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Does your boss think you have a “Poor Work Ethic?”

By Lea McLeod (1379 words)
Posted in Professional Development on September 26, 2013

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A new study by Millennial Branding reports that GenY employees may not be in sync with their employers. Findings include perceptions of new grads as follows: 

  • 47% of employers believe new grads have a "poor work ethic"

  • 46% of employers say GenY employees are easily distracted at work 



Regardless of whether these are generalized perceptions of higher-level managers, or street level experience from managers of Gen Y, it makes sense to reflect. 


Two things that will help you overcome these perceptions, are turning in work that is on time, and complete. 

Unlike college where all credit hours are created equally, tasks in your career will vary in value. High value work -- your key priorities -- generate more “workplace credit.” That’s where you want to most focus your time and attention.


For me, time management and work prioritization was tough. There were always a lot of things pulling me in different directions, and I had to make sure I got them all done.


It’s not that hard. You just need to get clear on what your top priorities are. Then you need a self-managing process that ensures your most important work gets done; completely and on time.


Rather than “time management” think of it as “decision management.” I want you to learn to make good decisions about how you will apply the limited time in the work day that you have. Using the five steps that follow will help you develop a pattern for success in getting the right work done, and, start differentiating yourself as a top performer.

So let’s look at five steps that will help you structure your time and deliver high quality work. 


“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule,
but to schedule your priorities.”  –Steven R. Covey

5 Steps to Help Structure Your Time & Deliver High Quality Work

1. Know Your Priorities

Get clear on the top three or four priorities your boss expects you to accomplish. If you can’t determine every day what your most important work is, you need to have a conversation with your boss.  


Step one is get clear on the most important deliverables so you can schedule those priorities accordingly. 

  • Clarify what a successful outcome looks like. 

  • Align on the due dates, and when s/he wants to see your progress.

  • Check in frequently (as in weekly) to be sure you are aligned on those priorities (things do change!) 

  • Advise her of your project status, and where you need clarification or support.


2. Get Organized

You can debate the “clean or messy workspace” question all you want. Here’s my case for organization: Being organized will help you work faster. Eliminate the time you’ll spend looking for stuff you already have, and make sure the things you need are in the right place before you begin.


Also, your professional obligation is to leave your work in such a state that if necessary, someone else could come in and pick up where you left off. 

  • Clearly organize you work in paper, e-file, or other on line form.

  • Use clear, simple labels for project work. 

  • File archived email in a way that you can easily reference them, and others could if they needed to. 

  • Keep pertinent documents in shared files intended for a project, rather than on your hard drive or mobile.

Stuff happens. Volcanoes ground airplanes, hurricanes interrupt traffic. It’s possible someone will need to get something from your work area when you are not around. Make it easy for you, and them!



3. Make a Plan

The best way to meet a deadline is to make a plan to. Once you know your due dates, you can develop a plan to accomplish the work, and then schedule that time on your calendar so you know you’ll get it done. 

  • Start with the final date for your deliverable. 

  • Make a list of all the people who possibly need to be involved. 

  • Determine what information you need to gather.

  • What are all the things that need to be completed by the week prior to your due date? Two weeks? Three weeks? 

  • Map out each week, and what needs to be completed so you hit your target date.

  • Break all your work into weekly and daily tasks.

That way even if you are “easily distracted” at work, you’ll have a plan to get the work done, punctuated by breaks you can take when you need distraction. 



4. Schedule your priorities

Now that you’ve got your plan, assign time on your calendar when you’ll focus on accomplishing each of the tasks you’ve broken down into weekly and daily actions. This gives your priorities first shot at your calendar, which is the way it should be.


If other people have access to your calendar, it’s important to do this so they do not request the time you have planned to focus on high priority work. Schedule your key priorities first, and then manage time for the other around them. 



5. Do the work you scheduled

Now it’s important to make the most of the time you’ve scheduled. This can be hard because there will be a zillion other distractions floating around the workplace. See previous comments on being distracted! 

  • Commit yourself to working in 15, 20, or 30 minute blocks; find a time frame that works for you. Try a tool like Time Timer (http://www.timetimer.com/) or app like 30/30 (http://3030.binaryhammer.com/)

  • Turn off distractions (texts, mobile, email, social media, music…anything) that will derail you. Yes, I said it. The world will still be turning when you take a break.

  • Set the timer on your mobile, or use your app or other tools, and work for the minutes you’ve dedicated. Don’t look up. Don’t check email, don’t text a friend.

  • When your timer goes off, take a break. Get a treat that makes you happy. Then go another block of minutes.

  • Continue as needed until you’ve completed your project commitments for the time block, and your high priority tasks for the day. Bask in the accomplishment that you feel!

One of the most consistent messages I hear is how hard it is for many college grads to accommodate the need to work with long-term deadlines when they are starting out. 


These steps are a simple, repeatable process that can help you create a foundation for your career practices. Give it a try and let your results speak for themselves.



{#/pub/images/LeaMcLeod.jpg}Written by Lea McLeod, M.A., Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition 

Lea works extensively with new grads who are tackling the job search for the first time.  She is a guest speaker, as well as facilitator of the “Find a Job Faster” Job Search Program and “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop & Webinar series, bringing over 20 years of director level experience, most recently with Hewlett-Packard, managing, leading and serving worldwide employees. She holds a degree in Marketing from St. Bonaventure University, and a Master of Arts in Organization Development from Seattle University.


Do you have a question for Lea?  Post it in our College Student/Recent Grad Community, she will be happy to help: Ask An Expert 


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Here are some related articles you may be interested in:  

6 Tips to Jumpstart Your Career Before Graduation

5 Ways to Build Trust in Your First Job

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7 Trust-Killers in Your First Job

7 Ways to Quell First Job Jitters

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials



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