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4 Key Elements to Make Your First Job a Success

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Candidate having an Interview

(Photo : Tima Miroshnichenko)

You are a new graduate or a soon-to-be one. You feel the tickling excitement that a new chapter in life brings. And very likely, you're experiencing a tinge of fear too. 

There are just so many open questions: will I be able to find a job without any experience? How much money will I be able to make in my first year? How does an employment contract work? What will my first employer expect from me?

Learning how to behave in a professional environment is a process. In this article, we are going to look at ways in which you can avoid some common mistakes made by career newbies.

Let's dig into it!

1. Be Open and Ask Questions

While it is a wise idea to observe your environment to see how team members interact, there is no need to be excessively quiet and not ask questions. Communicating clearly and effectively is key to business success.

Many career beginners run into trouble because they think asking questions will make them look incompetent. But think about it twice. 

Would you rather pretend that you know everything and maybe make a mistake that will cost a lot of time and resources to fix? Or would you rather clarify any questions you may have and learn something useful?

Sure, the second option involves acknowledging that you have certain limitations, but remember that you are new to the workforce and the company. Your employer knows this and decided to give you a chance anyway.

Start preparing for your career by polishing your communication skills while you're still in college. This soft skill is an essential element that will differentiate you from others.

2. Work at Least 1 Year Before Asking for a Raise

You've spent quite a few years getting an education to prepare you to do a job that you'll hopefully enjoy. Finding the right position was probably not an easy ride either. 

As soon as you got your first chance, you were very likely a little too shy in setting your salary expectations. Well, this is completely understandable. Many career beginners usually follow the same thought process.

But after just a few months, they begin to feel like they've been shortchanged. What's going to differentiate you from other career beginners is understanding that you're not going to get a raise after just a couple of months on the job. 

Unrealistic expectations in this department might classify you as immature, or perhaps even rude and greedy, in front of management.

The standard practice is asking for a raise after you've been on the job for at least a year. Consider yourself lucky if your first job after graduation is a paying one. Many applicants, depending on their field, begin their careers by doing long-term unpaid internships.

3. Be Ready to Do All the "Fun" Assignments

When many undergraduates choose a specialization field, they imagine themselves holding impressive job titles like marketing director or head of logistics. The reality is very often that almost no one starts there.

As a matter of fact, most career beginners should be mentally prepared to do tasks that they consider beneath themselves. But, instead of becoming quickly frustrated, recent graduates should see this as the test that it usually is.

These seemingly dull tasks are a chance to show your employer that you're ready to handle more complex ones. The logic behind it is that if you can carry these assignments out successfully, you will be able to take on bigger responsibilities.

Ideally, you should take your time and pay extra attention to these duties. Think of them as the first on-the-job impression that you're going to deliver, and, therefore, a very crucial one. 

Propose new, more efficient ways of completing them, but only if you're absolutely sure. You might be asked to defend your proposal. If you can't back it up properly, it might end up working against you. 

4. Be a Professional and Act Like One Always

Attitude is everything when it comes to your work life. It is not only about being polite, which you should be, of course. It is also about having a positive mindset, even in turbulent situations.

This doesn't mean you should change your personality, but observe how other team members talk to each other, and the tone they use in their emails. Use your conclusions to guide you through your interactions during the first few weeks. 

Also, keep in mind that having a career isn't just about doing the job. It's about innovating and improving processes and systems. You should see it as an ever-evolving design where you should constantly think about ways to improve how you do things.

Lastly, watch out for meetings. They can sometimes be long and the temptation to mentally switch off can be very powerful. However, how you behave in meetings is of extreme importance. 

Ask questions, be interested in what's being spoken, and listen actively. This will show everyone in the room that you're serious about business.

In a Nutshell

Like with many issues in life, the road can get a little bumpy when you're starting a career. Sometimes there are no easy answers, except to look for a new job or field

Try to research the company you want to work for in advance. Clarify if the company culture suits your personality. Ask yourself questions like "would I like to work in a more structured and formal environment, or would a startup with its often flat hierarchies be more fitting?"

In any case, remember that we're all here to learn. Good luck!

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