7 Ways to Get Ahead at Your First Job

Originally written for and published at Her Campus on Sept 21, 2015.

 

You’ve finally landed the job you spent months trying to find. Congratulations! Now that you’re settled in, finished with your training and starting to get a strong understanding of what the real world is all about, it’s time to find ways to stand out at the office.

Getting ahead doesn’t have to be a challenge, but it does require a little extra effort. Follow these tips and you’ll be moving up the career ladder in no time.

1. Volunteer to help out with projects outside of your responsibilities

Just because something isn’t in your job description doesn’t mean you can’t contribute ideas to different projects. Go out of your way to ask your supervisor or other coworkers if there is anything you can help out with. They will recognize your enthusiasm and appreciate the unique ideas and skill set you bring to the table. We aren’t suggesting you overload your plate with things you don’t have time for, but even the smallest contribution can go a long way. After all, helping others succeed will ultimately help your entire company succeed.

2. Review your work before submitting it

Though seemingly obvious, many people fall into the habit of thinking something is done when it isn’t. Remember in college (and high school) when your professors told you how important it was to proofread your papers? The same applies in the real world—it’s actually even more important than ever. Don’t hand in a project—or even send an email!—without reviewing it beforehand, as one small mistake can make you look foolish in the eyes of your supervisors.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of kindness

Some people view their job as a stressful place full of deadlines, endless to-do lists and grumpy coworkers. It doesn’t need to be this way! Having a positive outlook regarding your company and your position will not only benefit you, but others as well. Be sure to say hello, smile and be cheerful. Katie Hardesty, director of PR and special events at Cherry Hill Public Library, echoes the importance of this: “Work can be a stressful place, but it’s nice to be known as a person people like to be around. Who knows… that paired with your awesome skills and work ethic could be the key to your next promotion!”

4. Never turn down leadership opportunities

A leader is something you should always strive to be, especially in the workplace. When individuals recognize you as such, your career can grow exponentially. They’ll know you possess qualities of dedication, attention to detail and a natural ability to guide others. If someone asks you to take on a leadership role, even if it’s as simple as planning the holiday party, don’t pass it up.

5. Express passion and excitement for your work and your company

The old expression, ‘If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ is still true today. Being passionate about what you do helps make your job easier because you don’t see it as work or a chore. Even if you aren’t at your dream job (yet!), be sure to find a few aspects of your current role that you love and focus on them. If you demonstrate your passion for your job and company, your boss and coworkers will notice. Lisa Hoffmann, director of communications at Unite Here Health, believes that executives and bosses often find youth and excitement in the workplace to be invigorating and refreshing. “They will gravitate to you and spotlight you and your attitude because most leaders are looking for those who help create a positive work environment,” Hoffmann says.

6. Build relationships

Focus on building relationships with as many people in your office as possible, especially with your boss. If and when you end up leaving the company down the road, your coworkers, managers and executives can remain part of your network—and you never know when your paths may cross again or when you’ll need a recommendation. Shannon Smith, a marketing communications coordinator at Insulet Corporation, recommends having one-on-one meetings weekly or biweekly with your boss to not only check in on the status of your projects, but to have an opportunity to connect and learn more about him/her. Just remember to remain professional in all your inter-office relationships; you want to make an impression on your coworkers, but you want that impression to be a good one. Sure, you can be friendly and go out for happy hour with your coworkers, but save the drama and gossip for your girlfriends.

7. Listen and observe those around you

You’re new to your company and have a lot to learn, so take advantage by listening, observing, asking questions and learning from your coworkers, bosses and peers. “Even if you were a superstar student, you’re still brand new to your field,” says Cristin Farney, a public relations and advertising professor at Rowan University. “Think of your first job as the most important class you’ve ever taken and your first step towards the rest of you career.”

Your first job can be stressful, but if you follow these tips and strive to be your best, you’ll be an expert in your industry in no time.

Read the full article on Her Campus!

Why It’s Okay to Not Have a Job After Graduation

Originally written for and published on Her Campus on May 6, 2015.

 

You know the feeling: That nerve-racking moment when you realize graduation is slowly creeping up and you can’t seem to get a call back from any of the companies you’ve applied to. All of your friends are constantly talking about interviews and offers they’ve received, your extended family keeps nagging you regarding what you’re doing after graduation, and no matter how many jobs you apply to, you can’t even land an interview.

While professors, friends and family may make you feel pressured to have a job lined up right after you graduate, there are many ways you can take something perceived as negative and turn it into something positive.

1. Take time to unwind

For starters, take a moment to stop and breathe. Even better, go look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a compliment. Next, make a list of all the things you’d rather do than sit at a desk in a stuffy office in the middle of July.

Having “me” time is essential to every woman, especially after an undoubtedly busy college career. If you don’t have a job after graduation, take this time to relax and focus on you. Yes, it might be a little disheartening knowing you aren’t employed, but it could also be your last summer to have fun with your friends and family before you have to work a 9-to-5 job, five days a week, for the rest of your life. Start checking things off of your bucket list, and be sure to take risks and enjoy yourself. Maybe treat yourself to a spa day; a mani/pedi or massage may help relieve the stress that built up during your job search. You could also go on vacation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive; take a drive with a few friends or family members to a beach nearby for a few days or visit a place you’ve always wanted to see. Also, appreciate the fact that you won’t be setting your alarm for 6 a.m. every morning… yet. That, alone, seems like a vacation to us!

2. Set goals

Just because you aren’t working a full-time job by June doesn’t mean you have to give up! Keep looking, but don’t feel bad if you don’t hear back right away.

Try setting a more realistic goal for yourself. Maybe you want to be employed by September, or even January. Strive to reach your goals, because let’s face it, nothing feels better than meeting a deadline!

Next, try following up with a few companies you truly have your eye on, or go on LinkedIn and see if any of your connections might know someone from the company. Finding a job through your existing network makes the search a lot easier. So reach out to your network, and then reach out to their network!

3. Take on new opportunities

While waiting for a good job opportunity to come your way, you could take an internship position to help expand your skill set, even if it’s unpaid. This will bring you one step closer to your dream job. Diana DiNapoli, a 2014 university graduate, decided to take on an internship when she didn’t immediately land a full-time job at the end of her time in college. “As frustrated as was I when I didn’t land a full-time job after graduation, I decided to work as an intern. This allowed me to add another experience to my resume and gave me an edge when I went on interviews,” she says. “In my interview for my current job, it showed how dedicated I was to the field by sacrificing my ‘last’ summer and using it to build my resume. I didn’t have to tell my current company how dedicated I was; my resume spoke for itself. Currently, I work full time at a company I love and I firmly believe my summer internship helped me get there.” Even if your dream job is in NYC and you live miles away, you can always apply for a remote internship. Such an opportunity will allow you to gain the skills you need, while also being extremely flexible.

Though not necessarily a part of your original plan, it’s nevertheless important to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re a PR major, for example, your first position doesn’t need to be as an account coordinator at a PR firm. You could get a job as an administrative assistant just to get your foot in the door. Then, once you’re there, do your best to go above and beyond what is expected of you. Your supervisor will notice, and you’ll start rising up that ladder.

Finally, be open to any job prospects that may come your way. Rowan University Professor Cristin Farney recommends saying yes to all opportunities and to keep your mind open in order to get your supervisor to notice you. “Don’t be afraid to try new things, professionally or personally,” she says. “It is the only way you’ll grow.”

4. Learn something new

Most importantly, keep learning, no matter what. Even if you aren’t working, keep your brain busy by taking an online course in something that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, whether it’s directly related to your career path or not. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to build a website or improve your cooking skills. Well, now is the time!

Just remember, you have the rest of your life to work. This isn’t to say you should push off working until you’re 40 years old, but remember, being unemployed in your twenties is totally okay.

 

Read the full article on Her Campus!

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