No matter what you think of them, the Boy Scouts have a really kick-ass motto: Be Prepared. In my personal life, I’m probably less prepared than most – I’m constantly running out of milk, TP, not having child care plans for snow days… But at work? That’s a different story. I am usually at the top of my game, with planning and preparation as my two most important tools.
Being unprepared is not pretty. This applies to pretty much everything: not reading background documents, not anticipating the right number of people at a meeting, not practicing presentation remarks or even not making contingencies for bad weather. Preparation is more than half the battle – if you want to be considered a professional, you have to prepare. That means reading up on your industry, staying abreast of trends (management, education, technology, etc.), maintaining and building your network and learning how not to be reactionary. Keep on top of your work and you won’t be caught off guard. If you are doing a presentation, don’t wing it – read the materials, practice speaking in front of a mirror or with others, anticipate questions and be ready to answer them. Sure, things happen that you don’t see coming, but if you’re prepared, you can roll with the punches and still do what needs to be done. As a professional, you are not working in a vacuum – what you do or don’t do affects other people’s work. Consider how preparation can affect your reputation. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forces out there…be prepared to have it work in your favor!