Deep Thoughts

Welcome To Your Career: Advice For Graduates And Apprentices

It’s that time of year again, when a new generation will start their graduate and apprenticeship placements across the globe.

It’s an exciting time full of opportunity and of course some anxiety around the unknowns that lay ahead, but fear not, as it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in graduate induction programmes for a number companies over the last ten years.

I’ve heard a number of talks given at induction events, talked at length with new colleagues about where to start, what they are looking forward to, what worries them and any words of advice I could impart in those early days.

During this time, I’ve come across some great advice and some not so great advice.

Amongst other snippets of gold in the form of tips from a variety of business leaders and new starters too.

So I decided, what better way to support those who are about to begin their career or take on a new challenge, then to put my knowledge to good use and share my advice, tips and tricks with you — the next generation of graduates, apprentices or just those starting a new career adventure.

It’s good to talk

I know it feels difficult to break the ice with new people.

In the early weeks and many of us are scared to strike up a conversation in case we say the wrong thing, but don’t be afraid to talk to people.

You’ll find that people are very friendly and will love to help you get settled in, just remember that they too will have been in your shoes as a newbie with lots of questions and lots to learn.

So don’t be afraid to talk and make new friends, I think you’d be surprised how welcoming people can be.

Ask questions and lots of them

No one knows everything in this life and as a newbie you’ll have many questions about everything.

The great thing is that no one expects you to know what you’re doing right now, so take this opportunity to asks lots of questions, no matter how stupid you might think they are.

You’ll only learn how everything works by asking and one day you’ll probably find yourself answering those same questions for others too.

Build a great network

Cliched, I know, yet nonetheless a very important part of setting yourself up for success is building a strong network.

Although I don’t always agree with the old saying, it sometimes can be more about who you know than what you know.

A great network can make all the difference in developing your career and skills throughout life. You never know what information or bits of wisdom you might need in the future.

Make sure your network is diverse and full of people that can support your development as you face new challenges.

Give yourself time

Starting any new journey can be exciting and stressful for us all.

We need to appreciate the time it takes to gain an understanding of everything in your new world. No one will expect you to know everything about somewhere you’ve never been before. Be kind to yourself and understand that it will take time for you to get up to speed with everything.

I truly believe it takes about 6 months to get your head around all of the stuff you need to know, even more so in large organisations.

This is where useful tools like a 30,60,90 day plan are really beneficial to utilise, so you can map out what you can do over the first 3 months of your new role to be setup for success.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint — take your time, plan out what you need to do and before you know it, you’ll be an expert.

Have fun

This is by far my most important point to get across.

It’s not the destination but the journey where all the great stuff happens. You’ve done incredibly well to get this far and secure a role with your new company, so take the time to appreciate it.

Life is all about experiences and you’re embarking on an exciting new one with many opportunities ahead.

Don’t take this time for granted, yes work can be serious, yet it can be an amazingly fun experience and one that will shape your life in the years to come.

If I could go back and give my 23 year old self one piece of advice right now, it would be to chill out and have more fun in this journey. This is even more true now and is something I still remind myself to have more of in my career now I’m closer to my 40’s.

Take everything as it comes, enjoy the experience and make sure to have lots of fun.

Some bonus tips from my personal experiences

Get involved in projects or streams of work outside your role

A great way I have found to network, develop my confidence and diversify my skills is to volunteer for opportunities outside of my day to day role.

Whether that’s in my team or across the wider business.

You’ll be presented with many opportunities to be involved with work outside of your norm, so I encourage you to consider it, but make sure it aligns with you, provides a purpose and will allow you to make the impact you desire.

Be known for something, what’s your legacy

The number one thing I say to people in conversations around careers and starting new roles is be known for something.

Once you’ve taken on a new role and understand what your accountable for in the business, think about how you can deliver real impact. In order to deliver impact and bring results, you’ll need to make some big waves and even in the early days.

It’s good to think about what you can be known for in the business.

You could be the person who developed a new system to increase efficiency, the lead on a project that delivered over the above results or even the person who was super supportive and always on hand to help their colleagues.

As you grow in your role through years 2–5, consider what your legacy could be?

When you leave, what will you be known for and what will people say when they hear your name.

It’s always good to be known for something and leave a bit of legacy behind to show you made an impact and left the place better than it was when you began.

Develop micro skills that can benefit others

I’ve always found one way to break the ice in a new team or with new colleagues, is to use my skills in niche areas to support others.

An example of this for me would be with technology. I’m a pretty big tech geek, which means I know most of the random things about using tech that the majority don’t.

I’m by no means an expert and like to think of myself as more tech savvy, however these skills have always come in handy.

If someone in my team needs to understand what the cloud is — I can help with that, need to use a cloud based platform to share documents — I can help with that, how do I use this SharePoint thing — yep me too, how do I make this presentation do animation stuff — hello it’s me again.

The point I’m making is that we all have these micro skills that we use personally, which we can also use to break down walls to connect and help other people.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about technology, presenting/public speaking, drawing or even making origami.

We each have ways of using these skills (which we might think as useless to anyone else but us) to connect with others.

It’s not all about your job description. We have a variety of skills that are outside of this framework which we should develop and can use to help others too.

Enjoy, make memories and have fun

That’s it from me.

I hope this is helpful for anyone that has taken the time to read and have a great time in your new role. You’ll be amazing.

Before you go… 👋

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