Dreaming of a corner office? Whether you're still in college or changing professions, it's never too early to start preparing for a successful business career. Here are 10 things you can start doing right now to get on the fast track to a great view and a big paycheck.
1. Learn to be part of a team
Teamwork isn't just for the field. It's for the office, too. As the old saying goes, "There's no 'I' in teamwork," so learn to focus on the needs of your group as well as your own. Volunteer to take on a challenging task, be willing to offer help to your teammates—and don't get mad if you have to pick up some slack now and then. It's all in the name of the game (and chances are you might need help one day, too).
2. Save personal web use for personal time.
There's a reason some businesses block Facebook and other personal websites: They're a distraction. Just because coworkers are updating their statuses and checking personal emails from the office doesn't mean you should, too. Not only does this waste valuable time, it also creates a virtual paper trail that may come back to haunt you. If you have a data phone, save the Facebooking, emailing and other fun stuff for when you're off the clock. That funny cat video on YouTube will still be there when you get home.
3. Don't come to work to make friends.
It's a tough idea to get used to, especially if you're right out of school, but making friends at work isn't a necessity—it's a bonus. You come to the office for your job, not a social life. If you make friends with colleagues in the process, consider yourself lucky. Even so, it's important to remain mindful of what you say to those you're friendly with in the office.
4. Be flexible.
When it comes to business, flexibility is key. Whether it's coming in early to start on a project, staying late to finish one, or learning a new skill set that's outside your comfort zone, bosses and colleagues notice a coworker that's quick to adapt—and does so with a good attitude.
5. Stay upbeat.
Bad coffee? Hours too long? Just as life isn't perfect, neither is work. When it comes to the office, and life in general, we all have things to complain about. Roll with the punches and save the complaining for friends and family. Stay positive. And if you're having a bad day, stay quiet. Which brings us to number six.
6. Don't get emotional.
It can be hard to keep your emotions in check at work. We're all human. We all have feelings. But the office isn't the place to let them show. Coworker treat you unfairly? Boss being a jerk? Count to ten. Take a deep breath or a quick walk outside. Whatever helps calm you down. Losing your cool in the workplace is a big no-no. If your work environment is making you feel like you're going to lose it, it might be time to reach out to human resources—or find a new job that'll make you less crazy.
7. Do your homework.
Think your days of homework are over just because you're out of school? Think again. Taking assignments home with you is a sure-fire way to get ahead. Have a long report to read? A challenging proposal to write? It's surprising how much more you can get done when you're in your own space, away from coworkers and florescent lights. Put in a couple hours on a Sunday night and you'll see what a difference it makes Monday morning.
8. Take initiative.
Complete a task? Don't wait until you're assigned another. Approach your supervisor about what you can do next. Similarly, if you see a need, fill it. Start a newsletter. Organize a meeting. Nothing says go-getter like a big helping of initiative.
9. Get to work early.
Some of the most successful businesspeople will tell you one of the best—and easiest—ways to get ahead is to arrive at the office early. Not only does it look good, it'll help you get a leg up on daunting tasks. Try it. You'll be making headway in the morning while your colleagues are still making coffee.
10. Eat breakfast.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised just how many people skip breakfast. The human brain does not run on caffeine alone. Pair that cup of coffee with some protein and complex carbohydrates and you'll notice what a difference it makes. You really will work longer and stronger—and will probably be less hungry throughout the day.