This post is courtesy of greyzone Guest Blogger, Stephanie Michaud.
Starting your first full time job as a recent graduate can be exhilarating and intimidating all at once. New people, new expectations, and new goals are all part of starting your life as a professional, and can be drastically different from student life.
Now five years into my professional career, here are my thoughts on building credibility, getting the experience you need to pursue your career aspirations, and getting yourself noticed by the right people for the right things.
Presence: In Person and Virtually
When I started at my first company, I wanted to connect with new people and be recognized for what I did. I worked as a tester for outdoor, rugged land surveying equipment, which required me to make pitches for products and prepare demos in professional and outdoor settings. I quickly realized that this meant I was more noticed by employees and management, and needed to adhere to certain professional guidelines to ensure their impression of me was positive. Here are some tips to how I was able to get noticed:
- Dress for the job you want, and show that you take yourself and the company seriously.
- Be visible within the company office: interact with fellow cubicle dwellers in your vicinity, introduce yourself when you see someone new, connect via LinkedIn, and/or eat your lunch in a common area.
- Never say no to presentation opportunities—even if it terrifies you. Ask to present and get in front of peers, managers, and customers. This will expose you to new coworkers as a subject matter expert. If you are uncomfortable with public speaking, try signing up for a toastmasters club in your area to get more practice.
- Utilize appropriate social media platforms (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) for your professional profile. After a conference or event, I enter all my new contacts into LinkedIn to connect virtually. This helps me remember the people I met, and vice versa.
- Define your own boundaries for personal social media platforms (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.), and be comfortable with your online presence. Whether you decide to friend coworkers or not, you never know who can find your information online.
- Put face time in at events, but remember your professional/personal guidelines when the evening gets late. If alcohol is involved, remember that this is a professional event and not an outing with friends. Be true to yourself, and if you are uncomfortable with the direction of the evening, excuse yourself politely.
Managing Up and Career Development: Master of your Own Destiny
When I decided to make a job change a year ago, I discovered that it was easier to define and explore career options through experiences rather than looking at a particular job title. But this also presented a challenge: I needed to convey my aspirations in order to get the exact job I wanted. By networking with co-workers and hiring managers, they were able to understand what I was looking for and I was able to find not one, but several, opportunities fitting these requirements. How can you do this too?
- Be forthcoming with your manager and mentors about how you want your career to grow—tell them your aspirations. Your manager won’t know that you have always wanted to do an international placement in the Shanghai office unless you tell them. This puts yourself in a position of consideration for the next opportunity.
- Ask your manager what it means to be successful in the role you have been assigned. Set a meeting to discuss objectives, measures of success, and timelines. This interaction can build trust, improve communication, and provide direction.
- Seek out professional development courses, society memberships, conferences, and other events that can be attended on behalf of the company. If the event can be justified, ask if the company will sponsor your attendance. Offer to report to the team, or even give a presentation at the event itself. Take the initiative to showcase your interest and desire to further your career competence. Your manager will appreciate your passion and commitment to growth.
- Be resourceful with what you have been given. Of course you will have questions as a new hire, but you should utilize the resources you have at hand before asking your manager. Are there coworkers you can ask first? A company wiki you can query? Put in the time to investigate so that when you need additional help, you can bring more context to the conversation.
- No task is too small or unimportant. Often the most annoying tasks are the ones that help create bonds between co-workers and instill confidence. I once was assigned a task to organize and map how data flowed between several system components. Nobody wanted to do it or had time for it, so it fell to me. This task brought me into contact with several diverse teams within our group, that I otherwise would not have normally worked with. Together, and through listening and asking plenty of questions, we uncovered several challenges that the teams hadn’t considered and the product benefitted immensely.
- Seek out professionals that have career paths to which you aspire, experiences you are interested in obtaining for yourself, and/or work in an area you want to explore. Ask them to go for coffee, a walk around the building, and/or lunch. When you get the meeting, be prepared with questions about their business and experiences.
Communication and Organization
After working through several go-to-market plans, I found that the common backdrop of a successful new product launch is a team of organized, competent communicators. When communication of the project failed, so did we. Whether the message is positive or negative, deadlines, set backs, and product specifications all need to be communicated, and done so in an organized and timely manner with the right audience in attendance. Clear, concise communication is an acquired skill.
- Be punctual and commit to being present. If you are running late or have to cancel a meeting, provide as much notice as possible. This sets the impression early on that you are reliable and follow through on commitments.
- Address emails to the person of interest, and always spell check. When organizing a meeting, include agenda and purpose for attendees. When attendees have background and clear objectives, meetings proceed with more consensus.
- Find a way that works for you to be organized, and try different platforms (Pen and Paper, OneNote, Evernote, Google apps, etc.) until you find the right fit. Depending on your style and type of job, one system might work better for you to organize your thoughts, commit to tasks, and deliver.
- Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. In this day and age it can be tempting to text or email, but a 10 minute phone call can solve much more than 10 emails.
- If your organization uses a video chat service like Google Hangouts, Skype, or Webex- take advantage of video capability. Online attendance, attentiveness, and presentation is better when people are on camera. If this is a new approach for your team, try easing them into it by stating in the meeting invite that there will be virtual video attendees.
- Be a good listener and actively listen to your colleagues, managers, and customers. Having a good ear (and a good way to organize your thoughts for recollection) will build your credibility and integrity, and customers will know you are receptive to feedback— both good and bad.
Always remember that a positive attitude and strong work ethic go a long way. Be patient with yourself, leverage the strength of the team around you, and continue to accept new challenges.
Stephanie Michaud is a Product Applications Engineer with Trimble Navigation Ltd, based in Westminster, Colorado. She started with the company in 2011 through the Rotational Development Program designed to provide recent graduates with varied experiences in different company divisions, and in unique roles and functions. She has worked within the Mapping, Survey, Agricultural, Imaging, and most recently the Land Administration divisions in varying roles surrounding the product development lifecycle. She actively supports the interviewing process and mentoring of new graduates who enter the Rotational Development Program through the company today.