So you’re the rookie, the newest recruit hanging out on the bottom rung of the totem pole. You graduated from school with big ideas and a fresh perspective, ready to take the corporate world by storm. But who’s going to listen when you occupy the smallest cubicle in the back corner of the lowest floor?
Don’t lose heart—you’ll be moving up soon enough. But it’s going to require more than just putting your nose to the grindstone. With some initiative, though, you can harness that ambition, earn the attention of your boss, and even get noticed at the higher ranks of your organization.
1. Keep the Pulse of Your Company’s Endeavors
Nothing says newbie more than awkward silence when your colleague starts chatting about the CEO’s new business strategy. Likewise, nothing says competent more than your ability to articulately converse about it. But short of a company memo or briefing with your boss, how do you find out about the latest happenings?
To get started, set up a Google Alert with your company’s name so you’re always kept up-to-date on what’s happening. Then, during your commute, browse through any articles, industry reports, trade journals, and even newsletters that come through. As you’re reading, don’t forget to check out the comments section of an article. A satisfied customer might suggest a way to better care for a client’s needs or streamline a process. And hearing criticisms—no matter how extreme—can be valuable information, too.
2. Study the Competition
As you read up on your company in the news, spend some time finding out what your competitors are up to. Have any rolled out a new service or opened a new office? If they’re publically traded, how have their stock prices been doing, and what’s been the cause of any major upticks or drops?
This research will not only help you keep track of the competition, it will help you stay apprised of market trends as a whole. It will even help you brainstorm ways your company or department can do your work better.
3. Join an Innovation Task Force
Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have companies scrambling more than ever to stay fresh, innovate, and stand out to consumers, so it’s likely that your company has formed a committee to talk strategy. Hopping on board is one of the quickest and most effective ways to get to know co-workers on all levels and, most importantly, to showcase your talent.
Ask around. Find out who’s heading up the task force. Shoot them an email, or—better yet—stop by their desks to introduce yourself. Tell them that you’ve got some ideas and would like to get involved. Added bonus: You may even make some new friends.
4. Volunteer to Lead a Test Project
Now that you’ve talked strategy, take the next step and see your ideas to execution. Say you suggested the company test out a new online marketing plan. Offer to organize a focus group. If you recommended that the company should develop a presence on Pinterest, ask for permission to test it out for a few weeks. Afterward, write a memo with your findings. And, of course, don’t forget to put your name on it!
One caution, however: Don’t choose to sign up for a project you have no interest in. If you perform well and see results, the bosses just might keep you on it.
5. Ask a More Senior Colleague to Coffee
This is the best way to get to know the higher-ups in your organization and get unfiltered advice from industry veterans. Find someone who seems approachable, and see if he or she would be available to step out for coffee sometime.
When the day comes, be interested. Ask questions, but not in an “I’m-ready-to claw-my-way-to-the-top” way. Think: What was her road to her current position? What was the person who last held your position like? Really listen to her replies, and respond thoughtfully. You might even get a future mentor out of the meeting! But if not, just take it for what it is: a casual chat with someone who was once where you are.
And, needless to say, insist on paying. Three dollars is a small price to pay for the relationship you’ll be building.
The process of making a name for yourself won’t be instantaneous, but stay positive. Remember that the corner-office dwellers were once like you—and with just a little research and showing off of your fresh ideas, you’ll be on your way to the same in no time.