It's that time of year where many graduates will be heading into the world of 'proper work' and the office for the first time. Of course the savviest graduates will have already interned, and many will have had jobs throughout some of secondary school and university, picking up valuable skills along the way. However these skills are often in customer service and the like - valuable skills, but perhaps there are others that are helpful in the office environment.
It is a long time since I was a graduate, but I regularly work with grads as we run a 'fellowship' graduate training programme in our business. So I asked our current grads and a few of my 'nearer graduate age' colleagues at my agency, Coley Porter Bell, what advice they would give a grad going into their first career job.
Here are our collective top ten tips.
Ask for 3 month objectives
Get some clarity around what your company wants you to achieve in the first three months so that you know what to focus on. If they don't set you three month objectives have a think about what you think you should be doing and achieving in the first three months, and discuss those with colleagues and your manager to get their input.
Learn your manager's style
Try to work out how your manager likes to work. Ask them how they want you to work with them. Some managers will want continual updates and will want to be copied on everything, others might only want a daily or weekly update. Find out how they work and try to develop a complimentary style.
Ask as many questions as you can. We worry when people don't. And try to ask them wisely - so ask away at quieter times, and if there is a tight deadline ask the questions that relate to the delivery of that project and save the other ones for later. But keep asking, and you will keep learning.
Have the confidence to ask for a better brief.
Too often managers are stretched for time and give ropey briefs which lead to ropey work. Ask for clarity. Challenge and question it. Be honest if you don't understand it - it is likely to be that the brief just isn't clear enough yet. When you have had the brief make a plan for how you will answer it and check back in to ensure you are approaching it in the right way before you dedicate a lot of time to doing the work. Don't wait for your manager to book an update session with you - be proactive and book in update sessions with them.
Manage under delegation
If you are struggling to get your manager or those you work with to delegate work to you try to anticipate what they might need and do it anyway. Make it your mission to show what you might be able to do for them and be persistent.
Manage over delegation
If somebody is delegating more to you than you can cope with, or if multiple people are delegating to you, ask for help with prioritisation. Be clear about what you can achieve and what you can't. Enthusiasm and proactivity is great but don't over promise and under deliver. It's better to be realistic about how much you can get through and do well.
Stay out of office politics
It's tempting to bond with new colleagues over gossip, but steer clear. Be even handed with everyone you work with.
Remember you are working for a business
Perhaps this has more resonance within creative businesses, but it can be easy to get caught up in the work and to forget that the reason we are working is to generate growth and to drive commercial success. Try to make sure that you develop commercial awareness.
Think in the shower
I think it is fair to say that almost universally to be really good at a job you have to love it. And that's also important because the truth is, to really excel in today's competitive world you have to be pretty dedicated. The grads who do best are the ones who keep on thinking about a problem, who push an idea, challenge a brief - the ones who come in and say 'I had this great idea in the shower...'
And finally have faith
Don't forget it's normal to feel overwhelmed in the first three months - you may feel that you will never learn everything. Take a deep breath - rest assured, in three months time you will feel entirely different.