Are you a recent graduate about to start your first job? Perhaps you are a recent graduate who is moving into a new role. Wondering how to differentiate yourself and hit the ground running? Follow these tips to stand out for the right reasons.
1. Build relationships at every level.
Relationships are key and you may be surprised by which ones are most critical to your career. At my first job, the scheduler of the associates had all the power and that was someone you wanted to get along with. People have to want to work with you and as you grow in your career you need people who also want to work for you. Don’t narrow your focus just to colleagues at your level. Administrative staff often understand workplace dynamics better than anyone. Pursue the relationships that feel authentic to you to expand your resources, knowledge base, and support network.
2. Offer your help.
In my first job we had something called “the beach”. It meant that you didn’t have anything to do – you were beached. Although I was getting paid to do nothing, it was boring and I certainly wasn’t advancing my career. Be proactive, if you don’t have anything to do, find something. Build your brand as someone who pitches in. The best way to understand what is going on around the office is to ask how you can help. Keep in mind tip #1 and offer assistance to the assistants, your peers, as well as the managers and partners.
3. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.
Now is the time to learn so don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you are given an assignment make sure you are clear on what doing it successfully means. There are an infinite number of questions you can ask so be careful not to interrogate. It may help to think of the questions in categories such as:
• Purpose / Success & Requirements questions
• People & Resource questions
• Anticipated problem questions
• Communication & Timing questions
• Process or Order questions
Understand who else you may be able to ask questions of as they come up so you don’t burden the boss. But keep asking and soon you will be able to answer them for someone else.
Check out this video for more on asking the right questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la8sAZV99w4
4. Pay attention to the big picture, and the small one.
As a new hire you are often assigned some of the less glamorous tasks. Let’s face it, it’s grunt work. But your role is critical and so is getting it done, done correctly, and done quickly. Don’t lose sight of the details — your bosses are relying on you to deliver. Look for the opportunities to deliver on more than you were asked. Understand why you’re assigned certain tasks, what the results will contribute to, and how this all fits into your organization’s larger goals and aims.
Be a thinker, not just a doer. Early in my career I was a number cruncher. Once I presented my numbers to my manager and then he asked my opinion. Visualize a deer in the headlights because that was me. I didn’t have one. I did the task but didn’t analyze my results. That never happened again. Think. Have an opinion, just know when it is appropriate to share it. Make it a habit to do not just the job you’re asked to do, but to look for additional opportunities to add value.
5. Attitude over aptitude.
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Temper tantrums, arrogance, or cockiness will not serve you in your career. Confidence is not the same as arrogance. Confidence is the inner knowledge that you are capable and cannot only handle but excel at the work. You can be confident and also believe others are also capable and competent. Confident people know that they are not perfect but also know how to recover when the make a mistake. They own it. Arrogance is defined as, “an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.” People can teach technical skills – they can’t teach attitude. Approach every situation openly, with a willingness to learn, and don’t act as if anything — or anyone — is below you.