You've put in the hard work and earned your degree. You searched, applied and interviewed, and today you're starting your first post-college job. It's a big day and an exciting time in your life. However, this transition can also leave you unsure about how to excel and keep growing. It's important to know that your hard work doesn't stop here. Knowing how to approach your first days in the workforce is key to your continued success in your career.
1. Understand your job responsibilities
On your first day, you're likely to have several meetings to talk about benefits and company policies. You'll also get set up on your computer, and meet some of the people who are most relevant to your job. Be sure to arrive with any needed documents (driver's license, canceled check for direct deposit, etc.) Your HR partner should provide you a list in advance – if they don't then be sure to ask. Also be sure you understand the company's dress code. If you have any uncertainty on this front, discuss with your manager or HR before your first day.
Chances are the job posting that you answered outlined your role's responsibilities. You probably also discussed them in the job interview. However, now is the time to determine your daily responsibilities, schedule and tasks. As soon as possible, sit down with your manager to talk about your responsibilities. Talk through a typical day including arrival, meals, breaks, departure time and of course, your workload. Be sure to clarify expectations for the first month while you're learning the ropes. Frequently, early goals focus on learning systems and processes and building relationships. Now's the time to lay the groundwork to succeed after college – be sure to start out strong.
2. Ask questions
Does college prepare you for the real world? Well, if you learned to ask thoughtful questions and admit when you needed help understanding, then yes it did. Many new hires, especially college grads with little work experience, are afraid to ask questions for fear that they will seem incompetent or insecure. Employers expect college graduates to have questions. No one walks into a job understanding everything, and asking questions means you are taking control of your career and your success.
Here are five examples of questions that will help you get a feel for your new position:
- What does success look like in my new role?
- What special skills do I need to learn?
- Should I obtain any software certifications?
- What are my normal working hours?
- When and how are performance reviews done?
Your first day is a great time to ask these questions but keep the lines of communication open as you continue learning. Your coworkers will value your initiative and eagerness to become a productive, helpful member of the team as quickly as possible.
3. Get to know your superiors and senior management
Even if you don't have a lot of one-on-one time with the executives in your office, make it a point to learn their names, backgrounds and roles within the company. Feel free to introduce yourself and let them know that you recently joined the company, and that you look forward to working with them in the future. Sometimes a simple smile and hello can set you apart from your peers.
4. Socialize with your coworkers
Getting to know your coworkers is more than just learning their names and where they sit. While you don't want to spend valuable working hours socializing, learning about your coworkers' responsibilities, interests and even their pets' names can help you do your job. When you need information, a favor or something done in a hurry, knowing who to go to in your office (and having a solid relationship with them) will help you get things done quickly and effectively. Remember, avoid gossip at all costs. It may seem like harmless fun, but it can lead to bigger problems and conflicts.
5. Be aware of boundaries
Though you want to build strong relationships with your co-workers, it's not the same as being in school. There are some things you should pay attention to:
- Your boss is not your friend. Though you may be friendly, they are still responsible for your professional success. Be aware when sharing personal stories and anecdotes and make sure you're not eroding their trust in you.
- Don't turn your office into a high school. Cliques are not cool and talking behind peoples' backs have real implications. Be inclusive and friendly with everyone – even if you have a few closer friends or colleagues.
- Leave the politics at home. People in your workplace may have very different perspectives on politics, money, religion, and family. Tread lightly on these kinds of topics to make sure you're not creating unnecessary rifts with your coworkers.
- Project a positive outlook. Work is hard – but talking about how hard it is doesn't help anyone. Spread good spirit and try to look on the bright side, while being realistic. Be aware too of your body language to make sure you're outwardly demonstrating that you're approachable and open.
- Be patient. Don't share everything with everyone from the beginning. And don't expect to be best friends on the first day. Let your relationships grow over time and be sure to maintain some boundaries – even with those you consider true friends.
You're also working in a shared workplace, so be aware of making distractions and how your lunch smells. Keep your eye on colleagues others like and want to work with and emulate some of their behaviors and habits. It's a lot to keep in mind, but it will seem very natural quickly.
6. Seek out potential mentors
For recent graduates entering the workforce, a mentor can be an incredible asset and help you succeed after college. A good mentor will encourage you, provide advice, challenge you to work hard and give you helpful insight and advice on navigating your new career.
Unfortunately, many workplaces have stopped offering formal mentorship programs, and many young professionals don't seek out mentors like earlier generations did. Today, finding a mentor may require you to be proactive, and you don't need to limit your search to your workplace. Keeping your eyes and ears open during networking events and informal office discussions can help you discover an unlikely source of information to assist in your career development. A good mentor should be able to grow with you as your career progresses, and your relationship will grow deeper as a result.
7. Keep a brag book
Let's be honest: gone are the days when college graduates would settle into a job after graduation and stay there for the entirety of their career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people stay at their jobs an average of 4.2 years. For first-time employees, that number is likely even lower.
When the time comes for you to move on from your first gig, you want to be able to tell future employers how well you performed. Since this is your first job out of college, it may be hard to remember everything you learned, produced or completed. Start keeping a brag book on day one:
- In a notebook, jot down everything you do and all your job responsibilities.
- When you have a big win, record it, giving details about how you achieved your success and including samples if you can.
- Print out emails from your superiors when they compliment your work.
When you're applying to future jobs, these "brags" are the perfect additions for your cover letters and resumes. A detailed cover letter that includes keywords, relevant details and a compelling case for the position can be what sets you apart from your fellow applicants. When you don't have a lot of work experience, you need to ensure you have a dynamic way to tell your story. You should also include your accomplishments, especially if data driven and relevant to the role, in the Work Experience or Summary section of your resume.
8. Join professional LinkedIn groups
You can find LinkedIn groups for just about every profession, interest and trade. Joining groups that are relevant to your career will help you keep apprised of industry trends, competitor developments and opportunities to make new connections. If you're constantly educating yourself and mixing with the best and brightest in your field, you will advance quickly. Make sure you take time to read articles posted by your peers and comment on their posts with encouragement and questions. Post content yourself that demonstrates what you're learning and that you're engaged in the industry (read LinkedIn's tips to help get started.) A little engagement goes a long way.
9. Continue to update your resume
Understandably, many new college grads get their first job and then let their resume lapse. However, it's important to keep your credentials and references current. You'll be thankful to have a current resume if you are laid off or decide to pursue another job outside your company, but you may also need one to apply for an internal promotion or position change. Applicants within the same company are often required to submit an up-to-date resume and references. With our Resume Templates, you can quickly put together a resume that will help you catch the hiring manager's eye.
10. Review your social media feeds
Hopefully, you reviewed your social media presence before and during your job search but give your pages another glance before you start your new job. Your new colleagues will almost certainly be connecting with you online.
- Clean it up. Ensure that your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages ― including public photos, statements and information ― are appropriate.
- Check the rules. Some employers have social media policies in place that prohibit you from becoming friends with your coworkers online or sharing any information about your job.
- Be aware. While social media is your personal choice, it's important to remember that what you post will remain on the internet in perpetuity.
Your first job is an exciting and important time in your career. You are setting the tone for how you conduct yourself, building your professional network and learning what you want and don't want from your career path.
Keep your resume current and professional with our Resume Builder, and always be on the lookout for ways to develop your skills. Make deliberate choices about how you begin your career, wherever it may take you. Remember, this is the start of your journey. It's going to be a fun ride!