A couple of years ago, a friend of mine got his first ever job, beyond the nature of attachments and internships. I offered him a short meeting where we could discuss how he could approach the job. For convenience, let us call this friend Tsogolo.
In this meeting, I was bearing in mind that Tsogolo is a young man who worked hard for his degree and excelled academically at every stage of his college time. He is very hungry for success and wants to excel in life, going beyond his first degree and enjoying a good career in his chosen profession. In fact, I offered to meet him because I could imagine that given his colourful track record in college, he might have had some fears as to whether he could repeat in industry the prowess that he demonstrated in the academic world.
Below are the 10 things that I shared with Tsogolo to focus on as he starts his career and the same applies to many of the college graduates and school leavers that embark on their first job in their careers.
- Focusing on learning the job: You may have learnt a lot of theories, mastered formulas and developed models and frameworks. Now you have to get your hands dirty and learn how they do it in industry.
- Attending professional courses: Do your best to find chances for some professional courses leading to professional registrations and certifications. Invest personal money from your salary if necessary.
- Joining high performance teams: Failure is contagious and so is success. If you play in Barcelona, you are more likely to be a world-class player than if you play in a lower division league club in remote parts of Africa. The same rule applies in career development. In your company, identify the best performing teams and find your way there!
- Learning the business: If you join a company in the banking sector, make sure that you quickly understand banking. If you join telecoms, learn how telecoms business works. If your first job is at a tobacco company, learn about tobacco business quickly, whether you are in marketing, sales, human resource, engineering, information technology or administration.
- Acquiring basic financial knowledge: No matter what your profession is, learn the basics of finance because all companies have to manage finances and you would not rise far in your career without basic understanding of money. Attend ‘Finance for non-finance managers’ short courses or buy a book on introduction to finance.
- Learn from good managers and leaders: Identify great managers and leaders around you and start following them and learning from them. Copy the good things they do and experiment their tactics, improving them along the way.
- Study career growth trends and align: Every organisation has its own trends for how people climb career ladders. Talk to the ‘old guards’ and learn how careers evolve in your organisation and do not plan to break many records, plan to reposition and realign yourself so that you can break smaller records while climbing the ladders.
- Communicate clearly: You may be a star but if you are not a great communicator, you will not go far. Develop your written as well as oral communication. Join toastmaster’s public speaking clubs to master the public speaking skill also.
- Make the company and your boss rely on you: In everything you do, make sure that you are of great value to your boss and for your company. Sustain the reason for your existence in the job.
- Be outstanding: Be the best in whatever you do. Always check whether you are giving out your best or not. Raise your game if your output is not great and not amazing.
The additional points that I did not tell Tsogoro were that he should be networking as much as possible and his immediate attention should not be on maximising money-making but building skills. Money will come as a by-product of outstanding brilliance. n