How to Graduate Into a Great Career
Be humble. Many employers find fresh college grads to be cocky, with unreasonable expectations. New hires often think they know a better way to run things. And sometimes, they're right. But more often, there's a good reason for the way things are doneit was developed over time by experienced people. In your first few weeks, ask plenty of questions, but do what you're told and see how it works out. At minimum, you'll have proved that you're willing to pay your dues.
Seek opportunities. On Day 1, if the boss says your job consists completely of tasks that a high school dropout could do, say something like, "I am willing to pay my dues, but I believe I can be of greater use to you if you give me more responsibility. For example, I'm a pretty good writer and researcher." My daughter's first job out of college was in the White House but only to answer letters written to the Clintons' cat, Socks. Before her job description was set in stone, she asked for more responsibility and, within two weeks, she was writing Hillary Rodham Clinton's daily briefing.
After nailing down a reasonable job description, identify the most knowledgeable and influential people in your organization. Make a point of asking them questions and offering to help them out. You'll learn a lot and make connections that will help in the future, with career guidance, job tips, and letters of reference.
Think like a leader. Even at the entry level, it's time to start thinking like you are the leader: someone whom others look up to, in your organization and in your field. Worker bees who simply keep their heads down often are the first to get the ax in a cutback. At the least, they feel like small cogs in a large machine.
So get in the habit of asking yourself, "What might be a better way?" Share your ideas with colleagues you respect. Listen carefully to their reactions; don't accept or reject their ideas without reflection.
It's a cliché, and only sometimes true, that if you just do your job well, the money will follow. Still, think that way. That will keep priorities where they need to be: on learning and on getting ahead ethically. Yes, cheaters sometimes win. But you won't feel good about your career if that's how you succeed.