We survived graduation, but what now? As parents, how do we ease the transition from lifelong student to bona fide adult? While it wasn’t as emotional an experience as my daughter’s first day of school, I still got a bit misty-eyed when she embarked on the first day of her first real, adult job. I tried to use my own experiences and mistakes to create a list of key tips for helping my daughter succeed in that all important first job.
8 Simple First Job Tips
1. Always make your boss look good
While this may seem like common sense, not all new hires understand their boss controls their destiny—even if the boss isn’t ideal. The boss ultimately will conduct any performance reviews and if they like your child, they will see them as reliable and deserving of raises and promotion opportunities. If, over time, the boss proves to be less than competent, then it’s probably time to move on.
2. Own your mistakes
Mistakes happen. Always take responsibility for any mistakes and ensure your supervisor knows about them ASAP. There is nothing worse than a manager getting blind-sided by THEIR superiors on a mistake they didn’t know about. The most mature way of owning the mistake is to make clear why it happened in the first place, what’s changed, and the processes you’ve now put in place to ensure it won’t happen again.
3. Quantify your work
Most companies measure success by top-line revenue, profitability, and growth in market share. Softer metrics include employee productivity as well as customer and employee satisfaction. It’s challenging when an employee is just starting out to always tie efforts to one of these metrics. With that said, documenting that your efforts delighted customers, helped reduce spend, or introduced new efficiencies, are worthy of documenting. In fact, new employees should keep a running list of their accomplishments to use at review time and for future use in making the case for a promotion or movement into a new role.
4. Give others credit
The best way to make your mark is to acknowledge the work of others. By recognizing others, you get your work recognized as well. Simple actions such as a thank-you message to a peer or manager (with a CC: to others), a public acknowledgement at a meeting, or even a quiet word to a superior about a colleague’s contributions, all make a difference. By forwarding your genuine appreciation of others, you create a positive feedback loop where your good deeds get recognized and your colleagues’ good works do as well.
5. Keep up with your network
It may sound contradictory to talk about networking in the context of a new job. However, many new employees make the mistake of only networking when they are formally looking for a job. When you invest in relationships, you not only have the opportunity to get diverse perspectives on your industry and improve your skills, you also can gain access to mentors and resources that will foster your career in the future.
6. Ask for the order
Ask for more responsibility and never hesitate to take on the jobs no one else wants. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish by just asking, so don’t wait for someone to come to you. And, in coupling this attitude with the willingness to take on the projects no one else wants to do, you build goodwill and a reputation as a team player committed to the company. You also become viewed as a “go-to” person—especially when more strategic and attractive projects are being assigned. The caveat here is only to take on more responsibility when you’re able to complete the important tasks for which you were originally hired.
7. Keep up with gossip—but don’t be a gossip
This suggestion may seem contrary to all the other career advice out there. But the point is to keep up with the gossip—not BE a gossip. It’s naïve to think you can just keep your head down in today’s work environment. Understanding the workplace dynamics, including the backstories of key personnel and who doesn’t get along with whom, will keep you from stepping into potential landmines. Office gossip can help you gain an understanding of new projects and new initiatives you could volunteer for ahead of anyone else. The office grapevine also helps you know who to turn to when you need to get things done.
8. Build relationships with your peers
Employees who like and respect each other are more willing to compromise and collaborate for the best project results. Proactively building relationships with your peers helps you get things done. And, as your new graduate moves up the ladder, they will find much of their job is getting people to do things even when they don’t have a formal reporting relationship. And with shared relationships across different functions, they can keep up with what is going on at the company at a macro level which is always useful in managing a career trajectory.
Everyone can feel overwhelmed with the demands of a first job, but hopefully these tips can help your newly minted grad start off on the right foot. My daughter is still getting her bearings and finding her routine, but she is enjoying connecting with her new colleagues and future friends as she settles into her new job.