The Young Pros Guide to a Successful First Year on the Job

PR 20/20 Indians GameMost of us spend our entire college careers prepping for the big moment after graduation: nailing down our first job. Whether you’ve had your eye on your dream company for the past four years, or you’re scrambling against the clock to find a position, nothing is quite as rewarding as receiving that acceptance email.

But, the stress and nervousness doesn’t stop there. I had many questions before I came in my first day (and the first few months):

  • Was I really prepared for this?
  • Would I fit in with my coworkers?
  • Would I find success?

I recently completed my first year at my very first full-time job, and I’ve felt a multitude of emotions from nervous, to excited, to proud and everything in between throughout my time. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on and review my progress, I’ve realized I learned more in the last 365 days than four years of college combined.

Read on for five lessons that I learned during my first year in agency life, and how you can apply each to succeed in your career.

1. Go Beyond the Job Description

Before you start on your first day, you’ll most likely have an idea of your responsibilities and daily expectations. While you should strive to achieve what’s outlined in your job description, remember to go above and beyond.

Volunteer in every area you can outside of your daily client work. When you have down time, ask your managers where you can support on items that are not necessarily assigned to you, and reach out to other accounts to see if you can pitch in. This will not only teach you new skills, but it will also help you stand out as a trusted member of the team. Plus, it reminds your managers that you’re someone who can be counted on.

Also, look ahead at what is expected in year one and two of your position. Map out activities where you can lend a hand, skills you may need to sharpen and areas that you’ll need to improve. That way, you’ll be prepared to take on the next level of challenges as they arise.

2. Learn to Take Feedback

Have you ever turned in an assignment that you thought was grade A, just to open a document full of edits? It’s happened to us all, and there’s two ways to handle this scenario. The first is to take it personally and beat yourself up about your work. Or, you can use that feedback as a learning opportunity.

It’s not a secret that no one likes his or her work criticized, but what is more important is how you react to it. If you feel conflicted or confused about edits, ask your manager to sit down with you in person to review. Translate the feedback you receive into goals and areas to focus, and use those lessons as benchmarks for your future success.

3. Absorb Information from Everywhere

During your first year (and really every year to come), absorb as much information anywhere you can find it. Look to industry thought leaders and influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn, read business books and make a list of top-notch industry blogs.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few of my favorite industry blogs that I learned about my first year, and continue to read on a daily basis:

Be sure you keep notes on what you’re learning, and apply those to your daily work. Share this information with your teammates, and you’ll position yourself as a resource within the agency.

4. Set Goals and Follow Through

A great way to prove your success is to set goals for yourself. Measure those goals throughout the year and hold yourself accountable for what you’ve set out to achieve.

It’s okay to start small when you first begin; setting goals like reading one business book a quarter or reducing your writing time by 15 percent in one year are both attainable and measurable. Having these goals in place and benchmarking throughout the year will help you prove and quantify you success if you have an annual review.

5. Let Your Personality Shine

Let’s face it: walking into your very first job fresh of college is hard. Add that on top of surrounding yourself with established, top-notch brains, and you may find yourself downright intimidated. But remember, you were most likely hired because you fit the company’s culture, so let your personality shine through!

You can ease the jitters and tension by talking to coworkers one on one, or asking someone to grab lunch or coffee outside of the office. Understanding how your coworkers operate and absorbing the company’s culture will help you feel more at ease, so you let out your outgoing side.

What advice do you have to share for young pros during their first year? Share with us in the comments below.

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