Ask Matt: Career advice for recent college grads

  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 10:34 AM

Dear Matt: I finally landed that first job out of college. I’m excited but nervous. What tips do you have for an entry-level employee like me who wants to make an impact and prepare for the future?

Matt says: Starting your first job out of college can be exciting, intimidating and confusing, says Kyle O’Keefe, Regional Vice President of the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul office of Robert Half International (RHI.com).

Chances are you’ve received plenty of career advice during your job search, but how can you make the best impression once you’ve landed the job? Here is how, says O’Keefe:

• Pay your dues: It’s important to remember that everyone starts at the bottom. While data entry, filing and conducting research might not top your list, you’re learning invaluable skills in the process. You’re also building relationships within the company and getting a better understanding of processes within the group, both of which are critical to getting ahead.

• Go the extra mile: Take the initiative when you see something that needs to get done, even if it falls outside the scope of your responsibilities. You’ll show you understand the value of being a team player, helping create a positive impression with managers and co-workers alike.

• Look at the big picture: In time, assess your progress. Your first job gives you the opportunity to learn more about what you’d like to do in your career and set yourself on the right path. What types of assignments have interested you the most/least so far? What seems to be your professional strengths and weaknesses? Do you need to change your career focus?

• Ask for feedback: Request a performance evaluation during your first three or six months on the job if possible. Formal reviews from your manager will give you a clearer idea of your performance to date. You can also put positive comments into a file for future reference should you decide to pursue a promotion or change jobs.

• Take charge: Recognize that career success rests squarely with you. Be proactive and take advantage of training opportunities. Don’t be afraid to pursue other positions in your company if you’ve discovered you’re not in a job that suits you.

“It’s important to remember that your first job is no way indicative of where you’ll ultimately end up in your career,” says O’Keefe. “By bringing a high level of energy and motivation, as well as the desire to succeed, to your first job, employers will value your enthusiasm and willingness to take on a challenge.”

Your primary goal with your first job is to test your wings, learn how the business world works and gain new skills that will make you successful in your career. The rest will come as you continue to learn, change and grow.

QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS FOR MATT? EMAIL JOBSLINK@STARTRIBUNE.COM

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