October 15, 2018 ・ Written by T.J. Duane

Early Career Advice

Early Career Advice

We’ve written before about how to manage your early career, even if you’re not yet in your dream job. You can cope by focusing your efforts outside of work, or by diving in. Committing to make the most of your current role can be tough, especially if you’ve got a fancy degree that doesn’t relate. But in the right conditions, even part-time baristas can work their way up and gain valuable expertise that can set them apart.

I got an email from a BrightCrowd member with some excellent ideas for ways to move up and improve, even in your very first job. He’s in a pretty good position just two years out of school, and offered to share his advice with you — I hope it’s helpful!

No task is beneath you

Especially when you’re starting out, you may be asked to do tasks that are pretty menial. It’s important for everybody to have a hand in the nitty-gritty of making a business run, at some time or another. By doing low-level tasks that you might not love you can learn important details about how the hard work gets done.

(Even CEOs have to clean the bathroom, sometimes.)

Showing that you can be trusted with the small stuff others might ignore is a fantastic way to build trust with your manager. Trust is like a credit account. Small acts of showing up and getting things done add up over time, and can communicate to your colleagues that you could handle something bigger.

Extra credit: make process improvements on the small stuff. Found a better price on toner? Revived the dying office plant? Go for it. Little improvements like those can help demonstrate your value, one task at a time.

Take initiative!

Have you ever had a big idea at work, but scrapped it because it’s not in your pay grade? That was a missed opportunity. Projects that are outside your regular scope of work are exactly where you need to be if you want to get ahead.

If you’ve got a genius project idea, write up a little proposal (it can be short). Then shoot it over to your manager, or bring it up during a 1:1 meeting. Chances are, you’ll get a warm reception. Good managers want their direct reports to learn and grow, and are always glad to have somebody bringing fresh ideas to the table.

Even if there isn’t time for you to work on your passion project, you’ve already hinted at your value. Formal job responsibilities are always just a starting place. You can shape your job into something that’s interesting to you, if you just keep an eye out for opportunities.

Choose your relationships wisely

There’s a theory out there that “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” If that’s the case, it’s important to curate that group carefully.

If you’ve got a regular circle of friends (a la that TV show from the 90s), it might be beneficial to your career to break out of your rut. Go ahead and strike up conversations with folks in your industry. Attend some events, solo. Making connections that you otherwise wouldn’t could vastly expand your professional network, and your point-of-view.

And also, don’t feel shy about office friendships. They can be essential to learning about your organization, and getting to the next level in your career. People who like and trust each other will naturally share information that can help you succeed at work. So go beyond “how was your weekend?” Getting to know your colleagues might lead to both fulfilling friendships, and a happier office life.

You can get started building your professional relationships on BrightCrowd. It’s full of smart people who want to connect.