Here’s What 22-Year-Olds Need to Know About Their First Job
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What advice would you give your 22-year-old self today?” is written by Ashley Goldsmith, chief human resource officer at Workday.
One of my favorite quotes has always been, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s something I’ve been able to relate to throughout my career, from my first job at Home Depot (HD) to my current role as CHRO at Workday. And it’s something that every 20-something should understand. Companies today are really excited about the energy and ideas that this next generation brings to the table. But it’s up to these young professionals to seize the opportunity and make the most of it. Here’s my best advice for millennials seeking success:
Gain credibility early on
Making a good first impression is important, and especially crucial when you’re first starting out. Jump in and roll up your sleeves — regardless of whether it’s part of your job description. You’ll get noticed for stepping up, and others will know they can count on you to deliver. Reliability can also go a long way in building credibility. If you say you’ll keep something in confidence, put it in the vault, and throw away the key; if you say you’re going to call someone back, do it. Mastering these skills will earn you trust and establish a work ethic you’ll carry with you to your next role.
Study your environment
In my first job at Home Depot, I paid close attention to what other people did in the workplace. I noticed that there are so many nuances at work – from office norms and behavior in meetings to how colleagues communicate when questioned or challenged. These experiences aren’t taught in school, so learning to navigate these situations early on will help you adapt to the company culture and be more effective. Asking for feedback is also a way to help you acclimate to a new work environment. Knowing what’s working and what’s not will help you improve yourself for future opportunities.
Confidence is something that typically builds over time as you start to get positive feedback about your work, but you have to start somewhere. If you speak with authority and have the facts to back up what you’re saying, people will listen. Take the time to learn your industry and prepare ahead of meetings. Stay on top of the latest company news and industry headlines so if you get two minutes in the elevator with the CEO, you can say something intelligent and memorable.
Embrace new opportunities
When I first started working, I was placed in several roles at Home Depot that I felt were beyond my scope of experience, but in the end I succeeded. When people are given an opportunity, most of the time they’ll rise to the occasion. It pays to take risks early on, so don’t be afraid to apply for a job that may be a stretch for you, take on a new project, or embrace a role in a different department — a lateral move can be just as developmental as a promotion. It’s also very rare that someone is 100% ready to take on a new role or responsibility, so don’t be scared to take a leap into unknown waters. If you do your best to prepare and master it, the odds are you won’t fail.
Find your passion
Sometimes it takes a while to find a role and a company culture that taps into your passions. In my early 20’s, I didn’t initially look at my career as something that would be one of the best parts of my life, but today it’s an integral part of who I am and how I contribute to those around me. Family will always come first, but work can be a special part of your life as well. If you find yourself in a position where your job doesn’t quite suit your personality and personal goals, it may be time to switch careers.