Class of 2017: Congrats on graduating! You’ve finished the last of your exams and are well on your way to either starting a career or finding a new one. This is such an exciting time in life. A lot will change and, no doubt, you will encounter plenty of unknown elements.
You’ll find out it’s a lot like joining a new team. I remember my first job out of college. I worked in a PR firm, and was lucky to receive a lot of support through the transition. However, there was also a lot that people didn’t share with me about working in the ‘real world.’ At times, it felt like trial by fire in that the workplace had so many unspoken rules with almost no formal education on the protocol.
This happens all the time to athletes. When you’re suddenly surrounded by a bunch of new team mates, you must master new rules, politics, favorites, processes, procedures, likes and dislikes, and sensitivities. This applies to both the team members and the coaches.
Here are my five tips to help you get off on the right foot and excel in your rookie year.
1. Proofread your emails twice and send them once
In one of my first months on the job, I sent an email to a bunch of news reporters that had placeholders left throughout it. No names, no subject line, and so on. It was the worst feeling in the world.
While you never expect an email to ruin your career, the mishap can leave a negative impression. To avoid this, proofread carefully and read the copy twice before hitting ‘send’. We all make mistakes and learn from them, but a certain level of detail and preparation can go a long way to protecting and advancing your career.
2. Be responsive
Even if you can’t get to something immediately, respond briefly to the request, email, or phone call. Let the person know you received their message and when you will reply with more information. You don’t have to have an answer right away, but you should set expectations for when you can get back to them.
3. Get help prioritizing your workload
Don’t try to guess what’s most important – just ask. Get specifics on what’s expected of you and by when. Managers may not be aware of all the work you have to do in a day or week. Make sure you clarify your responsibilities and what the priorities are to ensure their expectations are being met.
4. Ask relevant questions, but be resourceful
I’m always impressed by employees and interns who try to do everything they can to find information, answer a question, or figure things out on their own before coming to me with questions. It shows resourcefulness and initiative.
Questions are important, but it also matters that you do your job to figure out as much as you can on your own. Hint: use Google often.
5. Take initiative
The best employees and interns I’ve worked with go above what I’ve asked of them. I’m not saying you need to work all hours of the day and night, but it’s impressive (and helpful) when someone notices a gap that needs to be filled and then takes initiative to propose a solution – and maybe even develop an action plan – for filling that gap.
Just like your freshman year of college, you have a lot of changes coming, but knowing how to navigate them will help. To get your first year with a new team off to the best possible start, slow down and take the time to set yourself up for success. You will be thankful afterwards.