The Answer to the Question I Hear the Most

by Gabi Bourn

Gabi Bourn
Production Manager at Wunderman

One of the top questions I get when recruiting on campus centers around internships and jobs post-graduation – “What can I do to prepare for my first job?” Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer. Based on your major, the job description, and many other factors, it can be different for everyone, but here is a general list that applies to almost everyone no matter their current education level, major, or dream job.

Build Your People Skills

In college, you will meet many different people with different personalities, communication styles, and leadership skills. College is about more than book learning. It is about making connections and learning from the people you encounter. Building great people skills will help in your future jobs when interacting with your boss and colleagues. Being polite, having the ability to read someone quickly, and making quick connections with others are all skills that will serve you well.

Build Your Wardrobe Now 

While you might live in jeans and a t-shirt in college, it is unlikely that this would be acceptable in your future job. Go ahead, enjoy college and all the free t-shirts that come with it, but start building your professional wardrobe now. When you actually need a suit for an interview or a dressy top for a special networking event, it will be hard to find the perfect thing and when you do, it will probably be expensive. Start keeping an eye on sales to start building your wardrobe so you do not have any late night panics before a big event.

Build Time Management Skills

In every job, you will need to arrive at a set time, keep yourself organized, prioritize your work, and meet deadlines. If you take it seriously, college helps prepare you for this. Start developing an organization system for yourself now so you will be ready to hit the ground running when you start your new job.

Get Used to Working 

I’ve heard many interns complain about working for 8 hours straight or the rough one hour commute. Well, in most jobs, that’s just part of the deal. I’ve noticed many interns making the 2PM run to the coffee machine or have seen interns sleeping in their cars over the lunch break. In college, it is easy to take midday naps or pull an all-nighter, but that just doesn’t work in a full-time job or internship. Start adjusting your schedule now so you are ready to get to work in your new job.

Become a Learner

No matter what job you are about to start, know that you will be learning new computer programs, people’s names, a new industry, office lingo, and a new office culture. The list goes on and on. The key point though is that you will be learning something new. Understand that you will not come in knowing how to do the job you are hired for. You will have much to learn, but you can better equip yourself by looking up the programs and developing the skills listed in the job description. Do what research you can ahead of time to prepare for the job. Maybe the recruiter mentioned a computer program during the interview that you have never used before, look it up. Become naturally curious, do the research, and take notes so you remember what you learned. Not only have you prepared yourself, but you will probably impress your new boss with your knowledge.

As you can see, there are many different pieces involved in the answer to the question, “What can I do to prepare for my first job?” Once you have signed the offer letter, remember that its go-time. Now is the time to double-down, do your best, and be even more focused than ever. You’ve gotten yourself in the door, but now you need to do the work to stay there, build your own skills, and start creating goals for personal growth. Do what you can before the first day to help you stand out as a superstar employee.

Originally published on LinkedIn, republished with permission.
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