Your first years at work are like boot camp, and to succeed — not just survive — you have to learn the ropes and learn them quickly, says Robert L. Dilenschneider, founder of his public relations firm in New York and former president and chief executive of public relations giant Hill and Knowlton.
"Why some young people will succeed and some won't has very little to do with their family backgrounds, the colleges they attended, their majors, the honors they received there, their IQs, their graduate degrees, their athletic skills, or even their ambition and drive," Dilenschneider said.
More importantly, it is not just about what you know that gets you ahead, it's how well you learn and play the career game. You have to be astute about how the work world works, according to Dilenschneider.
Having watched people struggle in their careers, I agree with him.
So to help young adults become work-literate sooner rather than later, I recommend The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life by Dilenschneider with Mary Jane Genova.
Here's some of what you'll learn:
• How to figure out whether your company's culture is the right fit for you. "Bad fits are career killers," Dilenschneider writes.
In this still-recovering economy, you might have to take the first job that comes along. But it is important to eventually find an organization that is the best fit for you — or at least figure out what you need to do to fit in where you land.
• How to manage your relationship with your boss. There are people who should never be put in charge of anyone. Nonetheless, organizations promote such people to supervise others. You could have a boss who seems determined to make your life miserable no matter how hard you try to please.
However, Dilenschneider believes there aren't as many bad bosses as people think. "When you think 'boss,' think 'ordinary,' " he said. "You'll save yourself some disappointment."
But what if you've just started working and you've got a maniacal manager? You'll find tips in the book to help you manage your boss.
• How to survive the office grapevine — otherwise known as gossip, the rumor mill, office politics or networking. It's there and you need to know when to use it and when to avoid it.
"Remember, everyone has an agenda," writes Dilenschneider, who points out the people to avoid or watch carefully. There's good advice about finding a champion in your organization. There are many days I was grateful for having mentors who fought for me.
• How to consciously create your image. "Whether you like it or not, agree with it or not, think it's unfair or not, people judge you by your image," Dilenschneider writes.