You’re done with college and you’re also done with all those part-time jobs slinging fries or ringing up shoe sales. With your degree framed and on the wall, you now have your first real job. Now it’s time to figure out how to become the company rock star who lands a promotion and a raise. Let’s face it, the entry-level salary won’t cut it for long when you have student loans to pay.
But you can quickly move past “Starbucks-fetcher” and photocopy-jockey to a position with real responsibilities (and benefits) by following these tips. Best of all, you don’t have to give up your social life or even those weekend Netflix marathons – you can find career success lessons by watching your favorite TV shows.
Dress the Part
Jessica Pearson from “Suits” provides the perfect example of dressing for success in the business world. Her clothes are professional and sexy, yet appropriate for the office. While her clothes fit the salary of a high-powered attorney, you can get a similar look by shopping smart at discount stores and outlets.
What you do, say, and even how you walk in that awesome outfit matters even more than your clothes. You’ll set high expectations – and advance rapidly – when you start the first day out right. Show up on time, with a smile on your face, and introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either.
Before you go home (a little bit after your scheduled day ends), send thank you emails to everyone who helped you throughout the day. Make sure to spell words properly and don’t rely on text-friendly abbreviations. There will be plenty of time for LOLs and emoticons after you and your co-workers get to know each other.
Create Systems That Work for You
Corporate life gets chaotic, which can throw some of us into a Sheldon Cooper-like meltdown. While you don’t want to emulate his social skills, you may find your days a bit calmer and more productive if you can adopt his habit of creating orderly systems.
If you think of work as a community, where everyone seeks to help one another, you’ll quickly prove yourself invaluable to the team. If you view your manager as someone who can boss you around, you’re likely to get your job done in order to keep your job. But if you start viewing your manager as someone you are there to help, rewards await.
“It’s a lot more fun and infinitely more rewarding to help than to comply,” Hubspot Founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah said.
To do this in your first week, when you’re still figuring things out, choose a few small tasks that you can complete in a remarkable way for your boss. Forbes contributor Erika Anderson recommends looking for “early wins with others.” This will also boost your confidence level early on and position you as a team player, a valuable trait in the corporate workplace.
Make Friends at Work
It’s much easier to be a team player when you’re friends with those on your team. Say “yes” to happy hour invites, eat lunch in the cafeteria if that’s where everyone else spends their breaks, and jump in with an opinion during water cooler conversations. With every on-the-job friend you make, you’re building your personal network while enhancing your odds for career advancement.
Make Time to See Your Non-Work Friends Too
When you’re hanging with your work pals, conversation inevitably turns to work. That’s one reason it’s so important to maintain a real-life social network beyond your office and co-workers. Avoid burn-out and decompress so you’ll be able to handle it when work-related stress hits.
Follow the Most Successful People in Your Company
If you’re arriving early, leaving late, and making an effort to make friends at work, it won’t take long for you to spot the company superstars. Don’t be shy about emulating them, asking questions and maybe even positioning yourself to work on their team for a project.
As Nick from the TV show “Grimm” reminds us through his actions – and extensive book collection — knowledge is power. In a new job, you can gain some of that knowledge from the company’s current superstars.
Social-savvy + Skills = Success
Success at work is much about social-savvy as it is about skill. In the real working world, just as on the silver screen, a balance of organization and chaos, study, and play, leads to top ratings.
About the Author: Sarah Pike has her MA in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication. She has experience in teaching, PR, marketing, and politics. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs, volunteering, or planning her next vacation. You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.