Posted on 1/10/2015 by Matthew Fotheringham
Next week marks my first six months at RBS/MThree and what a rapid, enjoyable journey it has been so far! I had my first appraisal a couple of weeks ago and here is a look back at what has helped things go smoothly.
The best advice is always the simplest. I had a mentor during an internship I did a few years ago who said to me, ‘Think of this internship as being invited to your friend’s parents’ house for the weekend’. Beautifully uncomplicated and transferable to everyday work situations.
Let’s start with your friend’s parents opening their front door to welcome you into their home. The first part of developing a positive personal brand starts with a presentable and reliable image. Clean, ironed clothes and a watch are all you need for this. Turn up on time with a smile.
You wouldn’t walk past your hosts into their house in silence and immediately make yourself at home, would you? ‘Good morning’, ‘How was your weekend’, ‘Have a lovely evening’, ‘See you tomorrow’; it doesn’t cost a lot to acknowledge the existence of people you sit next to every day, but it takes you so far. This is how I started to build rapport with my colleagues from the very beginning. I have since got to know them on a more personal level by speaking with them about their hobbies, families, holidays. Give a little, get a lot.
Your input is valued at work, in the same way that your contribution to conversation is valued at the dinner table at your friend’s house. ‘Input’ does not mean walking around like you own the place and dominating the conversation, but it does require you not to be a complete non-character. This is where being proactive really helps. Have a mental brainstorm of various options and outcomes of a situation and be ready to challenge and build on ideas with useful points that other people may not have considered. Proactive things I have done range from little things like offering to write the meeting agenda for your manager in advance of a team meeting, to bigger things such as proposing to lead a mini project for your team.
At the end of the meal as a guest, I usually offer to clear the table or do the washing up. Be the first to volunteer for tasks so that your colleagues perceive you as a helpful team player – someone they can rely on if they get bogged down. Helping your team with their tasks – or at least showing an interest in other people’s projects – when things are quieter for you will give you an idea of current opportunities and setbacks in the bank and you can position yourself better based on this.
As well as it being a great way to express gratitude, a thank you letter after a lovely weekend visit to your friend’s house is also what I call a ‘closure device’. It recognises that the weekend actually happened and you have taken the time to reflect on how much you enjoyed it. The practice of following up like this is vital in the workplace; respond to emails politely and in a timely manner and manage expectations when you discuss delivery.
In Production Support, everyone has high expectations and almost everything is urgent, so in recent months I have learnt to respond to emails quickly. If I don’t immediately have a solid resolution for a user, I make sure to update them intermittently just to let them know that I haven’t forgotten their query! We all know how disappointing it is to be promised something for a certain date/time only for it not to be delivered by then, so I ‘manage up’ by adding in contingency to the delivery date I promise.
My first six months have been exciting and challenging at times, but as well as reminding myself of this helpful analogy every day, I have approached every task given to me with an open mind and positive energy. I aim to inspire my colleagues and needless to say, my team inspires me on a daily basis.