What Mistakes Do Graduates Make in Their First Jobs?

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March 31 2014 12:39 PM

What Mistakes Do Graduates Make in Their First Jobs?

Learn what you can where you are.
Learn what you can where you are.

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This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Jason Ewing:

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Being more loyal to your company than the company is to you. I've managed too many teams that have entry-level employees, and I see this too often. You like your first company—they gave you your first real shot! You should be loyal, right?

Wrong. People stay in an entry-level position for too long believing their employers will "take care of them" if they just work hard enough and stick around long enough.

Over time, this grinds a person down. I love that people believe that if you just work hard and do well, your talents will be recognized and you'll be promoted. But the truth is this isn't always the way things work. Companies both large and small must have a position to promote you to, a budget to pay you more, etc.

Once you've been at your first job for a bit, begin engaging your manager about what your options are for developing your career. If you start to get the sense that no one ever gets promoted or that options for advancement are limited, then change gears: Learn what you can where you are and take that experience somewhere else.

* * *

Answer by Carson Tang:

Ignore the bad habits of your older colleagues. Your colleague who has been working for at least 10 years might be late to meetings often, but that does not imply that it is acceptable to be late. When an older colleague is late, your manager might cut her more slack because she has proven herself to be helpful and employable, whereas if you are late, you simply look irresponsible and unemployable.

Seek guidance and help proactively. In school, your professors and teaching assistants often provide hints and guidance on homework and lab assignments without you prompting them. At work, everyone is busy with his or her own tasks, so do not be surprised if no one offers help. It is not necessarily that they are unfriendly and selfish so much as they are just plain busy. The ones who offer unsolicited help are generally friendly people, so those are the ones with whom you want to be on extra good terms.

Be the expert of your assigned task. Even if you are assigned a menial task like fixing minor bugs, swallow your pride, fix those bugs, and understand how you fixed them. If you are assigned a major task, the same underlying principles apply. In software engineering, you are the expert of the part of the code base you modified and extended, so if your colleagues have questions, they expect you to have the answers. Being the expert achieves two goals. First, your colleagues will think of you as a responsible person. Second, your manager will eventually notice and assign you more meaningful tasks or place you on more challenging and more impactful projects.

Be on good terms with everyone. In school, if you disliked someone, you could ignore him. At work, if you dislike a colleague, you cannot simply ignore him because you will be working together. Instead, be friendly and cordial. If that person is at all a professional, even if he dislikes you personally, he will respect you professionally.

Value quality over quantity. If you can, try to work as quickly as possible, but do not sacrifice the quality of your work for the sake of more output. Your manager and colleagues will remember negatively the time you broke the software build with a code checkin, even if it was delivered a week ahead of time. However, they will remember fondly the success and quality of your polished and completed project, even if it took an extra week to wrap up.

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