Making your first real job count

By Drum Digital
21 July 2014

Most careers are built on the solid footing of early sacrifice

When you walk into your first interview or step through the doors of your new office for the first time, come armed with a strong work ethic and a set of principles that you're ready to continue developing.

These suggestions can help you focus on making a first impression that serves you well:

  • Be a heat-seeking missile for problems

If you can become obsessive about identifying and preemptively solving problems, you'll soon find yourself being picked for key assignments.

The ability to anticipate and solve problems is rare and will invariably lead to opportunity.

  • Seek out feedback constantly

Most skills you're missing on your first day of work can be learned and then improved upon with practice.

If you find people willing to coach you, be open to hearing what they have to say.

  • Remember that you were hired to make others look good

Remember that failure isn't final.

  • Become an expert

To get ahead, you need to be really good at something. Pick an area you like and develop what we sometimes call "domain expertise."

This means honing skills that play to your strengths. If you do, you'll once again find that opportunities aren't far behind.

If possible, try to develop a metric to measure your skill: New accounts won? Words written? Telexes sent?

Even if you never show your calculations to another person, your confidence will soar if you know you're helping improve the bottom line.

  • Don't gossip and don't be a diva

You'll see others get ahead, garner attention and maybe even receive special treatment by issuing demands, engaging in hardball politicking and otherwise acting deviously.

  • Don't stay too long (or short)

Jobs are not indentured servitude, although some may feel like it.

The moment you realize your time is up, work with your firm to provide a smooth transition, making special efforts to maintaining relationships for the long run.

  • Stay balanced even when the going gets tough

Careers are important. Your career trajectory will impact your life and your sense of well-being.

It's worthy of a prominent spot in your priorities, and at times, it will deserve primacy. But careers -- unlike families -- don't love you back. If you're looking for lifelong well-being, you're unlikely to get it from your career alone.

No matter how successful you are at work, it'll never compensate for emptiness in other areas of your life. Your career is just one piece of your life's puzzle -- so don't let it crowd out family, friends and community.

  • Front-load your career

This may sound like it contradicts the previous piece of advice, but the truth is that working more when you're younger will give you more family time later.

Just as every building rests on a foundation you can't see, most careers are built on the solid footing of early sacrifice. Those who do find the work-life holy grail, are generally those who deferred seeking it.

Just as those who become great musicians started out playing scales, the masters of work-life started by nailing work.

Develop these habits and attitudes as your "work and self-talk hygiene" and doors will open.

Practise them until they're instinctive, so the way you operate becomes what Aristotle called the "stable equilibrium of the soul." When your work flows naturally from your values and your habits, a more satisfying life and career will follow.


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