You did it! Not only did you graduate but you got the amazingly hard-to-get job. If you think of your career as a day, all that hard work and heartache is the equivalent to the alarm clock going off in the morning. You just started the sometimes fun, boring, controversial, exciting, nerve racking and many other adjectives roller coaster of your work life. Did school teach you the skill for the job and the career center teach you how to get the first job? Yup, but most likely no one taught you about all the things that can happen in the first job. Here are five tips to help negotiate the early part of your career and beyond.
Treat This First Job as a Starting Point
Your instinct may be to relax and enjoy the new job for the long haul. Heck it took you long enough to get it. The reality is the first is just one of many jobs, industries, and professions that will make up your career. Data estimates you will have 15-20 jobs during you lifetime. So now that you have that first job, starting thinking longer term about what an amazing second job would be. Oh, I know you are connected and networked galore but now it's time to expand your network to include people who can hire you. Headhunters knock on your virtual door with potential jobs so answer when they knock. You don't have to take anything. Just listen. Join a professional association. This is the place to learn what you don't know; to create business relationships of all types; to see how other companies do things differently; to ask the questions that you think might make you look stupid at work; and to learn about jobs that never ever get posted on a website. Start paying attention long before you think you will be ready for a change. It often takes six months or more to get a new job. If you wait until the day you can't do the same thing anymore, then you will have a long six months ahead of you.
Prepare for Your First Meeting with a New Manager Like an Interview
It's bound to happen, the person who hired you no longer is your boss and you have a whole new person to impress. Sure you've said hello to the new manager and went to the department lunch to welcome her but you have not had your first meeting with her yet. Be ready for it. Believe it or not this meeting is an interview of sorts. Many managers like to bring in their people when they switch companies. All managers like to succeed at their job. The first meeting helps them get an idea if you may become a new member of the "my people" club, help them succeed, or be an impediment to success. Go prepared with stories of your previous impact to the company and department and status of projects you are working on.
Take a Compliment
This is easier said than done. Many people (especially women) grow up in a culture of deflecting compliments that it becomes automatic at work as well. Does "oh it was nothing" sound familiar? Do this at your own peril. Deflect and you will sound like the person who is riding the coattails of others. Deflect and you can be passed over for promotion and stretch assignment consideration. A fate that means you need to change companies to make any progress in your career.
Go for Promotions before You are 100% Ready
Most job descriptions have so much added to it just in case there is a perfect person out there. The job descriptions become so inflated that no one could actually do the job as advertised. I call this the Virgin Mother Effect. (Some 2,000 years ago rumor has it there was a virgin that gave birth. I bet we can find another!) That is one reason why the hybrid job is becoming a thing. Sure there are hybrids that are cool interesting jobs in and of themselves that require two distinct knowledge bases. There are also hybrids that are a combining of two distinct jobs. This second hybrid is actually job creep by a better name. If the 'nice to haves' in a job description really don't have much to do with the 'have to haves' you have a virgin mother on your hands. Apply when you can do the first three to five 'have to haves' which will more often than not be the core of the job.
If there is a young child in your life, you probably hear the question why often. It's a great question. It's how we learn beyond what is right in front of us. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, many of us dropped the question why. For some it's an attempt to not look stupid. For others it could be an indication of little interest. Regardless, the question why enables you to learn beyond the obvious. The question why enables you to build stronger connections with others. The question why feeds the creative juices to create alternative solutions to all kinds of problems. The question why can help you stand out from the crowd and start the ascension of your career.
Follow these tips, at least a few of them, and your career will move faster and in the direction you want it to go.