8 Lessons For First Job Success

So you got your first job…

Now what?

Just show up and do your work, right? Get there on time and stay out of the way. Everything else will fall into place.

So wrong.

Do this and not only will you crash and burn, you’ll be searching for your second job in no time.

So what should you do to make the most of your first job? I’m glad you asked. As a 22 year old, less than a year removed from my college days, I’m not an expert on much. But I do know a thing or two about finding success in a first job, because for the last 5 months I’ve been working hard to do just that.

May 27, 2014 was my first day at my first real job. For the rest of my life, I can look back on that as the day I moved from college student to bonafide working man. Except like any college grad, I was anything but bonafide. There has been a definite learning curve and I know there is still much to learn about working and careers, but let me share 8 things that have helped me find success in my first 5 months on the job.

1) Ask questions. You don’t have all the answers. Allow me to repeat: you don’t have all the answers. The best thing you can do to position yourself for success is to ask questions. If you’re unsure, ask. If you want to know the proper procedure, ask. If you get stuck or mess something up, ask. If you need more work, ask. If you ask up front, you will have clearer expectations and be able to do you job more effectively.

2) Read. Leaders are readers. I know you’ve heard it before, but it really is true. One of the best ways you can stay on top of your game is to read. Read about leadership. Read about your industry. Read about productivity. Keep up with current trends and publications in your field. These will give you new ideas and help you think critically. (Pro tip: As you read, take notes and jot down big ideas and key takeaways. Compile these together and use this “net-out” if you ever want to go back over the material).

3) Build relationships. Make a point to get to know your colleagues and clients. They are people too. They have lives and interests outside of work. Don’t be so caught up in what you are doing that you forget this. Many of them have been where you have been before, made the same mistakes you have made. You can learn much from their experience, but only if you seek to build a relationship with them. Plus, if you understand your colleagues and clients, you will be that much more equipped to effectively work for and alongside them.

4) Stay Organized. There is no easier way to get behind than to be unorganized. With most jobs, there will be a bit of a slow period in the beginning as you transition in. Take this time to get yourself organized. How are you going to manage your calendar? Where will you take notes? Do you plan to keep your to-do list digital or do you need to go buy a couple moleskins? Figuring these out ahead of time will get you rolling and make it easier to adjust as your workload increases.

5) Schedule breaks. Unlike school, most jobs are never done. There is always more you can do or another project you can tackle. But if you try to do too much, your work will suffer and you will get burnt out. When you first start out, there is a tension to want to burn the midnight oil and prove yourself, but be careful. You definitely want to work hard, but you will work better when you give your brain and your body a break. It’s ok to reward yourself after finishing an assignment or making progress on a big project. Go for a walk, watch a couple funny videos, catch up on today’s news. Also don’t forget to give yourself plenty of rest when at home too, especially straight away as you settle into the groove of working full-time.

6) Pay attention to your organization’s culture. Every organization has a culture and every good organization has worked hard to create and foster that culture. Pay attention to and try to figure out what is unique and important to your organization’s culture. This will not only help you adjust and adapt to be effective within the culture, but you can also gain great insight about yourself and what kind of culture you most value and best fit.

7) Volunteer to try things. Unless you are in a job that requires a super specific skill set or knowledge base, you likely only have an inkling as to what you enjoy doing or even what you do best. So get out there and try stuff! If you hear about a project or an assignment that sounds interesting, volunteer to help. You may hate it or you may just find your newest passion. Either way you’ll never know until you try.

8) Serve your colleagues. This is truly one of the greatest things you can do to set yourself up for success. Make sure your colleagues know you aren’t just worried about yourself. You care about them, their success and the success of the organization. Be thinking about and asking, “what can I do to help?” If you consistently do this, you will not only become a new favorite around the office, but you will leave at the end of the day, feeling good about what you accomplished.

If you do these 8 things, I’m not promising you’ll get a raise or a promotion before the first year is up, but I am confident you will find success, learn a great deal, and actually enjoy your first job.

What are some others things that helped you find success in your first job?