The average employee stays at a job for just 4.6 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. College graduates will usually take their first steps into their career path either as an intern or entry-level employee with the hope to propel their career forward. Those first jobs are full of ups and downs with disappointments and surprising successes along the way.
But whether you landed your dream job or are just hoping to pay the rent, the most important thing is to make the most of your first job and lay a foundation for your career. Here are some of the best lessons from entry-level jobs:
Find opportunities in unexpected places
You may uncover your first dream job in an unexpected industry you never thought of. Open up your search and horizons to a wide variety of fields. For example, if you are interested in live events, you might consider working in video editing for a business that services the live entertainment industry.
If you are an entrepreneur or salesman, look beyond working at a startup or high-profile business. Instead, look for a company that encourages you to grow with them. For example, DriveTime lays out defined career paths for its employees and promotes an internship and management program on its jobs page.
Win big by asking for more responsibility
Get ahead of your competition and make yourself memorable by asking for more responsibility. Make the cornerstone of your career all about doing your job incredibly well and that you are always ready for more.
But the real trick is to execute the work you already have to perfection and going beyond expectation. Never complain, even if the extra work you ask for is less than exciting. As you prove yourself, your superiors will start seeing you as someone ambitious and capable who can handle responsibilities that stretch beyond your original role. Meanwhile, your entry level co-workers are just sticking to their own work, packing up and getting ready to go and leave their work behind, all while wondering why they’re not getting ahead.
Soft skills are crucial to success
There are plenty of hard skills to learn at a new job, from workflow systems to new software. It takes time to refine your craft, but hard skills can overshadow more important assets at your job. Soft skills are just as important, if not more so, than those hard skills you learn. No matter what type of ability you have, it won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to talk to your managers, manage client expectations and work together as a team. Make a commitment to master soft skills, from communication to office politics, to season yourself for your next position.
Stop worrying about your career path
Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford speech included the idea that you can’t connect the dots forward, only backward. That’s true of any job you have and your career path as a whole. While it’s smart to stay on top of your career prospects and make the most out of every position you hold, it’s dangerous to constantly think the grass is greener elsewhere. The only true path to success is hard work and taking calculated risks. Master the role and responsibilities in front of you, and stay open-minded to new opportunities in your own office and beyond.