Every year I have the privilege of meeting with our recently-graduated new hires as a part of their first day orientation. The excitement and, admittedly, the trepidation on their faces is refreshing. There is nothing like that first day – the day that marks the start of your career. If you have been lucky enough to have an internship you may not feel quite as anxious, but it still feels special.
I remember thinking on my first day, “Here goes nothing!” I wanted nothing more than to do well. I wanted to show my parents that my education was money well spent. I wanted to show my peers that I could “keep up.” But most importantly, I wanted to show my bosses that they made a good decision in hiring me.
The pressure I put on myself to “nail it” was in and of itself very overwhelming. So I had to pause and ask myself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” To be honest, at the time I had no idea. But even though I was unsure of what I wanted to accomplish, one thing I did know was how I was going to accomplish whatever would be thrown at me. I knew that the little things mattered, and that how I showed up to work – literally and figuratively – could make all the difference in how I would be perceived and how quickly I would advance in my career.
So now in my role as Kreischer Miller’s director of Human Resources, and with the memory of how I felt when I was just starting out in my career, I am always excited to share this path of “how” with our new hires each year. Here are three things I tell them:
- Show up on time. My first boss told me, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is not to be.” Sage advice and words I live by even today. I interpreted this to mean that you shouldn’t roll into the parking lot at 8:30 if your start time is 8:30. Allow yourself enough time in the morning to get settled. Get your coffee, catch up with your colleagues about their weekend, check your email, etc. so that when your boss walks over to ask you questions when they get in, you are already working. This will impress the heck out of them.
- Dress the part. If people are talking about what you are wearing instead of what you are doing, your outfit is wrong. It is easy to be technically in compliance with the dress code but still miss the mark. Pay attention to the details. Iron your clothes, polish your shoes, choose appropriate accessories, etc. These things get noticed. If you wake up in the morning and question ANY part of your outfit, follow your gut and wear something different.This is increasingly challenging now that so many companies, including Kreischer Miller, have “dress for your day” dress codes that allow you to wear jeans any day you’d like. Don’t use this policy as an excuse to be sloppy. If you are wearing an outfit that you would wear on the weekend, it is likely the wrong outfit. A good rule of thumb, especially if you are in a casual dress (i.e. jeans) environment, is to ask yourself whether your outfit would still work if you swapped out the jeans for a pair of nice pants. If the answer is yes, then you got it right. If the answer is no, then it’s back to the drawing board.
- Last, but certainly not least: give it your best effort. This is the hardest one, but probably the most important. You will want to be perfect. You will be terrified to make a mistake. You will feel, at times, that you don’t know anything. This is all normal, but it should not paralyze you or discourage you from putting your best foot forward every day. I often say to new hires, “It is not whether you make a mistake that will define your success. Success will be defined by whether you make that same mistake again.”Do the small things. Always be seen with a pen and pad in your hand ready to take notes. Ask questions. Ask for clarification. Use your resources (people, training, research programs, Google). Have a “to do” list – it will help you stay on top of your tasks and it feels really, REALLY good to check something off that list!
Once you feel you have these three things under your belt you will likely be ready to tackle the “what.” But that is a blog for another day. Just remember those butterflies on your first day are normal and you don’t have to be perfect to be a success. Tackle the small things that are well within your control and you’ll put yourself on the path toward a successful career!
Bobbi Kelly is Kreischer Miller’s Director of Human Resources. She has over 12 years of experience providing human resources advisory services to a variety of businesses, including privately-held companies and partnerships. Bobbi joined Kreischer Miller in 2014. Contact Bobbi at Email.
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