I recently received an email from a young executive, asking if I had any tips for college grads whose "first job glow" had started to dim. He asked specifically, "What do you do when the honeymoon is over?"
Generally, the first few months of a job are filled with learning new skills, meeting new clients and going to lunch with new coworkers. The thrill of your post graduate first job inspires you to tackle your daily tasks with gusto; showing up early, staying later than most, and dressing with attention to every detail. And then it happens... the new job fire begins to fizzle. Now what? It's crucial to continue to perform at a high level, even after that initial buzz fades away.
1. Keep the big picture in mind. Clearly, your ambition isn't to stay at an entry-level position forever. Remember that your real job, regardless of your day-to-day tasks, is to build a solid foundation of knowledge that will serve you as you grow in your career. Welcome the opportunity to learn new skills that will provide a solid platform for your future.
2. Finish what you start. This seems simple, but doing what you say you are going to do is the first step to establishing a strong professional reputation. If you say you are going to do something, follow through. No excuses.
3. Be your own cheerleader. When you have supervisors who don't seem interested in the company, or neglect to hold you accountable to deadlines, it may seem pointless to give your best. Do it anyway. It's good training and teaches you to how to self-manage your own valuable time.
4. Stop blaming everyone else. Listing the reasons you can't get things done is a common rookie mistake. Figure out what you need to do to fix the situation. Don't register a complaint with your supervisor without offering up a viable solution(s).
5. Inexperience is not an excuse for incompetence. Learn everything you can about your current job and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. A good employee reaches out to his coworkers or supervisor, making every effort to understand all aspects of the job. Expand your professional library, take an e-course, subscribe to online trade publications and join networking groups where you will meet mentors and influencers.
6. Be proactive. It can be as simple as texting a reminder to your boss about an afternoon appointment, or updating her on the status of a project before she asks. Be proactive.
7. Don't undervalue your current position. You may feel underwhelmed with your current job title but everyone has to start somewhere. If your aspiration is the corner office and you currently inhabit the middle cubicle, take mental notes of what the upper level execs have done to make it to the top. There is no substitute for experience so take full advantage of every learning opportunity.
8. Treat everyone as if they are of equal importance. Today's intern could easily turn into the employer you need to impress tomorrow. Your coworker may become a future business partner. At the very least, it's a courteous gesture to treat everyone with the same respect, from the mailroom attendant to the CEO.
9. Resist the urge to lower your professional standards. When you notice colleagues coming in late or not responding to emails, it's easy to follow suit. Regardless of what others seem to be getting away with, you are responsible for your own career. Stay committed to doing things the right way.
10. Throw away the clock. Success doesn't follow clock watchers or time wasters. A 40 hour week is often not enough when trying to finish an important project. If you are at your desk with nothing to do, rather than rearranging your paperclip drawer, or sneaking a peek at your Facebook page, jump in and help a coworker who is juggling multiple tasks or projects. You will make a positive impression and be looked upon as someone that others can count on.
Bottom line... stay focused on the bigger picture and game on!