Your First Year on the Job
Your first year on the job is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and start devising a long-term career path. It seems like a lot to accomplish in 12 short months, but as any seasoned employee will tell you, the first year is one of the most crucial for both personal and professional growth, so it’s important to get as much as you can from it.
Master the Basics
As a new hire, it’s natural for you to want to dazzle your boss with your knowledge, revolutionary ideas, and unwavering team spirit. These are all important, but your first job is to demonstrate that you have mastered the basics: Show up on time every day, ready and willing to work, and dressed appropriately.
Sound simple? Many employers report an alarming shortage of qualified, enthusiastic job applicants who can be trusted to report to work each day. Your first job in your new job is to demonstrate your reliability, trustworthiness, and enthusiasm.
Know What’s Expected
It’s critical that you understand your job, your supervisor’s expectations, and how you fit into the larger picture of the company. Consequently, ask as many questions as you need to do your job well and learn about the organization and its culture. Don’t worry about looking foolish; it’s more foolish to pretend you know something (and risk getting it wrong) than to admit up front you don’t.
It’s also important to find out about your organization’s performance review process and terminology—such as “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations.” You can’t meet or exceed expectations if you don’t know what they are!
Watch and Learn
While it might be tempting to contribute ideas at every staff meeting or team-building session, it is generally better for you as a new hire to sit back and observe your co-workers before jumping into a discussion. You don’t want to come across as a “know-it-all,” or as dismissive of the knowledge and insight those senior to you have. Listen. Pay attention. Not only will you gain information that is relevant to your job, but also you will learn about your company’s culture and your co-workers’ distinctive personalities. You will also learn quickly that the working world is very different from the insular life on campus.
During your first year (and beyond) it’s important to have a mentor. Long term, a mentor can help you reach your career goals, but initially, your mentor’s main role is to help you navigate the unwritten rules of your organization, coach and counsel you, give you feedback and insight, and help you get on—and stay on—the right path.
Many organizations have formal mentor programs: If yours does, be sure to take advantage. If there is no formal program, seek out an informal mentor or mentors.
Closing Out the Year
New hires in virtually every industry can expect a yearly performance review, and some employers require them at the end of the 90-day probationary period, or after the new hire’s first six months of employment.
Seek out constructive feedback periodically so there are no surprises at your review. This will also help you correct mistakes or improve your processes quickly. Use your performance review to your professional advantage. Build on your supervisor’s comments to assess your work style and improve your performance. Your review can help you get to the next step in your career.
With the right combination of a strong work ethic, the willingness to learn and improve, and the ability to accept constructive feedback, this year can be an amazing learning opportunity, and can help you lay the foundation for later career success.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
What You Need to Succeed in the Workplace
By Jean Gatz
If you tend to show up early for class, keep up with your assignments, and put forth extra effort when less would do, you’re not just a model student. Chances are, you’ll also make a great employee. Most top-level executives look for qualities like initiative and efficiency in the people they hire and promote. Of course, their expectations of employees don’t end there. Here are the key strategies for making a successful transition from campus to the workplace.
Keep your personal life in order.
Employers are usually sensitive to situations where employees are coping with difficult personal issues, such as relationship or marital problems or the illness or loss of a loved one. But, if you find yourself in such a situation, deal with the issues as best you can or ask for help in addressing them. If you ignore your problems, they’re likely to spill over into your work and detract from your job performance.
Work smarter, harder, faster.
Accountability is one of the traits that employers value most in employees. What it means, in the words of one executive, is that “you know what needs to be done, and can be counted on to do it right and on time, without constant reminders or supervision.”
In the process, think of yourself as a consultant, and continually look for ways that you can function more effectively.
Another practical strategy is to let people in management know that you’re interested in doing more to benefit your organization, and ask if they would mentor you. Learn the ropes from others who have already climbed them.
Demonstrate and document value-added.
Always remember that the #1 goal of an organization is to stay in business. With that in mind, find ways to reduce costs or generate revenue for your employer. At the same time, proceed cautiously with any time- or money-saving suggestions. You don’t want your colleagues to think of you as a know-it-all who is intent on changing everything.
It also is important to document the work you do and, when asked or whenever appropriate, to let your bosses know of your achievements.
You don’t have to get in anyone’s face, but the people you report to should know how well you do your job. This strategy for maintaining a positive, visible presence goes hand in hand with cultivating allies and advocates in the workplace.
You cannot do a job well without adapting to change, whether it takes the form of new technology or added job responsibilities.
While anger and fear are typical responses to change, optimism is the most appropriate one. Ironically, when people are worried about keeping their jobs, they are the most resistant to change. They adopt the exact opposite behavior of what companies are looking for in employees.
Commit to lifelong learning.
One of the consequences of change is having to learn new skills to replace less effective work methods. But it also benefits you to continually expand and refine your abilities. Employers are more likely to retain employees who upgrade their skills over those who do not. Only knowledge—and the ability to apply it—provides this kind of leverage.
Look for leadership opportunities.
Every employee, regardless of job title, should be willing and able to assume a leadership role, whenever the need arises. It’s an ideal opportunity to demonstrate your ability and value to an organization.
Communicate openly and directly.
Written, verbal, and electronic skills are essential in every work environment. Knowing how to listen is equally important. The way you communicate is a reflection of how you perceive and perform your job.
As you prepare to enter the work force, think long and hard about how you can get—and do—a great job. Wherever you work, you will need to have exceptional qualities and skills to launch and advance your career.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
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