A few weeks back, fellow Clixie Abby asked me to answer a few questions for an interview series that she is working on.
One of the questions that she asked was about what I would tell a new graduate that was entering our industry, now that I’ve been working in the industry for awhile. I accidentally skipped the question at first and so when she followed up with me about an answer, I responded off-the-top of my head. I wouldn’t change the answer that I gave but after thinking about it for awhile (it’s a good question!), I would like to elaborate. Hopefully this list might help a recent college grad.
1.) You Will Find a Job
It may not be what you thought you were looking for and it might not be a job that you work at for 50 years but you will find a job. When every “entry level job” is looking for 3-5 years of experience, job searching with no real experience can be really frustrating and stressful. Hopefully your first job out of college will be your dream job but, even if it isn’t, you’ll find yourself with an opportunity to learn in a way that a classroom couldn’t ever really provide. Which takes me to my next point…
2.) Learn Everything You Can
Soak it all in. Build relationships with your peers and your superiors and learn everything that you possibly can. Learn passively by observing and making mental notes about the different qualities that make different people successful and learn actively by taking on tasks, practicing and asking questions.
3.) There’s no such thing as a stupid question…
…but there is such a thing as a question that you could find the answer to in the same amount of time that it takes you to ask someone else. Figure out which questions are worth asking versus exploring on your own. Don’t waste a bunch of company time by trying to learn difficult concepts, which might result in a costly mistake if it could be better (and quickly) explained by someone else. But, before asking someone else a question, see if you can find the answer yourself. Learning and engaging is important but it’s also important to have the balance between avoiding mistakes by asking and being a self-starter and a problem solver as much as possible.
4.) Expand Your Knowledge
Find opportunities to explore and expand your knowledge without being asked and maybe even on your own time. If you like what you do, find some time to dedicate to it. Maybe it is a little spare time that you have at work or maybe you read blogs while you watch TV at night. If you’re interested in a certain topic or tactic, do some extra research and look for opportunities to integrate it into your workload. Not only does it give you a chance to try it, your boss is probably going to love the initiative.
5.) Execute Your Work and Step Up
Do the work you are asked to do and volunteer for more (when possible). Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be reliable, first and foremost. But, inevitably, there are always projects that come up that nobody really wants to take – or nobody really has time to take. If you can do it without compromising your other responsibilities, speak up. Being part of a team means that when you decline work, somebody else has to do it. If you take work when you can, it gives your team some breathing room when they may really need it and it contributes to a positive culture.
6.) Try to See the Best in People
If you look for flaws – in any aspect of your life – you will find them. If you look for the positive qualities, you will find those, too. It is easy to be hard on people – and yourself – if you allow yourself to focus on the shortcomings. But to succeed, you need to recognize others’ strengths and if you really, really want to succeed – help other people to build their strengths and be humble enough to allow them to help you build yours.
7.) Have the Tough Conversations
Sometimes it is tempting to avoid difficult conversations, especially when you’re the low man on the totem pole but tough conversations serve a purpose. Tough conversations make progress and they can even serve to build respect for and from the other person.
8.) Exemplify the Traits of a Good Employee
These are the traits that require no skill set or training: put in the hours, be a team player, have a positive attitude, do things the right way– the first time, give a **** (insert your favorite 4-letter word here), and so on and so forth. These are qualities that aren’t always as common as you might think. If you are a good employee and you really try, it will be noticed. If you fall short in other areas, people will be much more likely to go out of your way to help you if they know you are trying and you really want to do well.
What advice would you give? I’d love to see your tips in the comments!