From my colleague Marla Gottschalk, our awesome career and workplace coach:
Watching television the other night I had to laugh out loud when I saw a new IBM commercial. A young employee is noodling around on a social networking site at work when his boss walks in.
Boss: "What are you doing?"
Guy: "Social networking."
Boss: "Social networking?"
Guy: "Everybody's doing it. I have 826 friends."
Boss: [surprised] "That's a lot of friends."
Guy: "Well, I can find anyone."
Boss: "OK. I need to put together an international team of finance experts who know merger arbitrage, have 10+ years experience, speak Cantonese, and can hit the ground running Monday."
Guy: [blank stare] "I don't have any friends like that."
OK - so what can we learn from this mini job preview? As someone who studies work behavior, I have to say: Plenty.
1. Have a realistic view of your skills and abilities. Yes, you may be experienced using the Internet, but be sure that your skill is really work relevant before you brag about it. If the skill is not work relevant, try thinking of ways to make it relevant. Only then should you show it off.
2. If you really want to get ahead at work, innovate. Take what you do well, apply it to your role at work, and figure out a way to fix problems or challenges. Use flexible thinking and a fresh perspective on problems to really make an impact. Find an appropriate time and place to communicate your suggestions. Even the toughest of issues can benefit from a different point of view.
3. This one is obvious: don't spend time on a social networking site at work unless it makes sense for your job. That is a sure way to make a poor impression, or worse.
Overall, new hires should be highly valued. But they, too, may have something to learn after they land the job of their dreams. Rounding out a skill profile with things that you pick up from watching others and asking great questions never hurts. In fact, it will offer you a competitive edge. Never stop learning. Never.