5 Essential Strategies To Succeed In Your First Job

Image by Kevin Bhagat

Congratulations, graduate! After the exhausting and stressful process of finishing school, searching for and landing your first “real job,” you are now about to launch your career. The transition from school to work is one of life’s biggest. You are about to enter a whole new world—one that looks and feels very different. At school, you were the customer. You paid the school to deliver you a service–your education. At work, you are the service provider—your company pays you to deliver a service. At school, you had control over your time and schedule. At work, that control largely switches to your employer. At school you had the ability to determine the level of effort and quality of your schoolwork. At work, your employer sets out those parameters.

And finally, at school, you were furnished with rubrics for success—professors provided syllabi that outlined what you needed to do to achieve. At work, the rubric for success is often vague, unexpressed and hard to pin down. Learning what it takes to succeed at your new company and in your new role is vital. Embrace the following strategies to accelerate your success.

1. Accept Your Newbie Status. Embrace being new and the work that comes with it. Young people entering the workforce often get a bad rap for being “entitled” and “impatient.” Don’t succumb to this stereotype. 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 one. It’s a test you need to pass. You will be able to show off your talents later, after you prove your ability to deliver.

2. Build Your Network. Part of succeeding in your career is not what you know or who you know, but who knows you. Make a point early on to start building a professional network. Introduce yourself to your co-workers and build as many relationships as possible throughout your organization, not just in your department. Learn about others’ roles and how they fit into the company structure. Find and attend networking opportunities both inside and outside of your organization. Connect with those in your field. 

3. Display A Positive Attitude. 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 other things being equal, people 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. “Can-Do” is your new middle name.

4. Adopt A Learning Mindset. Employers don’t expect you to know everything about your industry or company; however, they do expect you to be a self-starter who is eager to learn. Take the time to learn the what, why, and how of projects and processes. Ask questions, but also show some initiative through your own research. Admit to, correct and learn from any mistakes you make along the way. Reach out when you’re stuck but avoid being seen as too needy. After all, you were hired because your employer believes you have the brains to figure things out.

5. Establish A Strong Work Ethic. Work ethic refers to how one approaches their work. A strong work ethic shows that you take your job and the organization’s priorities seriously. It’s about quality and commitment. This means being professional and punctual in your interactions, delivering quality products on time, paying attention in meetings (or at least pretending to), and accepting assignments with a positive mindset. Be consistent in your work and behavior. A trustworthy employee committed to quality is an employee worth keeping and promoting.