How to excel as a new college grad in your first career

I spent a day last week talking to recent college grads readying to launch their careers.  Among the things we talked about was how do you do well in your fist job.  There are a few things that everyone, regardless of experience level, can do to excel.

Get involved in as much as you can – learn the business

Completing your regular job tasks is critical, and it’s important to not take on so much that you are unable to do that. But if you do have the capacity, taking on additional projects is a great way to grow professionally, learn parts of the business you may not be in, get to know others, and really help out your management team. When your manager asks for help – think of each ask as an opportunity for you professionally.

Take Initiative

We all know that when we finish one task, we should ask our manager what more we can do. However, you don’t always have to wait for direction. The best employees take the initiative to add value beyond their day to day work. Whether that’s thinking of ways to improve work processes, creating new ideas to serve clients, solving a problem that has yet to be addressed, or developing your skills there are plenty of ways to add value without waiting for your boss to tell you what to do.

Admit to problems early

No one likes problems, but problems are inevitable. The important thing is to not think that you can avoid them, but to be prepared to deal with them as they arise. The worst thing you can do is hide a problem that may impact your team. Instead, meet with your manager as early as possible, tell them about the issue that has developed, and provide details on how you’re working to quickly resolve the issue. If you aren’t sure of the best way to resolve the problem, ask for help. Asking for help is always better than risking making the problem worse.

Do your best and stay positive

When we start our careers, it’s not uncommon to be doing something that we don’t love or aren’t yet experienced at. The first part of our careers is about developing our skills and finding our interests. It’s also the time when our colleagues and managers learn how we work. So no matter what you are doing, whether you love it or not, do your best and show your manager that you can be counted on to take on bigger tasks.

Equally as important, is keeping a good attitude. Let’s face it, work can be hard work. It can be stressful and chaotic and having someone around who takes changes and challenges in stride can make a big difference. You can always teach an employee a new skill, but you can’t teach character.

You don’t have to be an expert to make a positive impact.  Managers appreciate employees who take on additional tasks, add value to projects, keep problems from getting bigger, and do their best while staying positive. The key is to be a positive contributor, add value, and expand your capabilities in the process.

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