Your first job comes with lots of excitement and ambiguity. While you are settling in, it is easy to forget the reasons you got the job and the things you need to do to make sure you keep it and grow with it. Here’s a guide to what you should aim to achieve in the first year of your first job.
1. Create an excellent first impression
No sloppy work. No getting in late or leaving early. And no excuses. Beyond your interview and probation, you are still being tested; and you must score a distinction.
2. Learn all about the company and the people
Find out how things work in the company, the organisation’s culture, strengths, and challenges. Be inquisitive, ask questions, and take notes. Get to know the people from the various departments, especially those you will work closely with. Learn about their roles and how you can help each other out. Do not be too eager to show off what you can do. Observe and learn from your colleagues and lay the foundation of a good working relationship. The moment you understand an inside joke within your little group or team means you’ve been included!
3. Show enthusiasm in your role
There is often an expectation of young newcomers to inject energy into the department and bring a fresh perspective. So, approach your new role with zeal and curiosity, and try to turn every challenge into an opportunity.
Connect with someone you can go to for advice, teach you to navigate unforeseen challenges, and help you open doors within the company.
5. Speak with your supervisor about your progress
Whether it is an annual performance appraisal or an adhoc casual review with your manager, if you have not yet been invited to one, take the initiative to set one up. Establish in writing the positives and negatives of your performance. Do not be afraid to ask for suggestions on how to improve. Never rest on your laurels when you receive good feedback. Continue to self-track your progress, even when your supervisor is not keeping close tabs on you.
6. Push an idea or initiative
If you have a trailblazing idea to put forward, and you have done your homework to justify the implementation efforts and outcome benefits of the proposal, go ahead and pitch it. As a newcomer to the business, you have the advantage of not being weighed down by the typical negativity or cynicism that comes from doing things the same old ways for years.
Even if your ideas do not come to fruition, the fact that you are thinking strategically for the company and trying to make things happen will be appreciated. And before you get too caught up in executing these great ideas, do not forget to update your performance appraisal and CV with these achievements!
7. Make your voice heard
The observing phase is now over. You have a good grasp of the culture and business, with some idea of what works and what does not. You have also figured out who the decision-makers, influencers, and gatekeepers are, and you know what motivates them. So, now’s the time to speak up at meetings and brainstorming sessions and get noticed for the right reasons. Voice an opinion, bounce ideas, and ask lots of “what if”. Whilst you are at it, be tactful, keep an open mind, and do not be overly assertive.
8. Establish a professional network
When you have formed closer connections with your immediate co-workers, colleagues from cross-functional teams, and direct client contacts, you can start inviting them to connect on LinkedIn. If these are people who trust you and have witnessed your competency, you can even request a recommendation.
Build yourself a network of professional friends. These contacts will come in handy in future in the various aspects of career opportunities, valuable advice, and business leads.
9. Volunteer for more responsibilities
If you have not taken on increased responsibilities since you joined, don’t wait to be asked! Start doing the job you want, not the one you currently have. For example, you can volunteer to manage the company’s biggest client, take ownership of projects critical to the firm’s roadmap, or deliver on tasks that are part of your manager’s targets. Such contributions will make you indispensable.
These efforts may not pay off right away, but you will be setting yourself up for a promotion, pay raise, or even recognition as a subject matter expert. Before you let your team and supervisors know you are ready for a bigger role, make sure you establish credibility in your current one.
10. Take time to reflect on your experience
When you get lost in your daily work routines and new-project adrenaline, you stop counting the days. Until one day, you look at the calendar and think, “Wow, I’ve been here for one year already!”
That is your cue to take a moment to reflect on your journey—all your successes, disappointments, and everything in between. Your first job may not be your dream job or your end goal, but you know you need this steppingstone to take you to the next, and you are grateful for the experience.
So, now’s the time to ask yourself, “What’s next?”
11. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!
Do you think we can all be a tad like Jerome K Jerome (1859-1927), an English writer and humourist who once said, “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
Don’t forget to have fun at your job. Because if your job is enjoyable, then you never have to work!