You’ve put in the work and finally earned your LIS, MLIS or other information management degree. Congratulations! You’re ready to put that degree to good use and start your first job.
Following are 10 tips to help you succeed at your first job and, hopefully, turn it into a long-lasting career.
- Know yourself
Do you work better alone or with others? Do interruptions irritate you? Can you handle multiple things at once? Are you organized? Your qualities and personality play a big part in what career you should pursue. If you’re disorganized and bad at time management, you probably don’t want a job that requires either of those skills. Be honest about what you do and don’t want, and then find the job that embraces those qualities.
- Determine your end game
Just as important as knowing your strengths and weaknesses is knowing your long-term goals. Would you like to be a supervisor or manager one day? Maybe you have a long-term dream of being an entrepreneur. Whatever your end game is, research the training, experience and skills you’ll need. Then take that first step on the career path that will help you reach that goal.
- Ask questions during the interview
You’ve landed the interview for the job that fits your skill set. You feel it’s the right opportunity that will give you experience you need to reach your career goal. But how do you know the company is a good fit for you? When it’s your turn to ask the interviewer questions, be prepared. Inquire how the company recognizes employee accomplishments, where the organization sees itself in five years, and what metrics are used to measure employee success. What kinds of goals should you set and accomplish in the first 30, 60 and 90 days? These are just a few questions that will give you more insights and the information you need to make a decision. They also show you have done your research and convey to the interviewer that you would be an asset to the company.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Negotiation isn’t a bad word. Just because this is your first job, don’t feel that you have to be satisfied with the first offer. Unless it’s been made clear from the start that the salary is non-negotiable, you can always counter-offer for more. If they won’t budge on salary, you may be able to negotiate benefits or perks. The worst they can do is say no, and as long as you are reasonable, the process will show you have the ability to negotiate, another valuable skill.
- Network, network, network
Yes, it is worth repeating: Networking is very important. Whether you’re a recent college graduate or you’ve been on the job for 20+ years, collaboration and relationship-building in your industry are how you gain job knowledge, future opportunities and an insider lead and reference if you decide to search for a better job or go down a different career path. But, just as important as networking is…
- Don’t burn bridges
As mentioned above, anyone you meet may know someone looking to fill a position you want and could put in the good word on your behalf. Even more, they could be your future boss! You don’t want a negative reputation clouding your chances of moving up, so treat every person you meet with respect and consideration.
- Continue learning
Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you stop learning! Whether you return to school to earn an advanced degree, take classes to learn new skills you’ll need for a different career path or a higher position, or simply ask questions of your boss and colleagues to make sure you’re on the right track, never stop learning.
- Push yourself
Average effort brings average results. Average results means you’re more likely to be overlooked for a promotion. Pushing yourself and working out of your comfort zone shows you’re willing to learn (see #7) and put in the extra effort. Don’t mistake pushing yourself for overworking yourself, though. Overworking can lead to burnout, which you don’t want.
- Be professional at all times
This seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many employees slack on professionalism, especially in work environments that are increasingly casual and flexible. That includes dressing appropriately, arriving on-time or early, and never gossiping or bad-mouthing coworkers or managers. If you do have a problem with a coworker, bring it up to him or her with an attitude of working it out together. If that doesn’t work and the problem continues, go to management or Human Resources and follow the organization’s guidelines to pursue a formal complaint.
- Stay positive
Every job has bad days. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before or you’re stressed out. You won’t always feel like collaborating on a project or even being around anyone. That’s normal. However, if you are always bad-mouthing everyone around you, constantly complaining or just being negative, you will not last long at that job. Try to find ways to manage stress and stay positive at work, and it will take you far.
View other first job and job search questions before starting your first job search.
And start your hunt on our online job board, dedicated to positions for people with LIS training and experience.