This week, I am sharing a blog segment from one of my very favorite people, Lisa Krause. Lisa is an IT manager at Highmark Health Solutions and an ambassador for the Careers2B program. The Careers2B program addresses the systemic lack of work experience barrier to competitive employment for people with disabilities. The program allows participants to gain business competencies and demonstrate success through paid work experience. As an ambassador of the Careers2B program, Lisa has become an advocate for disability employment and a mentor for many of the individuals participating in the program. In her blog, Lisa shares with us some of the tips she provides to employees she mentors about how to become an engaged employee.
Joyce Bender’s advice for success to people in the Careers2B program is to arrive at work early and with a smile. This is great advice but let me provide some additional tips that I’ve shared with my mentees to help them be an engaged employee and be successful in their career. Whether just getting started in the workforce or looking to take that next step in your career, you’ve probably heard your employer talk about employee engagement. The concept of employee engagement centers around developing an environment that creates avenues that allow employees to invest in the company and in their future within the organization. Leaders are looking for employees who are engaged and in tune with company goals, as these are the employees to help achieve organizational success. The following tips will help you to take steps to become engaged in the corporate environment.
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you need to ask for help, be sure to explain what you have already done and where you are stuck. People are more willing to help if you have made an attempt to complete a task or resolve a problem, rather than just saying I don’t know what to do. Be prepared to answer questions about your task or project as well. Sometimes a wider lens is needed to provide the correct direction or solution to your questions. Always take notes when asking questions. This will allow you to go back to the information, if the same situation arises in the future, without the need to interrupt another person’s workflow. Taking notes also shows that you are attentive and interested in the information being shared with you. If you are appreciative of their time and knowledge, your colleague will be more likely to provide help in the future.
Seek out mentorship opportunities. Asking for a mentor or seeking one out is a great way to become more engaged and demonstrate your commitment to the company and your future in the organization. Is there someone you work with whom you admire for what they’ve achieved? If so, explain what you admire about them and ask if they would mentor you. Be proactive in making time to meet with your mentor and prepare questions you have about your career or how the company operates prior to meetings. You can have multiple mentors with each focusing on different areas such as career or personal development. Some companies may even have formal mentorship programs that you can enroll in, depending on your level in the organization. Make sure you are aware of any that map to your career goals and take advantage of these opportunities.
Volunteer! Don’t be afraid to offer to take on additional work or special tasks as long as you are meeting your due dates on other assignments. In addition to work tasks, you can volunteer in other ways. You could volunteer to coordinate a team pot luck or other team activity. These types of social events help to make teams stronger by giving people a chance to get to know each other better. Not only does this demonstrate engagement, it also demonstrates leadership.
Attend meetings with leadership. Most leaders have staff meetings, Town Halls or All Hands meetings. Be sure to attend these. Leadership meetings provide an opportunity to learn about current priorities and future goals of the company. Engaging in these meetings shows that you care about what is going on in your organization or department. It is also a visible action that demonstrates your commitment to your company.
Engage and talk with leaders. Seize any opportunity to speak with a leader in your organization but be prepared. Prepare by researching your organization or leader then develop some questions you may want to ask. One example of something you might ask a leader is, “What is one thing that helped contribute to your success?” When approaching a leader, also be sure to use appropriate workplace etiquette. Be polite and grateful for the opportunity to engage the leader. Do not use a first meeting with a leader to air grievances or complain about the company. You do not want your first impression with a leader to be focused on the negative. If there is an important issue that needs to be addressed, follow corporate guidelines and use proper channels to address your concerns.
Engage with colleagues. Don’t be afraid to engage with others on your team or on a different team. Do this by engaging with them within the projects you are assigned to, as well as participating in team building activities. This will help you grow your professional network. Your professional network can help when you have career questions, technical questions about an assignment or if you want to brainstorm a solution to an issue. Your colleagues or team members are a crucial part of your career success. Becoming a person that your team members can depend on and enjoy working with will be recognized by leadership.
Join an Employee Resource Group (ERG) also known as a Business Resource Group (BRG). ERGs/BRGs are common in large companies. These are groups of people who support a common program or shared experience. These groups usually provide support, career development or personal development related to their career. A resource group may also engage in volunteer activities to support a charity or perform a community service. Becoming involved in company ERGs/BRGs will also help to widen your network beyond your immediate team members within the organization.
Give back to the community. Most companies have organizations or charities they work with. If your team or department participates in a community service activity, be sure to get involved. This is a great opportunity to bond with your team and contribute to the community in which you live. Becoming involved in corporate volunteer opportunities that give back to your community makes a positive impact to your company’s brand and demonstrates your commitment to the company’s goals.
I hope you take advantage of some of this advice to help you be an engaged employee and grow in your professional career. Remember, when employees are engaged, they make impacts that are noticed and appreciated by their leadership. By demonstrating that your commitment to organizational success goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements of your job responsibilities, you are building the leadership skills necessary to grow your career.