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May 17, 2019, by Katy Johnson

Part 1: How Are You Getting On in Your First Graduate Job?

By Rachel Curley, Careers Consultant

You’ve landed your first job after university; but how can you get on, get noticed (for the right reasons!) and demonstrate your potential? This blog is the first of two that give you advice on how to get on in your first job after graduation. Today’s focus is on people and relationships. 

Whether you’ve been in your role for six months or just started it can be difficult to know the best ways to impress your boss and colleagues, without being over the top.  

Before becoming a careers consultant at the University, I worked as a senior manager for Boots and in the NHS where I managed several graduates. I want to share some insight into how you can develop yourself in your first role and develop your career. But don’t just take my word for it – I’ve also asked managers from a range of industries (from property, retail, and mining to financial services) for their top tips. 

1. Network, network, network 

Build your network within the organisation and don’t be afraid to connect with people outside your immediate team. As Hayley Dennett (Resourcing Manager, Boots UK) reminded me “Most people love talking about their career, role or offering advice” so invest time in keeping your network live and learn from those who are good at this. Remember that networking does not just happen informal meetings; it could be informal chats in the canteen, coffee bar or joining the company’s football or rounders’ team. 

2. Be nice to people and learn from them 

Cath Jowers (Head of HR at Anglo-America) suggests “Talk to people at all levels. Show an interest in what they do. Don’t be intimidated by senior people and don’t be dismissive of juniors… you never know where people will end up.” 

Ian Muxlow (Director at Savills) says “I have been fortunate to work with several senior members of staff all of whom I have learned a great amount from – from my experience it is really important to listen and watch how they conduct themselves, from their telephone manner to time management and most importantly how they interact with clients. This will help you develop as a professional and learn what to do, but also what not to do.” 

3. Find a mentor 

Having a mentor, preferably somebody who has been through the graduate system and has now established himself or herself, is a great way to gain additional tips to develop yourself and stand out. Some larger organisations may have a formal scheme to enable this to happen but if not, you can use your network to ask around and then approach someone you think would be a good mentor for you.  

Just be clear what you are asking of themagree how often you will meet and agree on the scope and purpose of your conversations. A good mentor can offer advice and help you build your network, both within and outside of your organisation.  

Alternatively, identify a role model, someone who you think exhibits exemplar behaviours and observe how they behave. What are they doing that helps them excel? 

4. Curiosity not Invincibility 

“Be relentlessly curious and get involved in everything you can” is the advice of Mark Chivers (Estates Director, Boots UK). Showing interest in others work and asking authentic questions (for example, about why the organisation does things as it does) will not only show you are keen and interested but will also help you in your work by having a broader context and understanding of it.  

Also, on the topic of asking questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A recent graduate told me, she wishes she had done this more as she missed things and her work suffered as a result. As well as this, everyone knows that you are at the start of your first role so there is no need to feel embarrassed. Personally, I would be worried that you weren’t interested if you weren’t asking questions or asking for appropriate help. 

5. And finally, be yourself 

Bring your personality to work, your values and your energy. Remember that you were recruited for a reason (and probably only a small part was your degree subject). Your career is a long journey so you might as well be ‘you’ whildoing it.  Be true to yourself and your values. Pretending to be someone you are not will leave you mentally exhausted. Be honest about what you are good at and where you need to develop. Remember that no-one is perfect.  

Matthew Radley (Executive Coach) suggests that you develop and retain “A strong focus on self-awareness” by asking yourself;  

  • what do you care about?  
  • what do you stand for?  
  • what do you want to be known for?  
  • what makes you unique?

Without this insight, you may find it difficult to know how you want to develop, what opportunities you wish to seek out and be unclear about your future direction. Hopefully, you will work in an organisation which enables, and encourages you to work this out – for your own benefit, and for theirs. Organisations tend to retain good employees if there is a mutual understanding of where they want to be and how they can get there.  

I hope you have found these tips helpful and that you can now apply them in your own career – if you aren’t already. Watch out for my second blog on Monday, 20 May 2019 which will focus on strategies for success. 

Don’t forget as a graduate of the University, you can still use our services and talk to a career adviser about your career journey. 

Posted in Careers Advice