How To Succeed At Work

Last year my niece secured her first part time job as she’s still in school.  With that job came advice from various people (myself included) on how to do well at work.  It was a job at the movie theater for a little more than minimum wage.  It can at times be hard and grueling work, sometimes she would get burned from the popcorn machine.

The theater would hire dozens of high school and a few college students, within 6 months over half will quit and within a year over 90% are gone. During the first week of training a third of the kids quit, some don’t bother calling or even showing up.  Others when the surf is up they just don’t show up for work so they get fired.

I understand it’s a hard job for low pay, but for many of these kids it’s their first job.  They’re already developing bad work habits and a shitty attitude which will set them up for failure later on.  No work experience and they think this job is beneath them?  Not bother showing up or even a phone call to let them know you’re quitting is very disrespectful, regardless of what you think of the job.  That’s whats often lost on the $15 an hour minimum wage debate, there a lot of shitty ass workers with bad attitudes that think the job is beneath them.  I saw that when I worked at Walmart.  When you apply for a job and get hired you’ve made a commitment, not showing up is not following through on it.

Here is the advice I gave my niece:

1. Find out what’s most important to your boss.
What are they looking for in an employee? Does he value strong planning, or certain platform skills. I had a boss who believed if you were on time you were five minutes late. I always made sure to come to meetings early.

2. Find out what makes the top three employees in your group successful.
You’ll know who the usual top performers are. Emulate what infrastructure they have in place to help them succeed? Are the well organized? Do they listen well? Do they seek out higher value projects? Observe and ask them for help, you’ll find most people will be flattered and be willing to help.

3. Observe the worst two employees and don’t do what they do.
Are they often late or procrastinate? Do they have a shitty attitude about their job? People often forget that they can’t hide a bad attitude, which often affects their quality of work.  Learn from these workers and don’t make the same mistakes they do.

4. If you don’t know who the two worst employees are, then YOU’RE the worst one.
If you can’t figure out who does the worst work, than it’s you. It’s similar to that person who always complain of numerous bad or crazy roommates, they’re the shitty roommate. You never want to be this person.

If she follows these rules she’ll always be able to find a job and succeed at it.

What other tips would you give to succeed at work?



  1. I would say my biggest piece of advice is to be on time. all.the.time. I had a few jobs during high school and it seemed like a lot of people my age were constantly forgetting showing up late or forgetting their schedules and not realizing they were supposed to be at work. Being reliable will make you stand out!

  2. I think gratitude would be another. Yeah it can be the worst job in the world, but you are there making money, building relationships, experience, etc. Gratitude can help get you through some pretty tough situations. And also, try to make it fun if possible.
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  3. I remember seeing a lot of those bad work habits when I was working those low paying jobs. I was always prompt and showed up to work everyday doing what I was told. Yea, that by itself warranted praise from my employers…not high standards for teenagers it seemed. Even when I worked a summer temp job, my employer praised me for showing up to work everyday and doing my work. She told me they had many college temp employees who would not show up and just go to the beach on nice days. Very irresponsible and disrespectful.

  4. Nice post. That last comment actually reminded me of my friend, she’s always complaining about her terrible love life. Bad boyfriend after bad boyfriend. I don’t have the heart to tell her that maybe, just maybe, some of it might be her doing…
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  5. Hi Charles, some great advice there. The best advice I received in the corporate world was ‘work as if you’re self-employed’. It’s so easy to sit in a job and not appreciate it, but it’s amazing how your perspective changes when you act as if you’re your own business – every interaction with customers, colleagues and bosses seems to feel a little bit more important.
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  6. I think #3 is key. Anytime I’ve started a new job, or interviewed for one, I’ve always asked the hiring manager what he/she would consider a successful first year for the applicant, and who did the job best, and what they did. It lets them know you’re serious, committed, and want to succeed. Plus, if you ask them what they expect, you don’t have to play any guessing games.
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  7. The lack of professionalism I encounter in EVERY job I’ve ever had blows my mind. I get hired all the time just from recommendations, I doubt those late, lackadaisical people are getting the same future opportunities.
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  8. LOL, I love #4. That is so true. It’s like sitting around a poker table and trying to figure out who the sharks are. If you don’t know, then it certainly isn’t you either =/
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  9. Such good advice, Charles. I’m going to take some of your tips and put them in action.

    My favorite advice for a new employee is to find a mentor. And not in the formal, “Do you want to be my mentor?” way, because that rarely works. I just mean finding the person on the team who knows what they’re doing and wants to help you. This “wants to help you” person is almost always on a team or in the org somewhere, and yet, in some weird “I got this” mentality, new employees sometimes turn down this help in order to feign competence.

    Take the help!
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  10. Those are some good tips, definitely applicable to most work places. I worked at Pizza Hut for my first job and kind of “owned” the cut table on busy Friday or Saturday nights. That meant working very efficiently. I learned a lot at that job, but it was also the hardest work I’ve ever done (for minimum wage, too!). One time I burned my thumb on the breadstick sauce, but if I had taken a quick break, pizzas would have fallen on the floor from the conveyor belt so I pushed on. It’s good to have a job like that because it puts every future job in perspective.
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