Young People Just Starting Out

Runner at Starting Line

Shelley asked about tips for young people just starting out – a great topic!  I’ll start the ball rolling here, and then you can add your own thoughts to mine.


First off, whether or not you admire your boss, you can learn a lot from him or her.  Observe what your boss does well, and what you think could be done better.  I learned a lot from my early bosses about management, often as reverse role models showing me things I resolved never to do myself when I was a manager.


Watch carefully how different people operate at all different levels in the organization – your co-workers, peers in other departments, your superiors, senior people not in your chain of command, etc.  Watch for communication styles, how they conduct or participate in meetings, ways they write memos and emails, how they direct others, etc.  Look for the best (and the worst) of those, and examine in what ways those differ from your own style.  Figure out what you can do to emulate the best behaviors.


Pay particularly close attention to the next level up in the chain of command – the level to which you would next aspire.  One of the best ways to position yourself for promotion is to model the behavior of those at that level.


Get to know the people around you.  Don’t get sucked into the circles of those who are negative – you become negative by association.  Seek out mentors.


Have deep conversations with your boss.  Find out what your boss is most concerned about, what keeps him up at night, what goals are most important to her.  People often forget that their boss has goals, just as they do.  You have a great opportunity to build influence with your boss if you get to know his priorities, and can then find ways to approach your own work to better align with those.


Think about where you want to be in 5 years, and what skills and experience you need to develop to get there.  Then think about what projects you could take on to develop those.  Make your boss an ally in doing that.  Have career discussions regularly with her to focus on the long term, and options for how you can get the types of experience that will foster your development.


And don’t forget to work on your own personal development.  Take courses.  Seek out opportunities to run meetings, and to make presentations.  Put special emphasis on communication skills, both written and oral.  Those are going to make a huge difference in your career.  Consider joining a Toastmasters club or similar organization.


OK, I’ll stop there for now.  What suggestions do you have to add into the mix?


Read here for more on how to Hit The Ground Running in a new job.

2 thoughts on “Young People Just Starting Out”

  1. Dear John,

    What a lovely example of "ask and ye shall receive"… thanks so much for taking up my question!

    I love your tips, and would add a slight twist to some of what you’ve already offered… I think it can be helpful to recognize that offices have their own cultures, and to work to gain an understanding of that culture early on in your work for that organization. This seems so basic now, but looking back on my working life I can see the ways in which I didn’t understand this earlier on.

    Thanks again,

    1. Shelley:

      Absolutely – a truly excellent point! In fact, many job search candidates neglect to pay attention to this, and it’s often a fatal mistake. I’ve seen several examples of people accepting jobs in environments that were toxic (for them), and within a few weeks ending up quitting.

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