Written by Contributor Writer Marie Nesbitt
Taking that leap from student to professional can be a nerve-wrecking time. With the fresh-faced look of someone right out of college, how do you earn the respect and be taken seriously by your older and more experienced peers? How do you manage the same social life as you had in college and balance it with the rigors of your professional career?
Let me tell you – it can be hard at first, but after the first few months, it doesn’t seem so scary!
Whether you’re a college student, recent graduate, or seasoned veteran, navigating the professional world can be confusing at times. While I am no expert, I have learned a lot from my professional peers and have received sage advice from inspiring mentors who have helped calm me down when I start to freak out about any aspect of my professional career.
Here are just a few of things I’ve learned during my first big girl job:
- Network, network, network!
This is probably the best and scariest advice I have ever been given. Building professional relationships is almost a necessity if you want to move higher up in the company. Whether you’re looking for a promotion or just wondering what other roles are out there, having that network of people is going to help you out in the long run.While meeting with new people may be scary, many people are more than willing to make the time to talk about their career successes and offer advice – I mean, who DOESN’T like talking about themselves?! It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting. Informal coffee sessions are often the best scenarios to meet a potential boss, coworker, mentor, etc. Have a few canned questions in mind before you meet with them, but also let the conversation flow naturally.My last three role moves have all been a result of the network I have built. It took me awhile to build a solid foundation, but once I had a strong core group of people, my network grew tenfold.
Once you have someone who can vouch for your performance and be your inside connection for your dream job, the rest will take care of itself.
- Say Yes
This is especially true early on in your career. Even if you don’t know how to do something or are unfamiliar with what someone is asking you to do, say yes and then ask questions.In my experience, showing a willingness and eagerness to learn something new and add value to the team is beneficial. This is your opportunity to grow and develop your skills. Show that you are willing to learn new things. Break away from your comfort zone and try something new.Also, if you’re struggling to break away from the ‘college-graduate’ bubble that seems to encompass those are new to the real world, demonstrating a strong work ethic and willingness to learn will help you grow out of it.
This tip comes with a caveat, however. Don’t take on too much or agree to something you know for sure you can’t follow through with. It will only hurt you in the long run. Say yes to the right things and at the right time, and it will take you to the next level.
- Do your job…and then some
A job description is just the basics. In reality, your role should extend beyond what is written down on paper. There are so many people with similar backgrounds applying for the exact same job that you are – if you can show that you are able to go above and beyond what is expected of you, employers will jump at the chance to hire you and you will be able to quickly climb the career ladder to your dream job.Going above and beyond your job description will help you stand out to potential bosses and will solidify with your current boss that they made the right decision when they hired you.
- Gain additional experience outside of your career
If you are just starting out in your career, it’s important you learn as many things as you can and apply your skills in any way possible. Chances are, your first job is not your dream job. But volunteering, joining organizations, doing freelance work – all will help you gain the experience you need to get to where you want to be.Take this blog for example. I work full time at a Fortune 100 corporation, but in my spare time (whenever that comes up) I write articles to gain more writing experience and put my name on a published piece – all helping me do my own job better and expand my current portfolio for future jobs that I may want.
- Speak up
You want that promotion? A raise? If there is something you want, go ask for it! As scary as it may sound, approach your boss about it. They are not mind readers.Contrary to what most people believe, hard work and dedication alone will not guarantee you a promotion or raise. You have to want it too. While your boss may take note of your due-diligence and impressive work ethic, they may not know what your development plans are unless you specifically go up to them and talk about it. If you have the work ethic and qualifications to back it up, they will be willing to work with you and set you on the path that you are looking for.It took me awhile to figure this out. While I was continuously commended for a job well done, I couldn’t understand why no new job opportunities were knocking on my door. I came to the point where I felt like I was stuck in a rut and had plateaued. One day, I heard about a new opportunity that I thought I was perfect for – so I went after it. While my boss was sad to see me go, he understood that I couldn’t stay where I was forever and helped me land the new position.
Believe you me – taking that risk for the first time is one of the scariest things in the professional world. Just take a deep breath and go for it.
- Most importantly — Have fun.
Life after college should not just be about work. While work may take up 8+ hours of your day, there are still 16 more hours left in the day devoted to just you.At times, work may get overwhelming and you may get stressed out – but take a few minutes to get to know your coworkers, go for a walk, take a break – do something besides work for a little bit to rewind and recharge. After work, meet up with friends, join the gym, take on a hobby. Take your mind off of the hectic work day and enjoy yourself! You’re a college graduate for gosh sakes – you’ve earned it!