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Career, Getting Started,

Work is Hard: Tips for your First Job

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Recent grads are eagerly anticipating the first day on the job. And my students are no exception.

I want to offer a few first-days-on-the-job tips. I’ll preface this by saying that your first job will not make or break you. You can take a risk, follow your heart (or your wallet) and you’ll be just fine.

So, say you’ve landed that first great job. You’re eager to make a good impression, to make your mark on the industry and to move up the agency or corporate ladder. But what can you expect?

Your education is only the beginning.
I see three parts to this piece of advice – the logistics of work, the tasks and the personalities.

Education doesn’t prepare you for a 8 – 5 schedule. And believe it or not, it’s hard. It’s hard to be at work by 8 am and stay active and engaged for 8 hours. It’s hard and it will take some time to adjust. And don’t let work consume you. Easier said that done that first six months or that first year – but remember to exercise, to spend time with family and friends and to have some fun. It’s called work-life balance.

ZenHabits has lots of great tips for all these things. Here’s a nice post about being more productive.

My piece of advice for learning office personalities and politics is – stay out. Stay out for a year if you can. You don’t want to “side” with the wrong person or issue because you don’t know any better. Just stay out. And don’t gossip. You probably won’t get fired. But you might damage your relationship with your employer. Better to stay out.

Find a mentor.
Look around. Who in your office is doing good work and is well-liked and well-respected? Tell them. And ask if you can go out to coffee. A mentor relationship doesn’t have to be a formal one. But having a senior person to go to with questions or of whom you can ask advice is invaluable.

I met my mentor through a volunteer project with a nonprofit organization and, while we don’t work together often, or even see each other more than once every couple of months, I know I can always ask her advice. Not only do I know I can ask. I know she’ll be honest with me and give me good feedback.

Seek challenges.
You come to the table with outstanding professional skills and a background to be able handle much of what’s thrown your way. Seek out challenging assignments. Look at the basic assignments you’re given and figure out how to do it better or faster. Make recommendations or suggestions for programs that will add value for your organization or your client.

By seeking challenges, accepting more responsibility and making yourself more visible in your organization, you’re likely to zip up the proverbial “ladder” in no time.

For my readers who are new professionals – what would you add?

Keep networking.

Career, Professional Advice,

Sloth: One of the 7 Deadly Sins

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I love this analogy!

The Ladders, a job search engine that lists jobs mainly in the $100K + salary range, has this terrific site around the 7 deadly sins of interviewing.

My favorite is “sloth,” I think. Mostly because I see this with soon-to-be or recent graduates more than I’d like. Excerpt:

Winging it is never good, particularly in an interview. Be able to show knowledge of your potential employer, awareness of the industry, and the company’s business strategy. The level of detail in your questions should match your experience.

What questions match your level of expertise? If you know you’re going into an entry-level position that is going to be media relations focused, ask questions about the day-to-day of your potential job. Will you be pitching? Or providing support? What kind of mentoring does the agency offer?

There are plenty of ways to show your genuine interest in a position before and after the interview. But it takes time and effort. My absolute favorite idea comes from one of my superstar students, Laura Bishow who got her dream job at Maxwell PR Studio in Portland, Ore.

When she decided that she wanted to work at Maxwell, she found a few select clients of the agency and created Google News searches for those clients. She had a contact at the agency because she’d done an informational interview. So, connect the dots, here… when Client A came up on a Google News search, Laura emailed her contact and said (something along the lines of), “What great coverage! How did you work with this reporter? how did you pitch this story?”

Genius!

What other advice do you have? Any horror stories?

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