Navigating that first ‘real’ job
Getting that first “real” job can be a bear these days for young adults fresh out of college. The competition is fierce as the economy thrashes through the dregs of the recent recession and trudges through a largely jobless recovery. Use your college’s career and alumni offices, your network of friends and associates, social media sites like LinkedIn, and every resource you can think of to land in a full-time permanent job or an internship that can lead to that job. Once you get it, here are a few tips for success beyond the usual of being well groomed, professionally dressed and on time.
Stay in learning mode.
Not only do you need to learn the business of the business that you’ve landed in, you need to learn the culture, too. What you say and do at work is at least as important as what you don’t say and do. Steer clear of office politics. Keep your political and social views to yourself until you learn whom it is safe to share those with. Look for ways to distinguish yourself and your work in a positive way. Employers want to know early on that they’ve made a great hire because that person brings value to the organization.
If you want it to count, count it.
In other words, keep track personally of the things that you do. If you have a winning idea that the boss puts into force, keep tabs of that. Recalling the contributions you make through the year can be helpful when you update your resume or when you sit down with a supervisor to discuss your performance.
If you’re not the owner of the company, you’re a temp.
Meaning you work at your employer’s discretion. You are there to give your best. Whenever appropriate, put your ideas in writing. But if your employer chooses to ignore your suggestions, don’t take it personally. It is not your company. Of course, if what you are dealing with is a personnel, safety, ethics or legal issue, you should not let those go unaddressed. Pursue them through the proper channels.
Balance is key.
While work is important, you also benefit from having outside interests — your social life, your spiritual life, your community life and exercise. Young worker can sometimes tend toward the extremes — especially those fresh out of college without the responsibility of a life partner or a child. They channel all that youthful energy into long hours of work in an effort to get ahead in their careers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Or, young workers sometimes go to the other extreme. They are so eager to have it all that they insist on working flexible hours or working from home — even when their employers frown on such practices. The key is to figure out what works best for you and the company. That way, you avoid misunderstandings.