You’ve landed your first job out of school, you’ve filled out the paperwork and finished orientation. Your next step: making a good impression and positioning yourself for long-term career success.
As you’ll soon learn, the skills that earned good grades in school – showing up for class, mastering a well-defined set of course material – differ drastically from the skills that lead to success in the workplace. At school, maybe you aced every math test. At work, you will encounter problems that have no “right” answers.
“You can’t just show up anymore,” writes Lauren Berger, author of Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Career. “You have to really be present. Not telling your boss about one phone call … could mess up a lot of the parts of the business beyond your comprehension.”
But you’re up for this. Brace yourself, get on the learning curve, and stay determined. Follow these tips:
Arrive on time or early. This simple step shows that you’re serious and respectful of others’ time. Also, arriving a few minutes early will give you a few quiet moments to plan your day.
Learn to love rejection. You read that right. Speak up and share your ideas. Raise your hand to volunteer for big projects. Go after big potential clients. “You won’t get to where you want to be until you get rejected,” Berger says. “I embrace rejection, because I take it as a signal I’m on the right track.” Remember that rejection doesn’t necessarily mean no – it means not right now. Try not to take it personally.
Learn to communicate with your boss. Some like to meet in person, or to communicate via text or email. Ask your boss about his or her preferred means of communication.
Be resourceful. If something’s not working well in the business, don’t just complain about it. Show your boss and your teammates that you’re able to come up with solutions.
Make friends, but set limits. Work friendships make the job enjoyable and create informal connections that help on the job. But beware the Chatty Cathy or Talkative Tim who keep you from getting your work done. Learn a few polite catchphrases: “Sorry, I’ve got to get back to this work now” or “Let’s catch up later, when I’m not so busy.”
Practice self-care. In order to be a good employee, you need to take care of yourself – and only you can do it. Manage your time wisely. Set boundaries. Be sure you get enough sleep.