Finally, you’ve secured a great role that fits with your values, doesn’t involve ridiculous politics or stupidly long hours (vocational and live-to-work types excepted) and you’re ready to show these people what you can do.
You need to impress, show a willingness to muck in and get on with things with minimum supervision. There will be a period of around six months where you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. This is ok and to be expected, so long as you’re eager to learn and demonstrate a positive attitude, no one will be upset that you haven’t got up to speed instantly. Even the seemingly easiest of jobs, take time to learn properly.
This period of learning is important so I want you to ask lots of questions. Speak to people outside of your department or team, learn from the most junior to the most senior people in the organisation and if in doubt, ask.
As my English Literature tutor used to say to me, “read around your subject”. Buy books, watch Ted Talks and speak to anyone related to the industry you’re in. The best lessons in business that I ever learned and continue to learn are those from the people who are more experienced than me. I’ve picked the brains of people who’ve run similar businesses to me, but on a much bigger scale and I currently work with a supervisor who has more experience in learning and development than I’ve had hot dinners.
Those first six to twelve months in your new shiny career, are very much like driving – you pass your test and then you learn how to drive. You see, the interview, the web site, the job description and the assessment day are absolutely nothing like the actual job you’re going to do. They bear no resemblance whatsoever, which is why an internship is a jolly good idea. Actually doing the job you’re now being paid to do (being paid means that the organisation expects a lot in return) is practical reality. Nothing in your degree prepared you for this. Even the most practical of degrees doesn’t prepare you for working with real life projects, people, patients, clients etc.
So, be prepared to fail. Be prepared to make mistakes and be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. The most glamorous, well paid jobs still require an element of boring repetitive work and because you’re new and learning the ropes, you’ll be asked to do that work.
Even high flying trainee lawyers in the City, with first class honours degrees are expected to do some photocopying and the really dull bits of law.
Once you’ve proved yourself to be happy to muck in and get on with things without moaning, without pulling sulky faces and with a keen sense of responsibility, then you’ll be asked to do more interesting stuff quite quickly. And if you’re not, you can ask to be given more interesting stuff, pointing professionally to the boring stuff you’ve completed well and with a smile on your face.
I know of Senior Associates in a global law firm who give their sulky, difficult and truculent trainees all the boring work, despite their straight A’s and 1st class degrees. They give their juiciest work to the trainees who are happy to photocopy because they’ve done it cheerfully and professionally.
I sincerely hope that you work for a great boss who acts as a mentor as well as a boss. In an ideal world, you’ll be working with someone who understands what it’s like to be new and clueless. They’ll be firm, but fair and help you learn the nuances of whatever job you’re doing because its not the nuts and bolts of a job that will help you excel, they’re important foundations and need to be got right, it’s the stuff that you learn from those who are already good at what they do that will help you excel. The tiny tricks of the trade, the way you ask questions, how you talk to clients, how you present ideas and how you deliver projects.
It’s the “how” of your job that will enable you to fly high. Doing what everyone else does will get you so far, but doing things with flair, creativity, imagination, innovation and charisma will catapult you to the top faster than your colleagues. Even accountants need to be creative when it comes to developing new business, selling additional services to clients or thinking of ways to help a business grow.
Best of luck.
Rebecca’s e-book, “How to Outshine The Rest”, is now available. If you want a copy, click here.