Millennials in the Workplace, Career Advancement, Work Experience, Soft Skills, First Job
CAREER / 14 December 2016
5 Mistakes Young Professionals Make At Their First Job
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Hannah Son
Content Writer
Redondo Beach

Summer is almost here which means college seniors across the nation have since turned their tassels from right to left marking their first step into adulthood. College grads, allow me to welcome you to the real world. 

As someone who has successfully transitioned from college student to being a young professional, I can attest that all is well on the other side. I can’t promise you there won’t be a few roadblocks. Your college BFF may move across the country. You’ll find out apartment hunting isn’t nearly as glamorous as the reality TV shows will have you think. You’ll trade picnics on the Quad with your sorority sisters for a 9-to-5, laptop, and a desk. 

There is a lot you have to learn and get used to especially at your first job! I meet and speak with many young professionals and have noted a few mistakes we tend to make along the way. Many of us mean well, but lack of know-how prevents us from moving our careers forward

Without further ado, here are five mistakes young professionals make at their first job: 

1. You didn’t negotiate your salary.

In the wise words of every millennials’ fictional friend Scooby-Doo, “RUH ROH!” 

Often times, recent graduates feel they cannot negotiate their first salary. They think because they are a freshly minted college graduate, they cannot ask for more. When I came out of college, I had multiple internships and work experience under my belt. Guess what? That counts. Because of my internships and work experience, I quickly learned my company’s tools and software. Even more, I brought fresh ideas from my previous experiences.

Money matters and what you make right out of college can determine your subsequent salaries. Learn how to negotiate early so you’re not paying for it later! 

2. You don’t speak up at meetings.

When you first arrive at your company, it’s best you do more listening than talking. Learn the company’s accomplishments, goals, and key people. Once you feel familiar with the company, seek out ways you can contribute.

One common problem I see among recent graduates is that they choose to remain quiet at work. Unlike a professor who checks up on you each week; a supervisor, co-worker, or even your CEO may not have the time to ask you what’s going on in your world. You must be willing to put yourself out there.

I’ve watched young professionals be silent during team meetings. Sadly, when you begin like that, the thought everyone has about you is “She has nothing to contribute.” I’ve found that many of my fellow young professionals are smart, savvy, and creative but they allow insecurity or lack of know-how to hold them back from participating in the conversation. Chances are if you were hired, they want to hear from you so speak up! If speaking up is too difficult, try reading this post about the power of harnessing your inner introvert! 

3. You dress inappropriately. 

I once did an internship at a company that was in the post-startup phase. Because the office was business casual, I noticed some interns showed up in, well, um, some very casual attire. I saw everything from short-shorts to flip-flops. While this attire is okay for the beach, it’s not appropriate in an office environment. As a professional, you’re expected to dress in a manner that best represents your company. 

My current company is business casual but because my role is public-facing, I make a point to dress the part. Too often, I’ve stepped out for lunch only to run into a client or someone we’re thinking of doing a partnership with. You don’t want to turn someone off or have them question your professionalism because you still haven’t learned that a tank top may be better suited for the weekend, not a board meeting. 

4. You stop learning.

College may be over but learning never goes out of style. Since I’ve started working, I’ve picked up so many new skills and tools that I never learned as a student. If your company offers free Excel training or graphic design workshops, take them! 

Now more than ever, it’s important to be teachable and to continuously build your skills set. The job market is becoming increasingly competitive. I work in public relations, but I know it’s not enough to just be a “PR Pro.” What does that even mean? 

Do you know SEO? Google Analytics? Growth hacking? Can you create an interesting branded photo for Instagram? 

These are all skills that can easily be learned and help you bring more value to your company. Even if your company doesn’t offer training, take it upon yourself to join local organizations or online classes that will help you develop your skillset. 

5. You have no life outside of work.

I hear from so many millennials who don’t have much of a social life besides work. They wake up, go to work, return home, eat, and sleep. This is unproductive for both your mental health and career.

Having friends outside of the office will refresh you for the work week. In addition, in this job market, nothing is guaranteed. Layoffs can and do happen. This is why I always encourage young professionals to go out and meet people. Do you have a network outside of work that you can lean on? Do you have people who can help you get to your next opportunity? 

Just recently, I joined a public speaking group. I met a mentor through the group who has since connected me to a number of different people and events in my new city. If I never made any effort outside of my office to meet people, I’d only know my colleagues! Sometimes the best opportunities come outside of the office. 

Whether you’re a college student, recent graduate, or working young professional, I wish you well. We’re all just trying to make it out here.

Your turn! What’s one mistake you see young professionals make on their first job? 

Maryann Akinboyewa is a freelance writer, social media strategist, and full-time publicist. She’s passionate about helping women and millennials be awesome at work. Maybe she can help you too? Say hello over at @himaryann.