Your attitude and work ethic will determine to a large degree whether that experience is a positive one and provides a platform for a viable career.
Here are 20 practical tips and strategies for success in your first job:
1. Get to know the preferences and expectations of your immediate supervisor. Listen carefully to the directions that he/she offers and also ask other trusted colleagues for suggestions on ways to measure up to your supervisor's expectations.
2. Plan to arrive earlier and/or stay later than your supervisor to prove you are ready to work hard.
3. Send emails (about meaningful work issues) early and/or late in the day to show that you are not only present but productive.
4. Provide your boss with frequent updates on the status of your projects so it is clear that you are making a solid contribution. Ask for help when you are stuck but don't be overly needy and try to figure out as much as you can on your own.
5. Solicit feedback periodically and respond positively to constructive criticism but don't expect the frequency of feedback to match that of your teachers, coaches, parents and professors.
6. Do not miss work time unless it is absolutely essential and then work from home if possible or put in extra hours to catch up when you return.
7. Approach every task with enthusiasm and attention to detail - no matter how mundane (or seemingly beneath you). You will be measured by your ability to carry out your initial role in a positive and effective manner. Your middle name should be "can do" and your attitude should reflect this approach with a smile.
8. Avoid continual checks of your cell phone and other social media outlets while at work. If compelled to do so, try to keep it at a minimum and do so in privacy. Employers don't want to pay you to keep in touch with your friends.
9. Review your social media imprint and make sure any personal information visible to the public reflects a professional image.
10. Establish a complete LinkedIn profile. Join relevant professional groups and add as many contacts as possible. Ask for recommendations from colleagues, clients and other professional contacts over time. This set of credentials will serve you well when you apply for your next job.
11. Introduce yourself to as many co-workers as possible and learn about the role they play and the work done by their department. By scouting interesting departments you will be in position to make internal moves should the need or opportunity arise over time.
12. Offer to help others out, if you have the time or inclination, during their crunch time with projects but only after consulting with your supervisor and making sure there isn't anything else she would prefer that you were doing.
13. Seek out potential mentors who can coach you towards success. It can be useful to have a mentor with just a couple of years more experience and well as a more senior colleague.
14. Affiliate with positive people and avoid complainers and slackers at all costs. Don't gripe or complain to co-workers since you never know who will quote you or cast you in a negative light.
15. Be a team player and treat others at your own level (or below) positively. Give credit to others where due but make sure your supervisor is well aware of your contributions in your updates (use a factual, matter of fact tone).
16. Devise a professional development plan with clear goals and objectives regarding what you will learn and the skills you will acquire. Consult managers, the Human Resources department and professionals in your field and find out what certifications, coursework and/or degrees are advisable for you to advance your career.
17. Join national and regional professional groups for your field and attend meetings and training sessions. Volunteering for committees is a great way to make contacts and raise your visibility professionally.
18. Mentor other less fortunate friends who haven't yet found work. They may be in position to help you out in the future.
19. Consider volunteering locally. The contacts which you make will view you in a positive way as someone who cares about things they value.
20. Keep in touch with all those people, like your recommenders, who have helped pave your way to this first job. These people will feel more invested in you if they can follow along as your career develops.
You'll only have one first job, so make the most of it and you will set the stage for an exciting and successful long term career.
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