Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

8 Career Tips for New College Grads

Who doesn’t love new beginnings?  Whether it’s a new relationship, new home or even a new job, there’s just something exciting about a fresh start.    Especially when that new beginning comes after years of hard work!

If you’ve recently graduated college, you know exactly what I’m talking about!  It’s finally payback time.  And yes, “pay” is an exciting term after living with little resources and lots of classes (not to mention group projects!) for the last several years.

This post assumes that you’ve already landed your job and focuses on ways to make a great impression with your new boss and co-workers.  But if you’re still in the job market, you may also want to check out a couple of my earlier articles below:

Ok, now back to our topic at hand.  It likely comes as no surprise that your first few weeks with a new job are critical…not to mention stressful!  Yes, you certainly have lots to learn about your physical job but there are also lots of other things to consider.  You see much like you are measuring your satisfaction with your new gig, everyone there is watching to see if you will be a good fit.  The tips below should help you put your foot firmly on the ladder of success!

  1. Be Professional. One of the biggest challenges for new college grads is the concept of being professional.  It’s not that you aren’t capable or intelligent.  Rather that you just haven’t had much exposure to the business culture and consequently may not understand yet what is and isn’t expected.  You see not much will frustrate your boss and co-workers more than your inability to be professional.  The topic of professionalism is far too challenging to serve justice here.  If you want more insight on the topic you may enjoy, “Professionalism Defined…What it IS and ISN’T.” 
  2. ABL-Always be Listening. Good communication skills are important throughout your career, but they are critical in the early days of a new job.  And communication isn’t all about talking.  In fact, good listening skills lie at the heart of successful communication.  So, while admittedly your brain may be on overload, it’s important to really listen when things are explained or direction is given.   For more communication tips check out, “9 Communication Skills Professionals use…But do YOU?”
  3. Do GREAT work. It should be obvious that one of the most important rungs on the ladder to success involves actually doing great work.  But it can be challenging during the early days of your professional career to know the expectations.  Consequently, it’s always a great idea to have a trusted colleague review your first few efforts before it goes to the boss.  And don’t overlook the fact that doing great work involves making your manager look good too! In fact, you may pick up some more tips on this topic in, “7 Ways to be Indispensable to Your Boss.”
  4. Ask Questions. One of the best things about being the newbie is that no one expects you to know much.  So it’s the perfect time to ask questions.  Asking for more information is a great way to impress your boss and colleagues because it shows you’re engaged and trying to learn so that you can start providing value.  And as an added bonus, you may just find that your question helps them learn too!  Without the confines of “we’ve always done it this way,” you may just help them find a new efficiency.  At the very least, if you’re unsure of the direction you’ve been given, always ask questions until you have a clear understanding of the goal.
  5. Be a People Watcher. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch people.  Sometimes people make me smile, but occasionally they make me sad.  Regardless, I always learn something that makes me appreciate what I have in my life and become a better person.  And it’s a great career tool as well.  In the early days of a new job, you can learn a great deal by just watching those around you.  Take note of office etiquette, dress code and culture.  But don’t stop there.  Watch to see which groups of people are on the fast track to success and which are holding on to their jobs by a thread.  Then work to match the styles of those climbing the ladder.
  6. Be Sincere. Like it or not, first impressions rule.  And if the stress of actually learning your new job isn’t enough, you also need to accept that people are judging you as a person.  Don’t let your excitement with life (and your new job!) cause you to be overly optimistic and complimentary.   Instead strive for sincerity in all that you do and say.  Bottom line:  if you don’t truly mean it, don’t say it! For more tips on ways to make people feel valued, check out “Critical Meeting (and Life!) Prep that’s often Overlooked.” 
  7. Be Prompt. While it seems so basic it shouldn’t need to be said, some folks have serious time management issues.  While during college, you never had a class before 11, the real world starts a bit earlier….a lot earlier!  And just as your new co-workers are watching your every move to see if they trust you and if you are going to fit in, your boss is watching carefully to make sure they made the right decision by offering you the job.  This one should be easy…arrive early in the morning and avoid long lunches.
  8. Keep that “Notes” App Handy. Chances are good that you took some notes during college to make it through classes with notoriously tough professors.  In order to climb the ladder of success, you want to extend the same practice with your new boss and co-workers.    Your brain will likely be on overflow the first few weeks with your new job and realize that taking notes is a sign of engagement and respect that everyone will appreciate!

Kudos for working hard and obtaining your degree!  Now get out there and make all of your efforts pay off by using these tips for new college grads in your first job!

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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