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Just landed your first job out of college? Here are 7 tips to get your career off to a good start.

May 30, 2014

Just landed your first job out of college? Here are 7 tips to get your career off to a good start

Michelle@MondayMemos By Michelle@MondayMemos 
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on May 19, 2014 at 7:30 AM

As the new kid on the block, it is important to give yourself an opportunity to absorb the culture and practices of your organization. Commentary

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    Michelle Powell writes the Monday Memo column for the Alabama Media Group. She can be reached at
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As a recent college graduate and young adult, embarking upon your first career-oriented job is really important to you. Proving that you are in fact a good fit for the organization you just joined is in the forefront of your mind.

Having worked with human resource managers and corporate executives looking to groom potential leaders in their company, I can tell you there are a few things you need to look out for. In addition to polishing your mannerisms, you can put your best foot forward with these tips:

Keep it neat. You’ve already heard that you should “dress for success.” Just make sure you know what that really means, particularly for your work environment. To dress below the expected standard can be considered a sign of disrespect. Standing out and demonstrating independence is to be commended as it relates to your work. In your dress, however, it is important to follow the company dress code. Above all, whatever you choose to wear, keep your clothing neat, clean and well fitted (not tight or baggy). Keeping it neat also extends to your work area. Keeping yourself and your space well-ordered inspires confidence and respect from others.

Color in the lines.  This is not to say that you cannot or should not think outside the box. It does mean, however, that you should not try to shortcut or usurp established processes or protocol. In most cases, creativity and innovative thinking is encouraged; changing things just for recognition or avoidance (of an undesirable task or person) is not.

Don’t keep score.  College testing, comparative rankings and interviews have made you competitive and ambitious – great! But the downside is that they have made you competitive and ambitious. You must now become a team player and develop collaborative skills. Those who played team sports may have an easier time applying these skills in the workplace.

Wait your turn.  “Wait” seems like a nasty word these days but having patience is an exercise in good etiquette as well as making timely advancements in your career.  Nothing ruins a reputation or relationship more than a lack of restraint. It can lead to unintended rude behavior, missteps, alienation and missed opportunities. Wait your turn means not to interrupt others while in conversation; wait to be recognized in a meeting before speaking; wait your turn at the microwave. In the matter of career pursuits, judiciously waiting your turn is really about recognizing when to step up to take on leadership roles and understanding when it is appropriate for you to be considered for advancement in your organization or field. I do not wish to oversimplify this subject.  The main point is to have realistic expectations and know what it takes to be deserving of the role you seek (e.g. experience and tenure, not just credentials or charm).

Speak up.  If you have questions, ask. It is true that in this information age, you are quite resourceful and self-sufficient. However, it is better to ask for clarity than to make assumptions. Don’t confuse taking action with taking initiative; it may backfire. If your habit is to act first and ask questions later, you may become a risk in the eyes of management.

Don’t make it personal. Emotional maturity is essential here. Working with multiple generations, personalities, communication styles and work habits, it is inevitable that you will experience moments of frustration. There will be times when your patience will be tested. A harsh critique, disregard or even a snub from a co-worker or superior in the organization requires that you rise above the emotional response. Remember to focus on desired outcomes and maintaining good relations.

Use professional language. The temptation may be strong once you feel comfortable; however, at no point should you use phone texting language or emoticons in business correspondence. Likewise, do not let your speaking vocabulary be less than professional (profanity, overuse of slang, etc.). While it is important to build relationships with coworkers and customers, don’t do it at the expense of appropriate language.

As the new kid on the block, it is important to give yourself an opportunity to absorb the culture and practices of your organization. Only then can you make meaningful contributions and improvements. Hopefully, these tips will help you along the way.

Do you have other suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.