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If you want to succeed at your first job, don’t try to change the world before you learn your way to the restroom. All too often, recent graduates get their first job and, eager to make a powerful first impression, and achieve the opposite. Your behavior when you first start work will determine your acceptance by management and by the team, your tenure, and your ultimate success with the company. Your first job is your opportunity to build a strong foundation for future success, by earning the respect of your peers and management and the skills and allies you build now will affect your professional growth over the lifetime of your career.
Identify who the influencers are—and who they are not
Every profession, every company, and every department has an inner circle. Over your first few months with a new company, you’ll gain an awareness of the people who have real influence and the people who don’t. Just as there is
an inner circle, there is an outer circle too and your attitude and your choices will determine which one you will be in.
There is no such thing as job security, but the top performers get closest. They attract followers and mentors; they develop mutual respect and important liaisons with decision-makers.
The inner circle is where your job is safest and where the best assignments, raises, and promotions live. It’s where you become visible to the power players two, three, and four levels above you. Add the following five commitments to everything you have learned so far and you will gain the attention of, and acceptance by, the people who make up the inner circles within your department and company:
- Secure your job and establish a sound foundation for skill development
- Work to become an accepted team member in the ways suggested
- Commit to the success of every project, every team, and every department with which you are involved
- Contribute to the success of every project leader, including peer project leaders who you feel more qualified than. Working to make the leader and the project a success is teamwork, and if you hope to become a leader you must first be a team player—remember, a leader is simply a team-player position on a higher-level team. Don’t worry about your work getting overlooked; the people who matter to your professional growth always notice your efforts.
- Give your best on every assignment, no matter how undesirable, because you know that taking the rough with the smooth is part of achieving success. The real players, the members of the inner circle, know this and respect it in others.
When you polish your technical skills, support every task you tackle with transferable skills, and make judgments grounded in sound professional values, you become a highly desirable employee. When you pursue your work with commitment and enlightened self-interest, you will slowly and quietly be welcomed into the inner circle of your department and then your company.
It’s not always what you know, but who you know
After firmly establishing yourself in your company, become involved with your professional community by joining the local chapter of a professional association, and begin to take this brand into a larger arena. The people you meet through a professional association are the most committed and best-connected people in your professional world. They usually belong to the inner circles of their own companies, and probably have the key to some of your strategic career moves over the years.
Membership and active involvement in professional associations is the smartest career strategy you can initiate to achieve wide professional connectivity. You will keep current with industry issues and new skills, and you will get to
know and be known by everyone who is anyone in your profession. When you are fully engaged in your industry with the same level of enlightened self-interest you invest at your own company, you will find even more doors to the inner circle opening to you. So make involvement in professional association and community activities something you do as a matter of course every month.
Your first job is a foundation for future success
Build on these foundations to evolve into the consummate professional you want to be and be seen as, and you will begin to manifest a desirable professional brand. This brand grows over time, first in your department, then company-wide and then within your profession. If you’d like more advice about launching a successful career entry-level career and getting ahead, check out Knock Em Dead Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers.
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