As tough as it is to get the first job after graduation, the first year in the new job can play a crucial role in setting the foundation for the rest of the career. What you do in those 12 months can have far reaching implications for your professional life.
Zuber Memon shares a framework that you can use to set your own goals in the first year at work in your first job
Congratulations! You’ve landed that first job finally – maybe just one of those offers your campus recruitment team got you or something you pursued incessantly for months in your area of interest. As you venture into this ‘first-big-unknown’ of your career, setting clear goals for your initial period – both for making a meaningful contribution to your organization and for a proper self-assessment – will be of tremendous benefit to you.
If you are already past week 1, you have read that goal-setting matrix on your orientation day – and if you are like most people, you haven’t gotten a sense of direction from it. And that’s understandable as there rarely is a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to designing your personal plan – yes I’m talking about using a design-thinking type of approach to test& learn what works best for you at this point of time in your job.
So, to get you started, I’m sharing some insights and tips gained through interaction with peers, managers, executives, freshers, early-career millennials and from personal experience (and experiments 🙂 ).
Our college curriculums do not encourage enough experimentation and failure. So, when we come to the workforce, many of us are yet to figure out what we would love to do. On the other side, everyone out there will try to have you ‘typed’ as soon as possible because it makes life easier for them in terms of delegation and work allocation.
I do agree that it’s a must to work in alignment with your organization’s goals and make impactful contributions. But you don’t want to wake up at the end of your first two years and realize that you are doing something completely away from your interests.
So be willing to take some risks and experiment. If you realize – say after 6-12 months of consistent effort – that you are not doing what you would like to work on further, go ask for a different assignment in a domain of your choice even if it requires you to stretch a bit through that transition. You will face resistance, for sure, but eventually you’ll be giving more value in your job!
On the other hand, if you just sit and do nothing about it, someone will sketch up a ‘5-year plan’ for you behind your back and you won’t have a clue about how that happened. It might be very difficult to try something radically different at that point.
We looked at a way of figuring out what you want to work on and it does require a high level of conscious & consistent effort. But the process can be more streamlined if you get into a rotational program. Go find out if you can enroll into one at your company. These programs encourage you to diversify your skills initially and then choose a domain you would like to go deep into. Isn’t that something we would all like to do in our first year?
Having gone through such a program for the initial two years, I feel the rotational assignments have been one of the best experiences of my career – giving exposure to diverse fields like design, systems, manufacturing, and marketing, not to forget the people skills that build up with interactions with various stakeholders.
Focus on learning new skills through your current assignment and deliver 1-2 key contributions first. In your first few months, it’s all about doing more and demanding less!
The future workforce will have multi-faceted skills. So, devote a few hours every week on learning something new, maybe completely different from your domain.
If you explore resources within your company, there’s a plethora of options covering soft and hard skills that you can learn right from your desk. So diversify your skills and keep identifying your next path of learning. Learning is growth!
In simple terms, this mantra implies that you’ll have to go against convention and present an innovative & collaborative approach to problem solving if you want to stand out; and in the process, don’t wait for approvals at every step of implementing your unique solution.
If you do so, there are many who will be ready to tell you ‘why that cannot work!’…while the reality is: people going against convention are the ones who have always brought in positive change.
To give an example, you can crowd-source a solution or figure out if someone else has already solved the same problem instead of doing everything again. You’ll only realize the value of your different approach when you receive appreciation for figuring out that an internal solution in a much efficient way. But none of this would happen if you wait for permission to act every time.
Having said it all, use your judgement of where this should apply. I don’t want you to hack your office’s security cameras in the name of practicing EAFP and get fired!
Your mentors in the early phase will help you understand where you fit best within the organization, uncover those opportunities for experimentation and even guide you through the transition process. So, seek mentoring even if it requires you to do some stretch assignments or voluntary work for them.
I was a super introvert (at least something was super!) when I started out; and I struggled as things took time to settle down. But, the results came in through persistence over time.
The point is to not push yourself very hard to impress your peers and higher-ups. Be yourself, and focus on delivering good quality work for your immediate leader, not 3-4 levels up.
Eventually, the right people will recognize your honest efforts!
Using these points will help to define a framework for yourself and then the goals become very clear. All you’ve got to do is ask the right questions!
To conclude this post, I would like you to reflect on one fundamental question.
Eric Ries’ Lean Startup gives significant encouragement to early-stage failure in any venture. Why should you not apply this philosophy to your own career?
Here’s another post from Zuber: How to get a job after college with no experience