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May 20, 2019, by Katy Johnson

Part 2: 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? Hopefully, you saw Friday’s blog with a people and relationship focus and have been applying some of the tips. Today we focus on proactivity, performance, and politics. Read on for more top tips from a range of graduate employers. 

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. Seek out opportunities  

In the workplace, there are usually lots of opportunities to develop yourself and get involved in things beyond the basic job. But, these will not necessarily be handed to you on a plate. The most consistent tip from the people I spoke to was to be proactive in seeking out these possibilities and grabbing them with both hands. 

Anne Harding (HR Manager, Pepsico) advises that you Invest in yourself by looking for opportunities to build a broad range of critical experiences rather than just the next level up.”

Show a willingness to develop yourself further. Richard Branson once said, if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.   

Take advantage of the opportunity to get involved and to assist on a variety of projects or tasks, especially ones that you find particularly interesting or where you already have some existing knowledge.  You may also want to seek out options early in your career to broaden your experience; in different functions, specialisms, countries, and industries. This experience will be invaluable in the future.

2. Do more than the job specification 

Work hard at learning the role and bring all your diverse experience to play in it. Don’t doubt what you know. You may think your degree was all essays or lab reports but you’ll be surprised how much you have been set up for your role, so be confident.  

Be passionate about what you do – whatever the task at hand, give it your best. Ellie Wilkes (Director at EY) says “Be good at the basics and remember attention to detail. Top quality work stands out.”  

It’s also important to be realistic about what you can achieve and not overpromise. As Nicole Bourke (Strategic Planning Manager, The Woodland Trust) advises “Be a trusted colleague: meet deadlines, don’t over promise, and have high standards.” 

3. Be visible 

Performance today is key to future success, so making sure yours is visible to those who can affect your future is even more important. I always remember a senior colleague of mine saying there are three types of people and you should always strive to be in the third group: 

  • those who do a good job but aren’t seen 
  • those that do a poor job but are seen 
  • those who do a good job and are seen. 

His point was that you should not be afraid to tell people about the work you are doing and to seek acknowledgment for it. The more modest amongst us may find this difficult but managing your reputation is an important part of working life.  

4. Understand the politics 

Never underestimate the benefit of understanding organisational politics, culture, and climate. This view is held by Andy Powell (UK Head of Operational and Transformational Change, Northgate Vehicle Hire) who states “In my experience, people tend to be judged, rewarded and progress as a result of their ability to build relationships and navigate culture as much as their ability to do good work and get things done. 

With these top tips in your toolkit, I hope that you’ll thrive in your career and that your talent will be recognised and nurtured by your employer. 

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

Posted in Careers Advice