Once your foot is in the door of your first job out of college, it’s only natural to immediately start daydreaming about a big future – duties you desire, achievements you seek and that corner office you want. But tap the brakes, pal. You still have a lot to learn, and your entry level sales job is the place to learn it.
The bottom rung of your career ladder is an important place, and one you shouldn’t be in too big a hurry to leave behind. In fact, those who advance too quickly might later wish they had taken more time honing basic skills.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you start your first job after college:
- Pay your dues: When college grads hear those unpleasant words, it’s the equivalent of preschoolers hearing, “Eat your Brussels sprouts!” Not easy to swallow. But we all start somewhere, and unless your name is LeBron James or Mark Zuckerberg, you’ll probably start somewhere near the bottom. That’s OK. It’s not forever. Your time will come. Make sure your supervisor knows of your interests and ambitions. But also be sure to do your job so well that it proves you have much more to offer. Then the obvious next step will be additional responsibilities and a promotion.
- No narcissism: We’re not saying it’s true, but there are many who believe Millennials came of age with an enormous sense of entitlement, believing they deserve high-paying, high-profile jobs straight out of college. Take the American Freshman Survey in 2012, which found that an increasing number of college students believe they are exceptional, and that their drive to achieve is above average. That led to this headline in The Huffington Post: “U.S. college students feel super special about themselves.” And in Forbes: “Are Millennials ‘Deluded Narcissists?’” Regardless of the argument, keep in mind that older people (Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers) are usually the ones that have power in the workforce. And they may share this theory of Millennial narcissism. Showing signs of a sense of entitlement may trigger those feelings and put a cloud over your head. Stay hungry but humble. Let your great work speak for itself.
- Go above and beyond: Scope out the office, and see which employees are doing what you really want to do. Then, when your tasks are complete, volunteer to do more, even just to help out. Don’t worry if it means working extra hours or weekends, but do make sure such a move is OK with your boss. Doing more will show your ambition and your willingness to work hard. It will also add to your experience and knowledge base. And that can mean more trust from your supervisors.
- Learn from your mistakes: Your first job is a huge learning experience, and you will stumble. Don’t treat it like an internship, where your inexperience is glaring and often tolerated. Good supervisors will give you clear instructions on completing your tasks, and guidance when something goes awry. Acknowledge your errors, and make it clear that you’ll approach those situations the right way next time.
- The 10,000 Hour Rule: Still think you should rocket up the ranks at blinding speed? Take a look at noted author Malcolm Gladwell — who is probably smarter than you, me and seven other people combined — and his book Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, he explores the 10,000 Hour Rule, which basically means that in order to master a subject or become a seasoned professional at something, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice. That’s 1,250 eight-hour days, or roughly five years of a regular work schedule. So congrats on your diploma, Sally Valedictorian. Time to punch the clock.