I recently had the opportunity to meet with a young lady who had finally secured her first “adult” job after graduating university. The reason for our catch up was evidently not to help her find a new role – but rather she wanted advice on how to make a great first impression on her new employer and colleagues. When I first heard her cry for advice, I immediately felt like telling her not to overthink it, and to be herself. But then I realised – this time in her career is absolutely critical, and despite being a smart girl, there are still many potential opportunities to stand out in a positive or even a negative way in your early career. Advice like “be yourself” is great positive self-talk, but the truth is, stepping into the professional world can be a major adjustment and young people should be prepared for that.
Starting a new position is overwhelming, and quite exciting! It can often feel like a whirlwind between trying to pick up a new job, as well as finding your feet in the “adult world”. But I didn’t need to provide advice on how to learn the technical elements of her role – because at the end of the day, she was already hired – the organisation knows she can do the job! What advice I did want to share, is ways that you can stand out to your team in a positive way, and this can start from the moment you walk in the door – it’s around building strong relationships. Failure to do this in the early stages of your career will be difficult for others to forgive down the track. So here are a few of my main points of advice, when starting a new role:
Listen to those around you
I don’t believe you should listen less the longer you are with an organisation, but it is incredibly vital in the first few weeks of employment. Focus on being as present as possible in conversations with your peers; go out of your way to learn their names and what they do for the company. Not only will it make a good first impression to show you are interested, but it will be helpful for you to meet your team. Avoid carrying your phone around throughout your induction, because we all have the habit of constantly checking it – and this type of body language can be perceived as rude.
Sometimes it can feel easy to slack off in the first few weeks if you are left on your own to read processes and policies or find your feet, but that should not permit showing up late to work or taking extra-long lunch breaks. Take the opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic in the early days of employment, and then later assess your flexibility benefits.
Learn how your organisation communicates
Most of my communicating is done over instant messaging outside of work, and it would feel extremely natural if this was reciprocated in my work-life as well. However, the diversity of people in your office plus the communication norms might mean you need to be open to new channels such as phone calls, emails or even face-to-face communication. We may have become accustomed to communicating behind a screen for immediate responsiveness, but don’t underestimate face-to-face discussions – it is surprisingly easy to brainstorm information or delegate when you’re in front of someone. If you feel nervous about constantly distracting your Manager or colleagues, don’t! The more you get into a habit of putting yourself out there, the easier it will become. Obviously if the communication norm is something else, adopt that channel use.
Find a mentor outside your organisation
Having a trusted mentor will definitely help you through the transition of university into the professional world by providing you advice and industry specific direction. Where to find a mentor? Ask your university if they have a mentor program, otherwise attend networking events (another point of advice!!) where there are opportunities to be introduced to a professional in your field. You will find most people who attend a networking event, are actually very happy to help other people if they can. I actually met my mentor at my first networking event, and she has been an incredible role-model and advisor in my career thus far.
Be patient with your success
Finally, being humble and patient in your first role will make you stand out for all the right reasons. No matter how many years you spent at university to get here, or what your list of responsibilities says in your role description, if you can be comfortable to help others wherever possible (even if this means tedious tasks), you will find yourself building strong relationships and trust within your team. The truth is, no matter how high your GPA stands, when you commence a graduate position, you are a company junior – don’t fight it! Be patient with your career growth, as it will take time. This is a new learning curve with critical information that was not supplied in your course. It is also absolutely vital to recognise that you will make mistakes, and that no matter how hard it may be to swallow at first, they are hidden blessings allowing you to learn in the most powerful way. Be patient with yourself – no one expects you to be perfect on day one.
Ashleigh Jones – Consultant