Two years ago, I moved to New York to work at KGRA after completing my master’s at Florida State University. After 17 years of being a student, moving into my first post-college job was daunting. Without much professional experience, I had to use life lessons I had gained along the way to help me build my career.
Here are some tips I’ve relied on that may be interesting whether you’re just starting out or well into your career and considering a job change or career evolution.
During the job search:
Know what you like.
Take self-inventory. Think seriously about your strengths and weaknesses. The perfect opportunity will allow you to use and develop your strengths, rely a bit less on your weaknesses, and be something you’re truly passionate about.
Enjoy what you do.
Searching for a job while you’re still in college can be rough. There’s so much pressure to have a job by the time you graduate. Everyone wants to move to a good city, have a great starting salary with benefits, etc. You see all of your friends posting the “So thankful to have been offered my dream job” posts on social media. Don’t settle! Take the time to find your thing and it will pay off in the long run.
Like who you work with.
You are going to spend more time with the people you work with than your friends, family, significant other, etc. Everyone gets obsessed with getting a job quickly, but if you go in and know you don’t like the people, it won’t be a good experience for anyone involved.
Use your network.
Speak to people you respect and solicit their opinions. I was fortunate enough to be talking to one of my favorite and most impactful professors at Florida State, Dr. Jay Rayburn, APR, Fellow PRSA, about an upcoming interview that I was less-than-excited about, but felt obligated to go through with. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I loved communication-focused research. His advice was: “You’re too darn smart to not do exactly what you want to do.”
Following your hire:
We preach this to clients when laying out measurement and evaluation plans, so why should we treat our own successes any differently? Lay out goals and steps to take to get there as soon as you can in your career. Check in frequently with yourself on your progress toward these goals.
This is not to say that your goals may not change over time. From my first day of work to today, I have morphed my goals based on experiences I’ve had along the way, and that’s OK. If you always have something to work toward, then you will always find successes.
Do what you do because it’s the right thing to do.
This is something my parents have told me my whole life, but it’s especially relevant at work. Trust your instincts and fight to do things the right way (even when it’s not the easy way).
Don’t be afraid to disrupt the process.
Ask why. But at the same time, remember that identifying a problem without offering some sort of a solution is not a good approach. If you spot inefficiencies, then ask why. Sometimes people get stuck in doing things the way they’ve always been done, so use your newness to your advantage.
There comes that time when the newness wears off and you start to see things the same as others. Challenge yourself to never say, “Well, that’s the way we have always done it.” Ask yourself every day, “Wouldn’t it be nice if (fill in the blank)?”.
Deliver consistently, even on the smallest tasks.
People will notice. In entry-level roles, you will likely touch a lot of different types of work. Some may not be the most groundbreaking, but it is all important. Focus on adding value in some way to any project you touch.
Make sure your work is delivering the message you want it to. Position yourself as valuable and dedicated, regardless of the task, and success will follow.
A version of this article can be found on the PRSA blog.