40 under 40 Insider Network is one of several online communities where the most powerful, influential, and important people in business under 40 answer timely career and leadership questions. This week, we ask: What are 3 must-have skills to land your first job? The following is an answer by Robert Reffkin, CEO of Urban Compass.
Your first job is indeed a pivotal moment in your career; it sets the tone for your work habits, teaches you key skills and exposes you to an exciting, and sometimes daunting post-education environment. It does not, however, tether you to a specific company, industry, or career path. I often see recent graduates assign a vital significance to his/her first job when in truth, it is just the first (though perhaps most formative) step of their own professional development.
Case in point: My first job was as a business analyst with McKinsey & Company, which on paper seems fairly different from my subsequent roles as a White House Fellow, a chief of staff to the President, COO at Goldman Sachs and my current position as CEO of Urban Compass, a technology-driven real estate company. However, I walked away from my time at McKinsey with a skillset that has been invaluable throughout my career and learned lessons that are just as relevant to me now as they were back then:
“No” is not an answer
Consultants are taught to never accept “no” as an answer and to always work toward a solution. Whether it’s solving an issue for a client or pursuing a new professional endeavor, you’re bound to encounter roadblocks for which you won’t feel equipped. Ignore them – although your inexperience may feel like a hindrance, your youth and hard work are powerful assets. Especially in the earliest stages of your career, it’s simply unacceptable to give up without fully exhausting your abilities.
Be comfortable with ambiguity
In consulting, I was often assigned to a client from a completely unfamiliar industry and expected to speak knowledgeably about their business, an intimidating scenario for most early twenty-something’s. Your natural inclination may be to allow this general sense of ambiguity to paralyze you or discourage you, but ultimately it’s only going to delay progress. The smarter route is to identify what – or who – you need to know as someone working in the field, and what will be key to making you successful in your role.
Embrace different perspectives
By the time we’ve reached our first job, many of us have traveled a relatively linear and structured path of education throughout our lives. Upon graduation, you’re going to be exposed to a more diverse group of people and ideas than ever before, and many may not fit the world perspective that you’re accustomed to. From IT integration professionals to those focused on higher-level business strategy, it was important to do my best to view the world through the lenses of each person I worked with in order to be successful as a cohesive team.
My advice to all job seekers and recent graduates: Don’t stop being a student. You’re bound to feel overwhelmed at times, but these feelings are fleeting, and it’s imperative to carry the lessons from your earliest working years throughout your career. Even if you wind up in a different industry, chances are you’ll need them.