The transition from graduating college to working full-time is not an easy one. Your time is no longer your own to manage. You have to get used to going to bed early and waking up early. You have to learn a lot about business and working with people of all different ages. Welcome to adulthood!
As a mother of two sons who are in the early stages of their careers, I’ve seen this firsthand and wanted to pass along some of my learnings. Even as a seasoned professional, all of these lessons still ring true. Follow these six tips for short-and long-term career success:
1. Do Your Job Well
This goes without saying, but what some people may not realize is that it’s important to not only meet expectations but exceed them. Understand your role and responsibilities and do more than what is expected. Not all roles, entry-level or not, are thrilling every day and most people are anxious to get that promotion, but first you need to master the basics and demonstrate your willingness to work hard and show results in your current role.
2. Develop a Specialty
Know your strengths and weaknesses, and identify a need in your business or industry that can leverage those strengths. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, use an assessment like StrengthsFinder 2.0 to discover them. This specialty should become a part of your brand. It will help you identify opportunities down the road as well as make you stand out to be identified for opportunities.
Early in my career at IBM, I was transferred to an indirect sales organization. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I ended up not only enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to motivate people who did not work for me, but also realized that there were far fewer people who were good at it. As a result, it became part of my brand and it’s the main reason that a former CEO I worked for suggested my name to Phil Fernandez, Founder of Marketo, when he said he was looking for someone to lead an indirect sales effort at Marketo.
3. Let People Know What You’re Doing
You may think that if you do a good job, you’ll get the recognition and support you deserve. Unfortunately, that is typically not the case. Perception is reality, so you need to have a communication plan that helps people understand the impact you’re making. Update your manager regularly, and present your accomplishments in a way that tie into your manager’s objectives or your overall organization’s objectives. That context will help people understand the impact that you’re making.
I once led a sales team that had responsibility for K-12 sales. It was a group that didn’t have as much sales experience as the other teams, but we worked together to create a thoughtful plan that included a thorough review of available opportunities using sales data and mapped out an execution plan. We specifically asked to review our plan with the leader of the K-12 segment and got his input, which we incorporated into our plan.
We executed the plan effectively and ended up leading the U.S. in this segment. In our follow-up meeting with the segment leader, he recognized the team because he knew the effort we expended to plan the work and work the plan. The team could have done the work and gotten the same results without the additional reviews, but by engaging our leadership and making him aware of what we were doing, he realized that the achievement was the result of a deliberate work effort. The team was proud of their effort and results, and the rest of the organization recognized the impact.
Take the time to build your network. You will always be learning as you expand your career, so you need to have people that you know and trust who can help you. Build your own “board of advisors” inside and outside your company. They can provide you with helpful feedback about how you’re doing and also provide unique insights on business issues. As you build your board of advisors, be sure you understand what you can do to give back to them so that it’s not a one-sided relationship.
At a busy, fast growing company like Marketo, it’s sometimes hard to pick up your head and look ahead to the long-term. However, I have counseled a few of our young managers to invest their time in building their own board–both inside Marketo and outside. You need to have a trusted set of advisors who can fill in the gaps in your experience and share their feedback and ideas when you are faced with a new challenge or opportunity. Consistently, these managers have come back to me and reiterated the impact that these advisory boards have had on their careers.
5. Take Hold of Your Career
The only person who truly cares about your career is you. Own it. Have a plan in place that outlines your goals and objectives for the short-term (12 months) and long-term (2-3 years) and highlights what skills/experiences you need to develop in order to achieve that plan. Share the plan with your manager or board of advisors to get their feedback, then work the plan.
6. Say Thank You
Last but not least, show your gratitude. When your coworker helps you out, show your appreciation and find a way to reciprocate the favor. When get you that opportunity, raise, or promotion, thank your manager and your manager’s manager (in most cases, your manager needs to get sign off for a raise or promotion). Be sure that share your appreciation goes to the right folks.
Take these six tips to heart and practice them every day—it will pay off. Work hard, enjoy yourself, and make the most of every day and opportunity.
Do you have any other career tips that you live by? Share them in the comments below.