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The 8 Lessons My Career Taught Me

The Things I Learned in my First Year as a Working Professional

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

I graduated from college in December 2015 and after four months of receiving my diploma, I got my first job within my major.  I was ecstatic to know that I could finally put my degree to use and do what I was most passionate about, but I never knew how much I would grow as a working professional within a year. There are 8 key things that I learned while working my first corporate job that continue to make me successful. 

1. First Impressions are Lasting 

As a young professional it is important to leave a good impression amongst your coworkers and your leadership team. Having expertise in your field is great, but having soft skills such as punctuality, being responsible and possessing communication skills are equally important. Make sure that you are present, willing to help your peers and that you treat the people around you with respect. All of these things are the tools to having a great work ethic. You may not notice it, but people around you are paying attention to the way that you carry yourself and how you interact with others. 

When I started my job I made it my duty to leave a lasting impression on my supervisor and coworkers. I wanted people to see my maturity, professionalism and my willingness to lend a helping hand to others. I made sure that my appearance was always appropriate and I kept a positive attitude. I ditched the dangly earrings and sundresses for simple studs, blazers and sheath dresses.

 As a salaried employee, I didn’t have a set schedule like I did at previous jobs, but I still made sure that I got to work at a decent time and that I worked standard hours. When you work a salary job, you work until the job is done even if that means staying later than usual. 

2. Presentation Matters 

The first supervisor that I had lived by this statement and at first it drove me crazy. She told me that we didn’t use Microsoft Word for anything and only used Adobe Indesign because anything we create such as reports, meeting agendas, and other items had to look nice. This didn’t make any sense to me in the beginning, but over time I saw the value in it. 

When you present something to fellow coworkers and executive staff it is important to put an effort in both the content and the look of your items. This is key especially for me since I am a part of the Communications department. Marketing, public relations, creating brand standards and posting on social media is what we do, so we have to practice what we preach. 

3. Learn to Speak Their Language 

In the workforce, you meet people from all different walks of life and they all have certain values and beliefs that surround their jobs. When talking with people in different departments it is important to speak their language to drive your point across on what you are trying to accomplish. When you show them how a project you are working on or how solving a problem can benefit them you are more likely to get their support. 

Our superintendent taught me that and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. People are more willing to listen with an open mind when you can show that you see things from their point of view. 

4. Pick Your Battles Wisely

When you first enter the professional world you have to prove yourself to others, especially when you are young. Along the way, you will run into some road blocks and meet some people that you don’t mesh well with, but you have to pick and choose when to take a problem up the ladder. In the workplace you are going to be surrounded with different personalities and not everyone that you meet will be your ‘cup of tea’ and that is okay, but you have to be able to work with them professionally and be cordial. 

Don’t tolerate disrespect or harassment and definitely stand up for what you believe in, but let the small things go. Everything won’t always go your way and every idea might not come to action, but that is a part of life. If you have to be firm about a certain situation or with a peer make sure you handle it in a respectful and professional manner. 

At the end of the day, you do not want your reputation to be ruined because you can’t keep your cool in a tense situation. How you handle stressful moments says a lot about your character and your maturity. 

5. Being Flexible Goes a Long Way

Nobody wants to be a ‘Yes Man’, but nobody wants to work with a difficult person either, so when working alongside others it is important to be flexible. If you can’t make a meeting due to your busy schedule make sure you make an effort to reach out to your team to get in the loop and act on your assignments. 

Make sure you are willing to work with others and be open to new ideas and suggestions. Showing flexibility means being a team player and you get what you give. 

6. Taking Initiative is a Must

You just graduated college and scored the career of your dreams, so it is time to put on your big girl/boy pants and take care of business. There is always work to do and there are always opportunities to help others and help your organization grow. Nobody wants to deal with an employee that has to be babysat and constantly told what to do. That is the cold harsh truth and if you want to keep your job, initiative matters. 

One of my jobs is to keep track of the budget for my department and occasionally I have to put together a spending report. I could have just printed out a spreadsheet and sat it on my supervisor’s desk, but I didn’t. I knew this was something that would be presented to our leadership team, so I took the time to make it look nice and to break down information into categories to make my content understandable. It is the extra effort that makes a difference in how people view you as an employee.  

7. Building Relationships with Your Co-workers is Necessary

If you are going to be successful in the workplace then you have to work with others. Working with others means building relationships with your peers, which instills trust. You see your co-workers more than you see your family and in order to create a positive work environment, you have to be cordial with your peers. 

When you have a good work relationship with your coworkers it makes it easier to collaborate on projects and they are more likely to hear out your ideas and have your best interest in mind. Taking initiative goes hand in hand with building relationships because it shows that you have a strong work ethic and you can be a team player. 

8. Take Advantage of Mentorship Opportunities 

No matter how much experience you might have in a certain area there is always room to grow. Don’t be afraid to reach out to mentors within or outside of your organization because when you can work with like-minded individuals you can learn a lot about your industry. 

I asked my supervisor for some mentorship opportunities and he didn’t hesitate to reach out to one of his former colleagues to help me on my journey in public relations. Having a supervisor who is willing to help you grow and be successful is a testament to their character and their leadership skills. In reality, this is not always the case and sometimes you may have to look outside of where you work for a mentor. LinkedIn is a great source for finding and networking with others within your industry. Don’t be afraid to reach out! There are a lot of professionals with lengthy careers that are willing to pay it forward. 

Entering the professional workforce for the first time can be intimidating, but you can do it. Fill out those applications, give your all in those interviews and show your new coworkers that you are a positive asset to your organization. 

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