Advice and Confessions from Former First Time Jobber
1. You don’t need to know what you are going to do for the rest of your life when you graduate.
You do need to know:
What skillsets you have to date, how they can bring value to a business and how to talk about your skillsets in a concise manner that show your worth. Be specific, not fluffy in talking to your strengths – show proof of performance (past experience and success metrics) when talking about your skills. You should have a good idea of the kinds of roles that align with your skillsets, interests and areas you want to grow further.
If you don’t know, reverse engineer it:
Start with job descriptions that seem of interest and see if you align with the descriptions. Start looking at Linked In profiles of people who are successful in a path you want to take. Ask yourself: Where did they start? How did they grow? Then, build some keywords to research job opportunities with those titles or role descriptions. Get some informational interviews with people who do what you think you want to do – know that you’ll get maybe one out of ten that you ask for. Reach out with confidence, poise, clear action items and when/if you do get a 20-minute coffee with someone who has a job you might want and/or a phone call to conduct your informational interview, come prepared as if it’s a real interview. Ask about how they found their path, what drives their success and applaud them for their efforts. People love to talk about themselves when given the chance. Plus, you never know how these informational engagements will influence you in the future. Best foot forward is the best approach (always).
2. A bright team with great mentors to learn from provides far more value than a ‘cool’ brand that you connect with as a consumer or a ‘fun’ company that gives you free snacks. Treat your first job like your master’s degree –do you want a pretty classroom or great teachers? When evaluating companies to join, keep the people asa top evaluation factor.
Here’s why people matter the most:
You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room –it means your growth is done. You need a cohesive team with a manager who you want to learn from. You’ll want a manager whose communication style is one you can connect with and follow. You’ll want a manager and broader team who is respected in the company and who will invest in your growth. You can assess these factors by asking questions in your interview like: How is your team perceived internally? What are the three most notable accomplishments you and/or your team achieved last year? What is your favorite and least favorite thing about managing a team? How would you measure my success after 90 days if I were to join this company, what about after one year?
Here’s the thing with brands:
I love them. I help create them and when I am lucky, I get to guide clients on how to grow their brands. A true brand can stand the test of time. A brand representing ideals of a company they don’t actually believe or a brand that portrays potential value v. actual value ends up doing more harm than good. Brands are the persona of a company and while great brands are true to their company’s core identity, mission, and values, sometimes a company’s brand reflects what the company wants to be, not what they are. Spirit Airlines is a great example. I think they are awful to fly and have horrible customer service but they are cheap (very cheap). The airline doesn’t try to be anything but what they are – An airline that gets you places and saves you money. They own this, it’s their identity. They aren’t Virgin and that’s okay because there’s a market for cheap flights with zero fluff and it’s a market Spirit owns with pride.
Employer brands have the same potential value or detriment to a company. Some are authentic and they allow companies to scale while keeping culture (like Zappos, for example) while others are more about a slogan than an actual employee experience (I won’t bad mouth companies but I am sure you’ve heard of false employer brands and company cultures that don’t actually feel like the ‘who we are’ description on the career page). Employer Branding is becoming a big focus for companies looking to attract top talent. Companies who care about their employer brand usually also care about their people –that said, true employer brands aren’t created by an employer brand guideline that outlines what a company stands for and what kind of people work at said company.
Employer brands (real ones) are co-created by the people who work at the company –they are the ones generating the real employer brand. Look for the people (look under the hood first) before deciding that a company is ‘fun’ just because they have Thirsty Thursday events.Long story short, just do your best to make sure the brand and employer brand of your company is not smoke and mirrors.
Last but not least, there will come a time when you move on from your first company. You won’t take the brand with you. You will take the lessons you learned. Don’t choose a cool brand if it sacrifices your growth potential –that growth is what will propel your career, not the brand.
3. You might be special, but so are the 10 other candidates being interviewed. You are also a risk to the company until proven to be a value add.
Always assume you are up against 100 people who can out-perform you for a role. Stay hungry and go after it like you must have it (even if you don’t –you never know how these interviews can influence your career down the line). What strengths do you have that are unique and perhaps greater than others? Be honest with areas you may be weaker than others and address those –show you are self-aware. Get the employer to see how you could tackle the ‘weaker’ areas head on and highlight your areas of strength. Do your HOMEWORK. Check out the Linked In profiles of everyone you will interview with. Set a Google Alert on the company and/or read their newsroom to get a sense of their latest happenings. Come with some questions to keep in your back pocket. Arrive with a beautiful resume (enough copies for all interviewers).Plan to send a personalized follow-up after your interview and think about what method of communication could showcase your understanding and relevance of the company and role –i.e.: if it’s a marketing opportunity, send a creative direct mailer or video follow-up.
4. Your job in an interview is to prove your value. Be authentically you and command the engagement, attention and potential investment of the company.
You do that by being concise, professional, personal and yourself –if you are anything but authentically you, you will stay a candidate and not an individual who could become a great team member. What value-add do YOU have? What are YOUR strengths? What is unique about YOU as a person? These are the things you should tap into. Stay true to who you are. It’s better to be YOU than trying to be what/who you think your interviewer wants you to be. You can play a part for an interview but that won’t hold up long-term in a job.
5. When evaluating an offer, think about the big picture –not just the salary.
Do they have benefits? A 401K or Retirement Plan? What’s their offering for vacation days and paid time-off? If it’s a base with a commission or bonus piece, what are the KPIs that drive the commission or bonus portion and are those reasonable to meet? Is it market value, if they are low –why are they low? If they are high, why are they high? (Maybe they just value their employees, but do your research and think through this)
5 CONFESSIONS I WISH SOMEONE SHARED WITH ME DURING MY FIRST JOB
PROVIDED FOR UCSB | ANNA LAURA JANSMA COMM 191 COMM. INTERNSHIP
by Cassie Rosengren, UCSB Grad 2009 | B.S. Communications, TMP
1. For the first 90-days, I thought I was going to get fired.
Despite my internships and work experience, I entered my first job and went through a massive learning curve –I had to learn the industry of my company, the ins-and-outs of my roles, the expectations of team members, the pace of work output expected, the company structure, things like quarters and revenue projections and weekly recaps…I didn’t know if I was ramping up quickly or too slowly. I was (and am) my own worst critic. Sometimes, I’d let my self-criticism and doubt get in my own way of reaching full potential(and still do). I made a lot of silly, small mistakes. I did not get fired despite convincing myself otherwise and I worked very, very hard.
I was seen as an asset because I was someone people could depend on and was putting in the work. I was learning and improving with time. I made standard ‘green’ mistakes that most young professionals make (typos in an email, getting my outlook calendar mixed up, treating things like a fire drill instead of giving initiatives proper care and time etc..). Instead of calling my mom at 5:30pm M-F asking frantically: What if I get fired, where will I live, will anyone else ever hire me –I shifted my focus to my team. I asked for weekly meetings and personally addressed my own areas for improvement. I asked my manager to give me candid feedback on what I was doing well and what I could improve upon–I asked for actionable advice on ways I could start improving the areas I was weak in and I put in extra hours to address those head on.My advice to you is to stay engaged with your team and have an open dialogue on your performance…donotturn into a stress ball building like a tumbleweed. Talk to your team, show you care, be self-aware and you will do great.
2. I thought I was supposed to save the world or follow my ‘passions’ aka yoga and traveling the globe.
You won’t necessarily wake up starry-eyed on Monday morning to go to work and that is ok. I disagree with much of the ‘millennial’ stereotypes of us being coddled or lazy in the workforce but I do think we’ve been wired to expect that our work should be our passion. Yes, that’s the ultimate goal but it’s not always roses and sunshine –especially when we’re still learning and growing. We can’t ask for the world or expect to save it in some major way if we don’t have skills and experience to back up or dreams of the true intent of making a difference.Help yourself with some real world experience then go and help others. Like most things in life, remember what matters. At work, what matters is that you are learning. What matters is that you share the same moral compass of your company and that you are contributing in a positive way. Over time, you’ll apply your skills to your passion but it may not be on job 1 and that is okay.
3. I thought politics at work were like raisins in my trail mix(they are there but you go around them).
Nope, I was wrong. Remember that there’s a lot in motion within your company which you may not be aware of. There’s a lot of players that make various levels of impact and have various influence points. From the receptionist to the CEO and everyone in between, take the time to get to know your company on an individual level. Don’t always show your emotion your sleeve –stay poised, professional and level-headed.Remember you are in a big picture being painted with various brushes and you can’t see all the paint strokes. Just be mindful of yourself, your surroundings and the influence of each individual. You don’t need to join the political games per se, but you do need to be aware of strategies in play and understand how other people tick.
4. I wanted to expand my role with new initiatives. Little did I know, all I had to do was ask.
Once you’ve shown value and put some skin in the game(wait at least 90 days), be vocal if there are areas outside of your role that interest you. Companies are encouraging cross-promotion and hires –it’s better than losing a valued employee. Plus if you have a great manager, they will want to foster your growth and nurture areas of interest. Maybe you ask to shadow a different role for a day or increase your cross-functional projects so you can understand how other teams fit into your company’s equation. Just ask. You might be surprised.
5. Sometimes I wanted to jump ship. I am so glad I didn’t. Don’t jump ship during a storm. They pass.
What’s hard on job 1 is you aren’t sure what storms are normal or how long they will last. If the ‘storm’ if in the form of an abusive manager, address it head on and either get out or get a new manager. Yet for most, the ‘storms’ are in the form of a quarter where you are working on something you don’t like or going through a company acquisition or perhaps you are getting overworked due to crazy growth and you feel unappreciated. Perhaps it is a 3% raise rather than the 10% you wanted or budgetary restrictions that make your job immensely harder.
Storms are worth noting and often times, it’s why people leave jobs. Still, often times first job goers jump too soon. Storms pass and the sun comes out. All companies will have a storm at some point so think about whether this is one you can or should ride out. Talk to friends, family, and your company directly. Someone may throw you a life jacket and you’ll be forever thankful. Give yourself some check-in dates. For example, do a scan on your situation1 month or 3 months after the storm starts. Ask yourself: Has it passed? Is it improving? Or, do you need to have a frank conversation and start exploring market? Point being, sometimes it’s better to hang on than jump ship –the grass isn’t always greener and storms will arise at any company you work for.