A few days ago I was having lunch with a couple of friends. Both are parents of teenagers and they started talking about how young people today pretend to know everything and how annoying some can get. One particular phrase really stuck with me and got me thinking about what makes a new employee a good employee. In my friend’s home the phrase, “yeah, I know” is banned. If you are a learner, or spend any decent amount of time with other young teenagers, you are familiar with this exchange:
Adult: Do you HOW TO X?
Teenager: Yeah, I know.
“Yeah, I know” is not an invitation to continue, but instead is a signal to the original speaker that the person receiving the message is not interested in further discussion. In a professional environment, the phrase can be equally, if not more, damaging to professional growth. When you enter a workforce, a new job, a new building, everyone in that building has something to teach you that can help you grow.
When I worked as a training assistant on my first job, I obviously learned things from the co-trainer and my bosses, but I also learned things from the security guards, the janitors, and the secretaries. In fact, one of the people that taught me the most was my boss’s secretary who basically understood everything in that company. Years later, that information is paying off dividends!
I’ve been around many students and fresh graduates; I am one. Some of them are like the teenager in the quote above . . . . Someone went to go teach them something and they responded, “Yeah, I know.” For whatever reason, they shut down a knowledge and wisdom valve that was at some point open to them. Admitting you don’t know something is the first step to learning it. And many times, especially when you are new, you don’t even know what you don’t know. There is nothing wrong with not knowing everything; there is plenty wrong with thinking you know everything.
As you gain experience, you should know more than when you started, but you still have to remain teachable. Yes, sometimes you will be told things you already knew, but respond with “Hey, thanks for telling me” instead of “Yeah, I know” because the former statement will keep the person coming back to help you. This time they might have shared something you knew, but next time they might share something that is new. You don’t want to miss out on that next time. People like helping people. More experienced people generally like helping less experienced people. However, no one volunteers to help an ungrateful know-it-all. Just remember that your willingness to learn will determine how much you succeed in life. Be teachable, always be a student.