Make us your home page
Instagram

Just graduated, and fumbling through a first job

Tara Goodfellow shudders when she remembers how she acted at her first job out of college. She once chased a 50-year-old colleague up the stairs to get to their boss first to explain her side of a story. She impulsively quit her job over the phone.

Now 38 and a career coach in Charlotte, N.C., here's what she wishes her 21-year-old self had known: "How to manage my expectations, learn about office politics and realize that perhaps I didn't know it all at 21."

Nowadays, many companies operate with fewer employees and tighter budgets than ever before, so there's not as much willingness — or time — to let novices come up to speed gradually. Rapid technological changes mean that some employees are much more computer-savvy but also that ideas of etiquette — what's the problem with engaging in a conversation and rapidly texting at the same time? — may differ widely.

One of the big problems for new employees is that they don't know what they don't know, especially when it comes to soft skills — like working with people and being self-motivated — as opposed to hard skills, like knowing how to code.

Experts believe newbies need to think in even more basic terms, such as old-fashioned manners, grooming and communication.

Garry Polmateer, 35, a co-founder of a company that designs custom applications, said that in his first job, he wished he had understood the importance of dressing professionally, or at least ironing out the wrinkles.

"I used to wear cargo pants and rumpled golf shirts," he said. "Sure, I was a broke, postcollege student and thought spending money on clothes was ridiculous, but looking back, buying nice clothes is an investment to help get you ahead in the workplace." Vicky Oliver, a job interview consultant and author of numerous career development books, agreed that dress codes are ''a sign of respect for the place. If you're violating them, you're saying, 'I don't respect the culture.' "

One of the most common mistakes workers make at their first job, Oliver said, is to appear entitled, especially if they think they're overqualified.

Say you end up as an assistant manager at a shoe store in the mall — not the career you planned for when you graduated with a bachelor's in marketing. Nonetheless, "learn about this company's marketing and advertising. During the downtime, ask about floor design, customer satisfaction metrics or employee retention. Show your supervisor that you're interested in the business," Oliver suggested.

Timothy R. Yee graduated with honors from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley and landed a prestigious job at a major bank's management training program in Hong Kong. "Someone told me to spend six months getting the lay of the land," he said. "I didn't. The way they were doing work was obviously wrong, and I was going to tell them."

A year later, he was back home. Without a job.

Just graduated, and fumbling through a first job 05/09/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 11, 2014 7:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Expanded Belle Parc RV Resort lures travelers with plenty of amenities

    Business

    BROOKSVILLE — Imagine mid-mansion, upscale-enclave living. On wheels. The outcome is Belle Parc, an upwardly mobile, even luxury, RV retreat just north of Brooksville that opened Jan. 1 after two years undergoing expansion, uplift and amenity enrichment.

    A new welcome center is under construction, rear, at Belle Parc RV Resort, where lake sites are being completed, bringing the resort's capacity to 275 spacious park-and-stay slots.
 [Photo by Beth N. Gray]
  2. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls

    Retail

    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
[JUSTINE GRIFFIN | Times]
  3. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business

    Corporate

    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  4. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts

    Business

    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  5. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times