Invaluable–And Simple–Advice For Succeeding At Your First Job

Starting off on the right foot means learning to love the gruntwork, building peer relationships, and managing your manager, among other things.

Invaluable–And Simple–Advice For Succeeding At Your First Job

“Your first job is not only about showing that you can get the job done,” Thorin Klosowski writes at Lifehacker. After the thrill of the hire and the trial of negotiation, the maiden voyage begins–one in which you’ll need all the connections and tricks of the trade that you can develop from the beginning.


Relish the gruntwork

“Chances are you’ll need to clean the proverbial toilet for a while before you’re given any real responsibility,” Klosowski says. “This means you need to show off your work ethic even if you’re stuck doing tasks you don’t like.”

He makes a canny point: When you’re starting out at a new gig, you’re naturally going to be doing low-level work for your employers–meaning that your dazzling gifts are going to be muted for a minute. The best way you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the entry-level gaggle is by hustling harder than anybody else–and rejoicing in it. As Paul Graham says, you’re going to have to learn to love to schlep.

Be on point at all points

It’s all about those little trust-building details that will be foundational to your working relationships and your personal brand: You need to always be on time (or early) and make all your deadlines, enabled by the subtle arts of organization. Keeping your desk clean–literally and metaphorically–will signal that you’re dependable.

“You can worry about standing out later,” Klosowski says. “At first you just need to get your work done as efficiently as possible.”

Get to know the people

Meet everyone. Have lunch. Make friends. Form bonds. Gain trust.

Ask questions

The best thing you can do for yourself is to get the job done right the first time–and you can do that by asking process questions as set out on the task. If it’s a longer project, Klosowski recommends checking in via progress reports with your boss.


At the same time, don’t overburden your higher-up with tons of questions. This is all a part of managing your manager–an essential skill for successful office navigation. Like Klosowski says, wanting to learn is a great trait, “but so is initiative.”

Those relationships you form and skills you gain are what you’ll take to your next gig, maximizing your options as you make each step–and finding work that leaves you satisfied.

Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me for My First Job

Drake Baer covers leadership for Fast Company. You can follow him on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Namelas Frade]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.