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Recent Graduates: What You Need to Know Before Starting Your First "Real" Job

Congratulations, graduate! You survived the late nights studying for exams, completed all your required college courses, and not only graduated college, but also landed yourself a brand-new job! How exciting! After the exhausting process of finishing school, painstakingly crafting your resume, and applying and interviewing for jobs, it can be tempting to relax and go with the flow as you embark on your new career. Not so fast! Consider the first month (and beyond) at your new job as a continuation of the interview process.

You’ve probably received the cliché advice on starting out in the workforce: “Dress for success”, “Be the first one there and the last one to leave”, and so on. But what does it really take to succeed at your new company and in your new role? Let these important soft skills guide you:

  • Accept your newbie status, and embrace the work that comes with it. Millennials and GenZ’ers entering the workforce often get a bad rap for being entitled; don’t succumb to this stereotype. Always bring an excellent work ethic and positive attitude. ‘Can-do’ is your new middle name; offer to help out and get involved in projects whenever you can. And don’t resist the menial tasks. Nobody is going to trust you with a complex task until they see you perform well with a simple task. It’s a test you need to pass. You will be able to show off your talents later, after you show off your work ethic.
  • Attitude is everything. Showing up at work every day with a positive attitude is probably one of the greatest things you can do to start your career off right. All things considered people always prefer to work with someone who is upbeat, supportive, enthusiastic and ready to learn. Nothing will derail your career faster than getting labeled as a complainer who is negative, resistant, cynical, and unwilling.
  • Ask questions, but don’t overdo it – show some initiative, too. Providing your boss with project updates and getting clarification on tasks is great, but keep in mind that she has things to accomplish, too! If you see something that needs to get done, jump right in and try to be self-sufficient. Employers don’t expect you to know everything about your industry or company; they doexpect you to be a self-starting employee who’s eager to help out wherever possible. Reach out when you’re stuck, but avoid being needy. After all, you were hired because your employer believes you have the brains to figure things out.
  • Figure out what your immediate supervisor values, their expectations, and their preferences. Your boss can be your biggest obstacle, or your biggest advocate. Get to know what your boss values and expects from you. Then, make those yourpriorities, and do the job your boss expects from you. Similarly, figure out their communication preferences and their work style. Do they love an unexpected pop-in to their office – or do they prefer an email from you with ample time to respond? Are they slower and more methodical workers, or do they love fast-paced brainstorming sessions during meetings? Not sure what your boss wants from you? Don’t be afraid to ask them! Have a (preferably planned) conversation with your supervisor about their goals and preferences.
  • No one will ever care more about your career than you do. Get out there and network! It’s never too early in your career to do a little PR for yourself. Establish your LinkedIn profile, complete with achievements, endorsements from past supervisors or professors, and contact information. Introduce yourself to your co-workers and build as many relationships as possible - throughout your organization and not just in your department. Learn about their roles and how they fit into the company structure. Find networking events (both inside and outside of your organization), and connect with those in your field. Building your network will help you advance within the company, land your next gig outside of the organization, meet potential clients, or present opportunities for collaboration. The worst-case scenario? You make a few new professional connections, who may be able to help you out somewhere down the line in your career!
  • Go the extra mile. Lastly, don’t be afraid to stay late or come in early occasionally. Your supervisor and colleagues will notice (and appreciate) your dedication. You will quickly set yourself apart as someone who is a “go-getter.” An extra hour here and there will pay off in the long run!

You’ve already succeeded in landing an awesome position after graduation in a tough job market. Take these career tips, and start your post-graduation career off with gusto!

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