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How to succeed in your first job

Our top tips on how to succeed in your first job

You’ve just graduated and are about to start work ‘for real’….. but you’re petrified that you’ll mess it up! Don’t panic – we’ve all been there and that’s why here at The Work Ladder we’re passing on our top tips for how to succeed in your first job.

#1: Dress to impress

First impressions really do count and bad ones have a nasty habit of lingering. Make sure you ask about the dress code before showing up on day one and, if in doubt, err on the side of formality.

Aim for the professional, as opposed to the big- night-out, look and take care with the details.

Polished shoes and tidy hair may be old-fashioned concerns to you but to your managers they are a sign of how seriously you take your new role. If you need more advice, you can find it here.

#2: Hone those listening skills.

Firstly, nothing drives a manager mad more than failing to listen – to instructions, important client information, technical information or even someone’s coffee order!

It’s OK to ask questions if you don’t understand something but asking someone to repeat stuff because you clearly tuned out is just plain irritating.

Secondly, good listening skills are the key to understanding what others are really thinking.

Whether you are canvassing opinions, soliciting information or seeking feedback on a piece of work, listen out for subtle differences in people’s views and probe further.

It’s called intelligent listening and will set you apart from your peers in no time.

#3: Get to know what managers value most

If you want to make an impact at work, you need to understand what skills and knowledge are prized most highly in your particular department or company. If they are not the things that you are naturally good at, then make an extra effort to improve in those areas.

Remember, companies reward contribution, not effort. So if you don’t get the recognition you feel you deserve or you miss out on that promotion, the chances are you haven’t identified yet what really matters.

#4: Seek out opportunities to showcase your skills

Once you have sussed out the skills and expertise that really count, then actively look for ways to demonstrate your enthusiasm and prowess in those areas.

Even if it’s going to take time to excel,  showing that you are keen to improve in the important matters will send all the right signals.

And when your boss sees that you understand what really matters, then the opportunities to showcase your new-found talents will just keep coming.

#5: Develop your knowledge base

Whatever your field, remember that knowledge is power. Make the time to keep abreast of what’s new and changing in your field.

Ask questions, seek opinions, read industry journals and don’t forget to look outside your sector for major breakthroughs and game-changing trends that could come your way.

Obviously, no-one likes a know-it-all but one of the reasons that companies love young recruits is that they can challenge the status quo. Becoming an expert and showing you can think outside the box will go a long way towards gaining the coveted ‘one-to-watch’ status!

#6: Be a chameleon

Learning to fit in to different environments can be one of the hardest things when you first start work. You will have to deal with all sorts of people, many of whom won’t be like-minded souls.

You will find that what matters in different departments and companies can vary dramatically and you will come across managers with wildly different working styles.

To succeed you need to be willing and able to adapt. Take each new department as an opportunity to reinvent yourself to suit the new environment. That way you’ll get glowing appraisals from every manager and be seen as someone who fits in well to the organisation as a whole.

#7: Learn how to give a great presentation

Being a good presenter always impresses and is the best way to get noticed by senior managers. If the idea of presenting fills you with dread, then start practising now!

Find out what makes a good presentation, learn as much as you can about presentation skills and make sure you rehearse/revise beforehand as much as you would for a major exam!

If you are not sure what makes a great presentation compare the audience reaction to a TED talk to an average company meeting, where the presenter is just reading off the slides and almost everyone else is surreptitiously texting or emailing!

#8: Write like a professional

Poor writing skills are one of the quickest ways to lose credibility in the workplace. Remember, poor grammar, inaccurate spelling and text-speak don’t just suggest the sloppy attitude of the writer but radiate that image of the company to the outside world.

Think of your writing as a reflection of your thinking: just as a poorly structured report will call into question the quality of your analysis and conclusions, so a brusque letter in response to a customer complaint will just serve to reinforce an image of poor customer care.

Make sure the medium fits the message too: don’t insult someone by sending a text when what was really needed was a formal letter.

#9: Pay attention to the detail

There’s a lot to think about when you start a new job and getting things done in time can often be a struggle. But that’s no excuse for failing to check your work properly. Typos in presentations or documents are simply not acceptable and reflect badly on the author.

Worse still are mistakes in numbers or data. Make sure you sanity check your work or better still, get a friendly colleague to make sure there are no glaring errors before you make that big presentation or release that important report. There is nothing more humiliating than having your mistakes pointed out in public!

Remember, the devil really is in the detail!

#10: Wear a watch

You’ll have heard the expression that time is money and you need to appreciate what it means in practice. If your company has 100 employees and each one is 15 minutes late to work each day, then the company is losing 125 man hours everyweek.

That’s the equivalent of more than 3 extra members of staff and is probably the reason why everyone is not getting the salary increase or bonus they would like.

Besides wasting your employer’s money, being late is both rude and arrogant; you might not mind being kept waiting a few minutes for someone to arrive at a meeting, but clients and senior managers do – especially if that someone is a junior member of staff!

#11: Make friends with everybody

Get to know all of your co-workers, not just the one’s like you. Make an effort to walk to someone’s desk rather than just send an email. If you meet someone at the copier, then strike up a conversation. Get to meetings a few minutes early so that you can chat to people when they arrive.

The more people who know your face, the more people will talk about you. And if you ever need a helping hand or a piece of advice, then you will always know someone you can go to.

Think of the office as another networking opportunity- it’s not just how many people you know, but how many people know you!

#12: Go that extra mile

When the boss asks for someone to stay late, be the first to stick up your hand. When a colleague is struggling to meet a deadline, offer to help. Doing the job for which you are paid, is fine- but it won’t get you noticed.

What really impresses senior managers are people like them – people who are prepared to give whatever it takes to get the job done (even if that occasionally means cancelling that big night out).

If you want to earn the respect of your senior colleagues, then you need to go out of your way to demonstrate that you put the company, not yourself, first.

Succeeding in your first job is not rocket science but you would be surprised how many new recruits get it wrong. So on day one, take a deep breath, hold your head up and start your new career with confidence.



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