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How to succeed in the first year of your new graduate job

Posted by Sasha

So, you just landed your first graduate job! Whether it’s the job of your dreams or a side step while you work towards your goals – your first year lays the foundation for your career. Here are a few tips to help you succeed.

Your personal brand is everything. Be reliable, communicative, and efficient.

No one likes to chase. Remember, your boss isn’t your mum – so, you’ll need to use your initiative every day. If you’re running late – tell someone. If you’re drowning under a mammoth project – ask for help. If you say you’ll do something by a certain date – do it. 

Be a team player

Establish a positive and helpful relationship with your boss and your team. Use your emotional intelligence to identify their working and learning styles and adapt so you can best work and communicate to meet their needs. And always, always, offer to help where you can.

Network like a pro

Attend ceremonies and events within your organisation, division, floor, or team, and make as big an effort to attend industry events outside your workplace. Join a professional group, volunteer, start a project. Get your name out there and establish your brand – but remember to stay connected with everyone, too! 

Be proactive

Don’t expect your career to be handed to you on a silver platter. If you see a development opportunity – talk to your manager and throw your hat in the ring. If they say ‘no’ – at least now you’ve had the conversation with them and they know what interests you.

Volunteer for projects where you can develop your zone of genius, or expertise. Become relied on so people will turn to you for help with specific problems.

Say ‘Yes’ to opportunity

You never know where an opportunity can take you. If you do a great job – it might lead to a promotion. You might unexpectedly find you enjoy the work, or, you have a natural skill for it - which could lead to another opportunity somewhere else. Be positive and proactive and open and enjoy the ride.

Be patient

Practice patience. Young graduates carry a stereotype for being overly ambitious and unrealistic in their pursuit for career success. Take your time learning the lay of the land, because your Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues see life differently - they expect to progress based on merit and experience. Be prepared to work hard and demonstrate your value. 

How? Be a learning sponge. Check out the online courses and training available to you through your work, and even more broadly online using sites like EdX, Udemy, Lynda, and Coursera. Give yourself a target of doing 1 - 3 hours of extra learning per week. You’ll impress your peers while developing your skill set so you can contribute more to your projects.

Put down the damn phone

As a young graduate – you’ll enter the workforce with a negative reputation for always being on your mobile. Don’t reinforce it. It’s not wise, or professional, to sit at your desk during your work hours trawling through your Facebook notifications. Save it for the breaks and maintain a reputation for being focused and hard-working!

Get a mentor

Whether in your organisation, in your discipline, or in your industry – working with a strong mentor will help you develop faster. But, it’s important you’re compatible, so make sure you find the right fit for your personality and needs.

Strive to be better than average

You could easily kick back and breeze through your first year without giving much more than average effort. But, if you’re looking to establish a solid and long-lasting career in your organisation (or anywhere, for that matter) – you must spend your first year developing a strong, positive, and reliable personal brand. 

Aim to be memorable, responsible, and dependable so you can set yourself up for success. 

And above all else - Enjoy it! You produce your best work when you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing. Take your time, do your rotations, and go abroad if the opportunity presents. Explore everything.

Want to hear more tips from a grad who’s already walked in your shoes? Tune into our interview with Kathryn Esler.


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