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New Grad to New JobAre you a recent graduate about to start your first job? Perhaps you’re a recent grad moving into a new role, or wondering how to differentiate yourself and hit the ground running.

Follow these tips to stand out for the right reasons:


1. Build Relationships at Every Level

Relationships are key, and you may be surprised by which ones are most critical to your career. At my first job, the scheduler for the associates had all the power and was someone you wanted to get along with.

People have to want to work with you, and as you grow in your career, you need people who also want to work for  you. Don’t narrow your focus just to colleagues at your level. Administrative staff often understand workplace dynamics better than anyone. Pursue the relationships that feel authentic to you to expand your resources, knowledge base and support network.


2. Offer Your Help

In my first job, we had something called “the beach.” It meant you didn’t have anything to do  you were beached. Although I was getting paid to do nothing, it was boring, and I certainly wasn’t advancing my career.

Be proactive — if you don’t have anything to do, find something. Build your brand as someone who pitches in. The best way to understand what’s going on around the office is to ask how you can help. Keep in mind tip #1 and offer assistance to the assistants and your peers, as well as the managers and partners.


3. Ask Questions, Ask Questions, Ask Questions

Now is the time to learn, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you’re given an assignment, make sure you’re clear on what doing it successfully means. There are an infinite number of questions you can ask, so be careful not to interrogate.

It may help to think of the questions in categories, such as:

  • Purpose, success and requirements
  • People and resources
  • Anticipated problems
  • Communication and timing
  • Process or order

Understand who else you may be able to ask questions of as they come up so you don’t burden the boss. But keep asking, and soon you’ll be able to answer them for someone else.



4. Pay Attention to the Big Picture — And the Small One

As a new hire, you’re often assigned some of the less-glamorous tasks. Let’s face it; it’s grunt work. But your role is critical, and so is getting it done, done correctly and done quickly.

Don’t lose sight of the details — your bosses are relying on you to deliver. Look for opportunities to deliver on more than you were asked. Understand why you’re assigned certain tasks, what the results will contribute to and how this all fits into your organization’s larger goals and aims.

Be a thinker, not just a doer. Early in my career, I was a number cruncher. Once I presented my numbers to my manager, and he then asked my opinion. Visualize a deer in the headlights, because that was me. I didn’t have one. I did the task but didn’t analyze my results. That never happened again.

Think. Have an opinion, just know when it’s appropriate to share it. Make it a habit to do not just the job you’re asked to do, but to look for additional opportunities to add value.


5. Attitude Over Aptitude

This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Temper tantrums, arrogance or cockiness will not serve you in your career.

Confidence is not the same as arrogance. Confidence is the inner knowledge that you’re capable and can not only handle, but excel at, the work. You can be confident and also believe others are also capable and competent.

Confident people know they aren’t perfect but also know how to recover when they make a mistake. They own it. Arrogance is defined as “an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter or more important than other people.”

Employers can teach technical skills; they can’t teach attitude. (Click here to tweet this idea.) Approach every situation openly, with a willingness to learn, and don’t act as if anything — or anyone– is below you.

What other advice would you offer new grads entering the workforce? Share your tips in the comments!


Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The 11 Laws of Likability and Heroes Get Hired, is the founder of Executive Essentials, a training company providing communications and leadership programs. Michelle has appeared on CBS, NBC, Fox 5 and over 100 radio shows nationwide, including Gayle King, NPR and Martha Stewart Living. She has been quoted in The New York Times, Working Mother, US News & World Report and on, among others. Her book, articles, quizzes and videos have been featured on USA Today, AOL, Forbes, CNBC and Connect with Michelle on Twitter or Facebook.

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