Every year, hundreds of thousands of new college graduates enter the job market … only to find that there is so much that they were never taught in the academic environment, such as how to navigate office politics and make a great first impression on the boss.
Starting any new job can be intimidating. But when it’s your first job out of the university most of your new co-workers are going to assume you are still “wet behind the ears” and are going to struggle out of the gate. While many will be supportive, there are others who are waiting for you to fail.
Here are some tips for making a good impression and getting up to speed as quickly as possible in your first real job.
The First Days Are Critical
Most newcomers are thrown into an organization with little pomp or fanfare. This can be a startling experience for young people who literally just stepped out of an entire elaborate ceremonial graduation that celebrates their achievements.
Don’t expect pageantry and special treatment. If you’re lucky, your new supervisor will introduce you around to the people you will be working near. More likely, you will be left on your own to introduce yourself. Keep in mind that first impressions are important, so don’t go out of your way to impress your new co-workers with your list of accomplishments at school. They will likely laugh in your face.
The real world and the academic world are entirely different. You may have proven yourself in the minor leagues, but now that you are in the “Big Show”, you are starting from the drawing board all over again. Your reputation needs to be earned. You can start by being friendly, humble, and – most importantly – observant.
Pay attention to the way people behave and talk to each other. Learn to listen before jumping into conversation with your opinion or fresh ideas. If you do or say something stupid during your first few days, it could follow you around for years.
Find a Mentor
Model your behavior on somebody you identify as successful within the organization. Then introduce yourself to that person and try to get to know them better.
Ask for advice on how to do something, such as how to best contribute to an upcoming project. In most cases, people are more than willing to offer you help. But you have to explicitly ask for it. Nobody is going to be able to read your mind. But they may be flattered and responsive if you show how much you admire them and ask them for guidance.
Be Yourself … Only Better
One of the hardest transitions for new graduates is the social aspect of work. College can be one of the most fun and enjoyable times of your life. But the people you are working with probably haven’t done a “keg stand” or a “beer bong” in a very long time, if ever.
It’s important to have fun and be sociable. But you also need to bring more maturity to your role, especially because most people will be expecting you to act like a college kid.
Ask a Lot of Questions
Your new co-workers will love to show you how smart, savvy and experienced they are. Use this to your advantage by asking a lot of questions … about the organization, the key players, how things work around the office, and even such mundane things as where the office supply cabinet is and what time you need to be back from lunch.
Not only will this play into their need to impress you with their smarts, but you will gain valuable information you can use in your everyday work.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
You’re not going to make the leap from the mail room to the board room overnight. But if you keep your long term goals in mind – and break them down into short-term accomplishments, such as getting that next promotion or being assigned additional responsibilities – you can begin your journey up the ladder and achieve excellence along the way.