you get on the food chain. Ask questions. Seek advice. Don’t be a smart guy. No one will think highly of you if you try to act like a know-it-all.
6. Do Your Job
Another way to look like a great leader is to simply do your job. Filing paperwork and organizing the supply closet aren’t the most glamorous tasks, but they are your responsibilities. You cannot be an effective leader if you aren’t leading by example by doing your own job enthusiastically and to the best of your ability.
Be responsible and never postpone any projects or deadlines. Make sure your supervisor isn’t worried about whether your reports will get done on time while you’re strategizing to get a promotion.
A leader should be someone everyone knows; how can you lead a group of people you have no interest in? Get to know your cubical mates, invite a couple to lunch, and learn their interests and their strengths. The most respected leaders in the work place are those who respect their subordinates. Since you’re still the subordinate, start by respecting the talents and goals of the girl with cat pictures on her desk.
4. Volunteer And Contribute
You may be entry-level, but you have ideas. There are areas in every company that could be improved, so go find them. Start with your department and work your way around.
Volunteer your help and give up a bit of your extra time. You could provide a unique perspective to a problem area that more experienced employees wouldn’t have thought of. Reaching out could show others you want to be a leader and will provide you with more training.
3. Get To Know Your Boss And Get A Mentor
Establish an earnest work relationship with your superiors, if possible. Your boss will know if you’re just following him/her around to hurl compliments at every opportunity. Be honest, be seen and be heard. A mutually beneficial relationship should include more opportunities to prove your worth and make your superior look good.
Once you’ve gotten to know your superiors you may find that there is a leader among them that mirrors the leadership qualities you desire. If you continue to build on that relationship they should be more than happy to offer advice and mentor you. Look for mentors outside of your workplace as well.
2. Keep An Open And Active Mind
Stay aware of your surroundings and the opportunities that present themselves. Is there a project no one wants? Does your supervisor prefer emails over printed notes? Is there a training seminar coming up that you could attend? Always look for ways to improve and stay open minded even when being criticized.
If your supervisor approaches you with a better way to do your job, remember to listen, digest the valuable information, and apply it as soon as possible. Feedback is what leaders thrive on.
1. Learn When To Say No
No one likes a yes-man, but bosses don’t tend to like an insubordinate employee either. Leaders pick their battles and know when to voice their opinion; learn when to say no and when to wisely keep silent. Get to know your workplace and wait for the right moments.
It may be a while before others respect your opinion and you wouldn’t want to damage a professional relationship by turning down someone else’s input too harshly.
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