The Ideal Entry-Level Employee

If you’re about to graduate and start searching for your first “real world” job, you need to start nailing down the details of your chosen field. For example, some professions demand a list of character traits that can be pure poison in others. Kindergarten teachers, drill sergeants, slaughterhouse workers and copy editors all approach their jobs with different philosophies (hopefully). But there are a few traits that almost every manager appreciates in an entry-level employee, regardless of the skills needed to excel at a specific job.

What kinds of entry-level employees do managers value the most? Here’s a quick of list of traits that can help you make a strong impression and get your career off on the right foot. In most professional fields, prized entry-level employees are:

1. Fast learners. There are few things managers appreciate more than an employee who only has to receive a specific instruction or correction one time. If you can get something wrong, receive instructions on how to avoid the problem in the future, and never make the same mistake again, your boss will notice. If you don’t trust your memory, write things down. 

2. Willing to do what’s asked of them. Obedience is important at this stage in a professional career. If the concept goes against your grain, or you question the value and wisdom of the instructions you’re given, just remember: the faster you overcome the challenges of the entry-level, the faster you leave the entry-level behind. More autonomy and greater responsibility are around the bend, but you’ll have to jump through some hoops to get there. 

3. Aware of the larger picture. Employees who simply carry out the instructions they’re given are valued, but you’ll gain an even stronger foothold if you recognize the logic behind these instructions and you can see how your work supports the broader goals of the company as a whole. Don’t just keep up with the items placed in your inbox – get ahead of them and stay ahead by keeping the overarching mission in mind. 

4. Always there and on time. When responsibility levels are low, expectations are also low. At the entry level, employees gain points just for showing up, and extra points for showing up on time and properly dressed. Take advantage of this freebee while you can; as soon as you climb to the very next rung of the ladder, earning gold stars won’t be so easy.

5. Eager to advance. If you cringe at being asked to do menial, boring or degrading tasks, you have two options: sulk and rebel, or express an interest in taking on more challenging work. Both options will save you from the unpleasant chore, but one of them will hold your career back while the other will drive it forward. 

6. Graceful with criticism. Managers don’t always have the time to handle and soothe delicate egos. If you’re willing to check your self-importance at the door and open your ears to guidance and constructive criticism, you’ll advance faster than your more fragile and defensive peers. Criticism can be a valuable gift. Receive it in the proper spirit, and try not to take negative feedback personally.

Get In So You Can Get Out

The entry level is a place of almost unlimited possibility and opportunity. But it’s also a place most of us would rather not stay in for very long. This period lasts between two and five years in most professions, and the broad knowledge and insight gained at this level can springboard an employee into a lifelong fulfilling relationship with his or her chosen line of work.

Make the most of your tenure at the entry level, and keep this chapter of your career as valuable and as short as possible. Turn to LiveCareer for specific tips, job search tools and advice that can help you get in the door and off the ground.

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