By Larry Jackson, NCA Assistant Director of Student Career Advising, serving students in McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science and the science fields in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
You got your first job after graduation. Congratulations! You probably have a lot of excitement about the company you will be working for, the work you will be doing, the location you will be living in, and/or the new friends you will make with your colleagues. The possibilities are limitless! Along with this opportunity comes a responsibility to put your best foot forward. Here are seven tips to help you maximize your first year on the job so that it is a productive and enjoyable year:
Build a strong working relationship with your boss. Engage with your manager early on to better understand his/her role, experience, and expectations regarding your work. When expectations are clear and you know how you will be evaluated, you can use this information to meet (or exceed) the performance objectives set for you.
Be respectful in all professional communications. Emails and memos should be formal in tone, concrete and concise. Always use appropriate grammar and punctuation. Sometimes your messages may be shared with superiors and other stakeholders so it’s important to compose content that is polite in tone yet easy to understand. Also, in personal interactions, be well-mannered and specific with your talking points during discussions. People are more likely to listen to your input when you are articulate, concise and considerate.
Prioritize and manage tasks and deadlines. Some of your work assignments will be planned and others may arise spontaneously. Identify your most urgent tasks based on the level of involvement that is required, and the length of time it will take and plan accordingly.
Actively engage with your colleagues. In the workplace, there will be a diversity of ages, work styles, backgrounds, attitudes, and experience levels, to name a few. Try to build rapport with your colleagues by buying them coffee or inviting them to lunch. Ask about their experiences and interests inside and outside of the workplace. By having a positive, inviting attitude, your colleagues will be more interested in wanting to develop a relationship with you which could make for a friendlier work environment. Speaking of colleagues…
Stay away from office drama. Every work place has its issues. There will be people who won’t like a certain colleague, people who don’t enjoy their work, and people who will talk ill of management and/or the company for a multitude of reasons. It’s important to stay impartial during these discussions, as you never know who is listening. Your goal is to be likable among as many colleagues as possible in order to build healthy, working relationships. When you feed into divisive conversation and interactions, it only creates a greater divide within the office.
Be change agile. Priorities in the workplace can shift at a moment’s notice so you have to have an attitude of flexibility in order to adapt and succeed in your work. Consider how you can mentally prepare yourself to pivot from one task to the next. Think about what makes it easy and what makes it difficult so you can make a plan beforehand to address those challenges.
Accept feedback gracefully. Your manager (and sometimes colleagues) will have ideas on how you should perform your work. The feedback you receive will be positive and negative. Listen to their ideas and focus on the most important aspects of their feedback. Considering and adhering to the content of their suggestions will show that you are invested in your professional success as well as the success of your team and organization.
Following these seven suggestions will propel you to greater heights during your first year. Chart your course conscientiously as these efforts lay the foundation for a rewarding career. Many well wishes in your new position (insert your name here). I am rooting for you all of the way!