Tips for Your First Job Out of School

Work strategies and a stereotype you might never have thought of

Being successful at work is about more than just the job itself.

I remember my daughter’s first job. It was a nightmare. A stellar student throughout her school career where input and output are easily measured – you study hard, you get good grades – she failed miserably in her first work experience where she had to learn how to manage an office culture, its politics, and a stressed boss. Thank goodness it was a summer position. The experience, however, was a necessary and rude awakening to the challenges of a real work environment. There’s the job and there’s how business is actually conducted in the workplace.

The book Effective Immediately: How to Fit in, Stand Out and Move Up at Your First Real Job by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg (Ten Speed Press; $14.99), offers a variety of strategies for not only feeling overwhelmed but being a success as an initiate at a company. There are charts, bullet points, lists and sample agendas, which make it a quick and easily digestible read. Among the strongest topics:

  • A Crash Course in Professional Etiquette
  • How to Handle your Boss
  • Thirteen Ways to Raise Your Profile
  • How to Land Key Projects
  • How to Lead Your Own Meetings

Because this book is directed toward Millennials — those born between 1980 and 1992 — the authors also address stereotypes that are often imposed on this group often referred to as the Entitlement Generation. The unfortunate assumption is that this group isn’t as inclined to work as hard as previous generations for their rewards. These are among the stereotypes the authors outline in the book:

  • You want the glory without the sacrifice
  • You demand instant gratification
  • You resent being expected to do the grunt work
  • You can’t be bothered with company loyalty

Should new employees be overly concerned about these assumptions? Just as stereotypes of race and gender continue to be issues in the workplace, performance as well as an understanding of the company culture can effectively help any professional overcome such challenges.

Unfortunately, what this book doesn’t focus on is the importance of securing a mentor as a strategy for understanding workplace culture. For minority students, mentorship support is vital to not only managing but excelling in your first job.

Sonia Alleyne is the careers and lifestyle editorial director at Black Enterprise.

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