Career Advice

10 Tips to Nail Your First Job

Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2014! You’ve worked hard in college, and now it is time to land your first job. This is a very exciting time because you will never forget your first job.

college graduatesSo whether you have started working on your resume or not, these 10 tips will help you stand out among your new colleagues. Here’s the great news: there has never been a better time to be in the workplace than right now. However, there has also never been a more complicated time to be in the workplace than right now. So like everything else, you need to learn the landscape.

  1. Commit to life-long learning. Even though you are physically out of a classroom, stay open to your teachers who are everywhere. You might learn an astonishing lesson about life from a total stranger on a subway who shows you a profound lesson in kindness. Rule of thumb when you are first starting out: Watch and listen twice as much as you speak.
  2. Make it personal. Even though our offices are filled with electronic devices to manage and master, don’t lose sight of the humans behind the keyboard. Resist the temptation to put headphones on which make it impossible for you to hear and know things. The people are your most powerful resources and secret weapons. They are still the ones making important decisions and exerting influence, potentially about you. Say “good morning” to everyone and take the time to know (and correctly pronounce) their names. It doesn’t get any more personal than someone’s name.
  3. Ask for help. Admit what you don’t know. That quality endears you to colleagues. Seek to learn from experienced co-workers who will be more than happy to teach you if you speak with respect. Say, “May I pick your brain? Do you have five minutes for me?”
  4. Offer help. Be alert to situations where you can volunteer your talents and skills, even if you don’t get paid any additional money. These are priceless learning opportunities and earn you a way to become known as a “team player.” Be generous with offering help to more experienced colleagues. It’s called reverse mentoring. Google it and then give it a try.
  5. Manners matter. Young people who are polite and courteous are true stand-outs in the world today. Say “please” and “thank you” and hold the elevator. Workplace etiquette will be noticed and remembered. Watch the reaction when you intentionally power down your cell in a meeting.
  6. Write hand-written notes. If someone at work (or in life too) goes above and beyond for you, write them a hand-written thank you note to express gratitude. Contrary to what you might have heard, this behavior is not “old school.” This is smart business. I have lost count of the number of stories I have of the person who nailed the job mainly because she/he sent a thank-you email within minutes after the interview AND sent a hand-written note via snail mail with a real stamp. It told the employer that this candidate was willing to go the extra mile. Are you? Sincerity, specificity and spelling count. Feel free to share your success story in the comments.
  7. Take a class and then another. Read, read, read and then read some more to stay relevant, invaluable and employed. Seek additional training in areas that make you even more indispensable to your company and manager. Take an online social media class or a website design workshop at the local college. Ask your manager for guidance as to what skills would best help her and then she will most likely volunteer to pay for it. This is a win/win situation. You gain additional training on your company’s dime and your company gets a more productive and loyal staffer. Reap the benefits at your annual compensation review and then plan for your next classes.
  8. Scratch their itch and ease their pain. Be the staffer who walks towards a problem, not away from it. If you become the go-to person, your future will be very bright where you get to call (most) of the shots.
  9. The basics. Be on time every day which means 15 minutes early. Stay late when necessary. Work with a smile on your face. Be respectful to everyone. No exceptions.
  10. Not everyone will like you or support what you choose. This one can be tough to take. You may be surprised at the people in your life who are not happy or supportive about your choices or your success. Know that they will spring up out of envy or fear. Remember that it is about them, not you. In the end, take counsel from the people you trust and do what is right for you.

As you take your next steps, whatever they are, stay open. Keep your eyes open, your ears open, your heart open and your mind open. To do these things will mean that the sky will be the limit for your life. Once again, congratulations! Now the real fun begins.