The transition from college to the working world can be a harsh one, but there are definitely steps that you can take to ease that transition and get off to a good start with your employer. I want to give some guidance to the young work horses of corporate America, who need a cheat sheet on getting their career off the ground.
Appearance. The first and easiest thing a young employee can do is present a professional appearance every day. View yourself as the face of the company with the company’s reputation on the line. I’m not just talking about the interview. It’s not enough to give a great first impression, you want to give a lasting impression. Hair trimmed, professional attire (within your company’s dress standards, of course), and always showered. Picture yourself in the position you want to be in 10 years from now, and dress like you are already there.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm. Many college students are not morning people (if they are, more power to them). One thing that has to change in the early days of a career is a young employee’s sleep schedule. Of course we all want to stay up until midnight hanging with friends, but doing that only makes the mornings worthless, cutting out close to half a day’s worth of productivity. Do yourself a favor: get to work an hour early every day, and stay an hour late. It’s going to be difficult at first, but once it becomes routine your productivity level will increase significantly. Not to mention your co-workers and manager will be impressed with your maturity and dedication.
Attendance. The transition from a college schedule to a work schedule takes some major adjusting. In college, you could miss a class one day, get the notes from a friend, and it’s like nothing ever happened. On the contrary, if you miss a day of work, not only do your co-workers have to pick up your slack, but you also allow yourself to fall behind in the advancement of your career. If you have a good reason to take a personal or sick day, then do so. But if there’s any possible way to push through, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
Find a Mentor. It can be very beneficial for a young professional to have a mentor, someone who can provide guidance and advice and the benefit of years of experience. A mentor might be somebody you’ve known for a while, somebody you aspire to be, or simply someone you look up to. Find a mentor/mentee relationship that works for you and don’t be afraid to ask. When you’ve moved into a more senior role, you will be providing the same help to a young professional in the same way!
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask. When something is bothering you at work, or you don’t know how to handle a certain project, be sure to ask. There’s no shame in asking for help and advice, and those who are afraid to do so are only allowing themselves to fall behind. Your manager doesn’t expect you to know everything.
Forget Anxiety. A lot of young professionals have anxiety in their first years of working. For those who have good jobs, they’re afraid to lose them, even when they’re doing well. For those working outside of their ideal industry, they often have anxiety that they’re wasting time in the wrong company. First of all, a job is a job out of college and having one puts you in a better position than 50% of recent college grads out there who can’t find one. For those with good jobs, remember that employers don’t expect you to be impacting company growth right out of the gate. At this point in your career, you want to absorb as much information and experience as you can, so lose the anxiety and focus on bettering yourself.
These small factors truly can make a big difference in starting your career right after college.