You’ve walked across that stage, diploma in hand. You’re absolutely exhausted, and elated for what’s to come. But whether you have a job lined up already or are beginning the search, your challenges (both good and bad!) are just beginning.
I was in your shoes just a few short years ago, when I graduated college and launched my career. Like most graduates, I was discovering how to navigate the corporate world. But unlike most graduates, I landed a job that had me running marketing and communication strategy for a global company of 5,000. By myself. In order to be successful, I knew I was going to have to constantly learn. And since my first day on the job, I’ve been given more responsibilities, had fantastic opportunities to travel and work special events, and even earned a massive raise.
Here’s what I learned about how to kill it at your first corporate job.
1. Chat with your boss
Discovering more about your role requires a 1:1 discussion with your supervisor. Your first week on the job is a great time to figure out the big picture stuff, like how success will be defined in your position (Is it quantitative or qualitative? The number of clients you bring in, or an increase in brand awareness?) and what your goals should be in this first year. More day-to-day expectations are important, too — do you need to stay as late as your boss? Can you work from home, and if so, how often? What meetings should you be attending? Ask questions now before you regret NOT asking them later.
2. Get some info
The best resource for getting your feet wet at your first job? The people you’ll work with every day! It’s your chance to learn everything you can about a new company: make friends with people in other departments, email executives a few questions about their role and experience (after you’ve done your research on their background and achievements), ask someone out for coffee. Sit with new people at lunch every day for your first few weeks, ask to observe any executive meetings — soak it all in!
3. Bond outside the office
Work is better with friends — your mental health is proven to increase when you have friends at the office. Having people who will support you, guide you, and have your back will be so important as you take on larger projects. Go to lunch together, or bring your home lunches outside. Visit the art museum together, go to a movie, grab drinks. Building positive, friendly relationships with coworkers will make tough days easier, and make it so someone is there to congratulate you and cheer you on when things go right.
4. Contribute innovative ideas
Going above and beyond in your job is not just working hard. You want to be a innovator. See where you could fill a need, and pitch it to your boss (chances are, you learned some of the challenges in your informational interviews!) Begin to seek out the organization’s problems, and dream up ways to solve them. For example, I implemented our Lunch and Learn program at our office (and it helped me get that huge raise!).
5. Offer support and encouragement
Your coworkers are just like anyone else: to be successful, they want to feel supported. When a coworker is set to leave for vacation, ask them if there is anything you can assist with while they’re away. When the person in the cubicle next to you gets a raise or promotion, handwrite a note of congratulations. Make them something small for their birthday, or help decorate their desk. It’s the small things, but they’ll go a long way in having a more cohesive, collaborative team who feels respected.
6. Ask for feedback
In that very first meeting with your boss, you want to set up sessions for formal feedback. Ask her for a formal review every six months, with consistent check-ins when you meet one-on-one. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re doing a great job, only to have a negative review from lack of communication. Ask for feedback from peers and other team members, too. Let them know you’re eager for feedback on what you can improve, since you’re looking to grow.
7. Constantly strive to learn
Whether this learning comes from your on-the-job training, an introductory interview with someone in another department, a book, or an online course, the best thing you can do for your career is to keep learning (and you thought college was over!) Free webinars and networking events have been very helpful for me, as well as collaborating with colleagues on projects. Ask your boss if there is a discretionary budget for learning materials, courses, or certifications.
For those of you just launching your careers, be compassionate and confident in your skills, and never stop asking questions. You’ve got this!
If you’re looking to discover your path after graduation, or are having a hard time finding that perfect fit — drop me a line! I would love to work with you to discover your full potential.
Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.
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