10 Essential Strategies To Succeed In Your First Job
Congratulations, graduate! After the exhausting and stressful process of finishing school, searching for and landing your first “real job,” you are now about to launch your career. The transition from school to work is one of life’s biggest. You are about to enter a whole new world—one that looks and feels very different. At school, you were the customer. You paid the school to deliver you a service–your education. At work, you are the service provider—your company pays you to deliver a service. At school, you had control over your time and schedule. At work, that control largely switches to your employer. At school you had the ability to determine the level of effort and quality of your schoolwork. At work, your employer sets out those parameters.
And finally, at school, you were furnished with rubrics for success—professors provided syllabi that outlined what you needed to do to achieve. At work, the rubric for success is often vague, unexpressed and hard to pin down. Learning what it takes to succeed at your new company and in your new role is vital. Embrace the following strategies to accelerate your success.
1. Accept Your Newbie Status. Embrace being new and the work that comes with it. Young people entering the workforce often get a bad rap for being “entitled” and “impatient.” Don’t succumb to this stereotype. Don’t resist the menial tasks. Nobody is going to trust you with a complex task until they see you perform well with a simple one. It’s a test you need to pass. You will be able to show off your talents later, after you prove your ability to deliver.
2. Manage Up. Your boss has enormous influence over your ability to succeed, thrive, and advance in your company . Establishing a strong, productive working relationship with her is the single most effective way to accelerate your success in any organization. Your new boss can be your biggest obstacle, or your biggest advocate. Get to know what your boss values and expects from you. Then, make those your priorities, and do the job your boss expects. Similarly, figure out their communication preferences and their work style. Do they love unexpected ad hoc conversations, or do they prefer an email with ample time to respond? Are they slower and more methodical in their processes, or do they prefer fast action? If you are not sure what your boss wants from you, go have a conversation to learn about their preferences, priorities and pet peeves.
3. Display A Positive Attitude. Attitude is everything. Showing up at work every day with a positive attitude is probably one of the greatest things you can do to start your career off right. All other things being equal, people prefer to work with someone who is upbeat, supportive, enthusiastic and ready to learn. Nothing will derail your career faster than getting labeled as a complainer who is negative, resistant, cynical and unwilling. “Can-Do” is your new middle name.
4. Adopt A Learning Mindset. Employers don’t expect you to know everything about your industry or company; however, they do expect you to be a self-starter who is eager to learn. Take the time to learn the what, why, and how of projects and processes. Ask questions, but also show some initiative through your own research. Admit to, correct and learn from any mistakes you make along the way. Reach out when you’re stuck but avoid being seen as too needy. After all, you were hired because your employer believes you have the brains to figure things out.
5. Establish A Strong Work Ethic. Work ethic refers to how one approaches their work. A strong work ethic shows that you take your job and the organization’s priorities seriously. It’s about quality and commitment. This means being professional and punctual in your interactions, delivering quality products on time, paying attention in meetings (or at least pretending to), and accepting assignments with a positive mindset. Be consistent in your work and behavior. A trustworthy employee committed to quality is an employee worth keeping and promoting.
6. Respect Culture. Organizational culture is a powerful force that dictates how people in organizations operate. Simply put, culture is “the way we do things here.” Some organizations have wonderful cultures, and some don’t. You will soon know whether the culture is a good fit for you or not. Please know that you, as a single employee, cannot change the culture. Organizational culture change takes a long time and has to come from the top. So, unless your first job is the CEO, you are going to have to figure out how you can be successful within the existing culture.
7. Manage Your Career. No one should or will care more about your career than you do. You must be the CEO of your own career. This means taking responsibility for your own career pathing. Don’t expect your organization or new boss to map out your career; not all organizations or managers have the capacity or capability to proactively provide this support.
8. Build Your Network. Part of succeeding in your career is not what you know or who you know, but who knows you. Make a point early on to start building a professional network. Introduce yourself to your co-workers and build as many relationships as possible throughout your organization, not just in your department. Learn about others’ roles and how they fit into the company structure. Find and attend networking opportunities both inside and outside of your organization. Connect with those in your field. Building a network will help you advance within the company, land your next gig, and meet potential new clients, customers and collaborators.
9. Create A Professional Persona. Whether we like it or not, human beings place a great deal of importance on appearances—both in person and virtually. Your physical and virtual appearance must say that you respect yourself, your job and your organization. Look around your organization and industry and emulate the dress style of those who are successful. Your virtual appearance matters as well. Establish a polished looking LinkedIn profile. Clean up your online social media images and postings. The old adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is still relevant. Looking the part helps other see you in that part.
10. Go The Extra Mile. The reality of the work place is that employers notice, appreciate and promote those who work harder than the person next to them. While everyone has to figure out their own work-life balance, occasionally be willing to stay late or come in early. Offer to help out and get involved in extra projects whenever you can. Your supervisor and colleagues will notice and appreciate your dedication and commitment. You will quickly set yourself apart as someone who is a “go-getter.” An extra couple of hours here and there won’t destroy your personal life and will pay off in the long run.
You’ve already succeeded in landing an awesome position after graduation. Take these career tips and launch your career with gusto!