Looking for your first job after college can be daunting. I started job searching thinking there would be a big red flashing arrow pointing me in the right direction. While this wasn’t the case, and the interviewing process was slightly as intimidating as expected, I finally settled into a job that felt like the perfect fit. I was ready to grow, ready to learn, but … how? Where was that red flashing arrow pointing me down the path to career success at my first job in the “real world?”
Despite the career pathing Stratacomm provides, I quickly found out there was no direct path to success. For the first time, there weren’t clean boxes I could check that would get me to the next stage.
While there is no direct road map for your first year, along my own imperfect journey, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way that I want to share. Maybe you’ll find them useful to create a path for yourself.
- Don’t be intimidated by titles. When you’re in a classroom, there are two positions: the teacher or the student. This notion will be turned on its head in your first year. At a small agency, every day I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with professionals at every level from managing partner to interns, and they all have insight to learn from. When you’re in an entry level position, be careful not to deliberately push yourself to the bottom of the barrel; you’ll find that others won’t either. If you have an idea for a project and time allows, don’t wait for an account supervisor to assign it—take the first step to raise your hand, plan and execute. If you have a recommendation, share it. People will take notice. It’s important to know when it’s time to step back, listen and learn, but also when it’s time to step up and show your stuff.
- Approach all situations with a willingness to learn. During your first year in almost any career, every experience will be a new learning opportunity. Relax—you’re not expected to be an expert on everything! Take time to learn from others around you. My manager and I have a weekly check-in devoted to discussing and prioritizing work. It also gives me an opportunity to ask for feedback regularly in a more comfortable, one-on-one setting, when the stakes aren’t so high. Remember—it’s okay to make mistakes! But, acknowledge those mistakes and turn them into learning opportunities every chance you get.
- Seek out networking opportunities. Building professional relationships outside of work can provide value to individual professional development, and in some cases, can provide value to your company. You might find that inviting colleagues to these events you identify are also a good way to show interest and build relationships. I’m lucky enough to live in a city with networking opportunities in my field by the dozen, but if it’s harder for you to find those, reach out to your college network and create those networking opportunities for yourself. You can also look for ways to get involved at your office. At Stratacomm a small working group met for about three months with an eye on autonomous technology, a growing focus for our firm, and our clients. Getting involved with a group in the office allowed me to collaborate with folks that I don’t regularly work with on client accounts, and also gave me a chance to provide value to new business pursuits.
- Be a mentor—you have knowledge to share, too. One of the most rewarding parts of my job in the first year was taking an active role in Stratacomm’s intern program as an intern coordinator. The intern program is a lesson in being a manager and mentor. From overseeing the hiring and onboarding process, to managing weekly assignments and playing a role in Stratacomm’s intern capstone project, it’s been an opportunity to learn (and teach!) time management skills and take on administrative responsibility to contribute to the firm’s operations. Being a part of this can be extremely rewarding in your first year on the job—and student interns get to learn necessary career skills along the way.
Learning about new clients means learning about new industries and taking on new tasks that exercise new skills. Before you know it, you’ll be in your second year, so make sure to take advantage of learning opportunities and have some fun along the way!
Nicole Golvala is an account executive in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office. Still looking to land your first job in PR? Here’s six tips to nail your PR interview.