Once you have landed your first professional position after college, it’s a wise idea to take stock of your situation after your first month on the job. Getting ready for your first promotion, or your next job move, requires a strategy that will maximize your chances of making the best move at the right time. Here are 10 pointers that will help you manage yourafter college as well as other positions that will follow.
1) Get a lay of the land at the company. What are the written and unwritten rules? How are you fitting in with the corporate culture? How are you not? It’s important to understand the dynamics and politics that are at play in your firm.
2) Try to understand the demands that are placed upon your colleagues, your supervisor and his or her boss. Once you understand your role and responsibilities in the organization, try to get a handle on the demands that are placed upon your supervisor and their supervisor(s). It’s also helpful to note the same things among your colleagues. How do all these people interact with you and impact your work life? Try to anticipate the needs of those around you.
3) Determine how your performance will be evaluated. It is crucial that you and your supervisor understand what measures will be applied in evaluating your performance. It’s a wise idea to have informal talks – at least quarterly – on your performance and to meet at least twice a year for a more formal evaluation. Also, it’s a smart idea to document your Top 10 performance achievements of each month; this is a great way to track and communicate your value to your employer.
4) Create value. A company hires you to make them money, save them money, solve problems, prevent problems, design a new system/service/product or manufacture or sell something. Determine the best ways you can contribute value for your department and for the company. Equally important, always be looking for opportunities to communicate your value. In other words, go beyond your job description and quietly let people know what you’ve done.
5) Make up your own “board of directors.” Create a network of mentors and advisors within and outside of the company. Identify about 10 people whom you can confide in and seek advice. Ask these individuals if they would be willing to be your mentor. Specifically, you may want to ask each advisor to meet with you twice yearly in order to discuss you career plans and to get some coaching from them.
6) Take advantage of educational and training opportunities. Keeping up with current trends in your field is essential. Take course work that will help you to perform your current work better or that will prepare you for your next level of assignments. Get advice from your supervisor and mentors on what might be most valuable. Many companies offer tuition-remission programs.
7) Network your way to your next assignment or promotion. Your colleagues and contacts in the profession, along with mentors and supervisors, will be valuable folks to have in your professional directory. Think of your potential network as those people you know and those people you don’t know. Get to know “leaders and experts” in your field by attending professional meetings, seminars and conferences.
8) Be charming and fun to be around — but also have a driven side. This is often a fine balancing act. You want to take your job seriously and perform assignments that will be perceived by others as value-added. Also, take on challenges that others might avoid. People who are good communicators seem to also be good at developing people skills. Talent is one thing, but being able to charm your way through many situations is another. The combo can’t be beat.
9) Start looking for your next promotion, job or new employer just before your first-year anniversary. Although you don’t want to job-hop, chances are your first job out of college will be good for about one to three years at best. It takes the average person about three-to-six months to find a new position, so plan accordingly.
10) Balance your work life and home life. Young professionals tend to work very hard on their first jobs, often burning the midnight oil. Be careful not to burn out in your first job. Remember to play and have fun. Some corporations are trying to encourage workers to do this in their work environments, offering games and other recreational diversions.