Advice for the First Job Out of School

During the months of May and June, millions of young people will graduate from high school and college and look to begin their working careers. Some will have more challenges than others in finding a job, especially a job they love. Some will find a career, and for a number of those the career will not be related to the degree earned. Others will work in jobs that will never be more to them than a paycheck. Finding a job is not at all easy, finding work that is a career about which the employee can be very passionate is, as they say, the hardest job a person will ever have. These new job seekers will receive a barrage of advice from parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends regarding how to be successful. They’ll have to sift through all of that to find out what really works for them. When each of my four children graduated from college and went on to their first job, I gave them all the same advice, some of which was given to me by my parents, but mostly that which I gained from my own experience of working for over 30 years.
Recently, my youngest child passed back to me an email that I’d sent him the night before he started his first job out of college. That job was in Washington, D.C. and he did not know anyone there at the time. He told me that he had the email posted on the wall above the desk in his apartment. When moving to another apartment, he re-read the note and wanted to let me know that he had been trying to follow all of the tips I’d given him from years before.
So, I’m going to share the contents of that email to my son, Eric. Please consider passing some of these thoughts along to your child or grandchild who will soon be starting their first job:
Sunday, October 9, 2011

Here are some tips as you get ready to start your career tomorrow morning:
1. Never forget your faith and how important it is to pray and thank God each day for your life and the gifts he has given you.
2. Never compromise your values…they define who you really are as a person.
3. Always be willing to help others be successful…they’ll remember you for doing so.
4. Communication is everything! Always think about what you are going to say/type and the impact your words will have on others.
5. Be a “dry sponge” and learn to absorb all of the knowledge that surrounds you. One of the keynote speakers at a conference I just attended said something that I thought was pretty profound, “If we all knew what we all know, we’d be unstoppable”. Think about that one.
6. Listen more than you speak…that is how you learn.
7. Apply in your career the same “work smart, not hard” ethic/approach that earned you a Summa Cum Laude at school and allowed you to very much enjoy being away at college. That, by itself, will get you noticed and take you places within the organization.
8. You’ll see that the strong relationships you build over the next two to three years at your employer will last a lifetime. I am still in contact today with people I met and worked with at my first job, back in the mid-70’s!
9. Never burn bridges…build them.
10. Be accountable…if you make a mistake, own up to it and do your best to learn “why” it happened and how you can prevent from making the same mistake again.
11. Be honest, be fair, be you.
12. Don’t ever treat people like “employees”, but as co-workers. You’ll be amazed, over time, what a huge difference this makes with people.
13. Take care of those who take care of you.
14. Part of being “Eric” is being self-confident. There can be a fine line between confidence and cockiness – try never to cross that line. Remember that people find it easy to believe and have faith in someone who demonstrates self-confidence. Arrogance has the opposite effect.
15. Try to remember that you represent your employer, no matter where you go. You’ll find that, over time, people will associate you with your job/employer. That does not mean that you cannot have fun and be “you”. It just means that you need to be aware that you always represent your employer, not just from 9 – 5 during the workweek.
16. Keep an “Eric file” at home. Put in this file copies of anything that you receive about yourself such as: emails from your boss or co-workers about the good job you did on this project or that task, copies of any and all performance reviews/discussions and handwritten notes about important conversations you have with your boss. You’ll be amazed how keeping such a file will help you over the years to come.
Good luck tomorrow. Enjoy the experience. Tomorrow really is the beginning of the rest of your working career. The effort you put into this will have a direct effect on the ultimate direction you will set for yourself and will also impact those around you –  co-workers and clients.
Love you,