How to Find Success at Your First Job

Achieving Goals, Career Enrichment, Confidence
12/04/19 - Shari Santoriello
find success at your first job

Adulting is hard, we all know that. There are so many new responsibilities to deal with; one of them is your “first” job. Most firsts can be scary, but one of the scariest is starting your first professional job, not the one when you are 13 years old babysitting or 16 working at the local store; this is the one that is the beginning of your career, and you don’t want to mess it up. Here are some tips that I love to help you find success at your first job and feel like a rockstar (and an adult) while doing it! 

This is not the end game.

A very important thing to understand is that this first job is probably not going to be your final destination. Ask around, you will find out that many people’s career paths looks a bit like a meandering path, and not a straight line. Take your time to get comfortable with the foundational pieces, learn how business gets done (the good, the bad and the ugly), how organizations work. Find what things make you feel accomplished and what makes people and organizations successful. 

Bottom line: This first job provides you the opportunity to learn, grow and make changes.

Watch Your Attitude.

An easy way to do this is to set realistic expectations about what your new job is. You are not likely to get promoted in a week and be given a significant bonus by the end of the first three months. You will need to earn trust from colleagues and supervisors before getting new and more responsibility. Chances are you do not want to be seen as an employee who unrealistically expects too much too soon and can be perceived as thinking they know more than seasoned employees (no matter their level). These unrealistic expectations often can be read as arrogant or condescending. You want to be seen and heard in a positive way.

Bottom Line: Know you will need to put your time in, with a smile, as very few people start at the top.

Positive Energy is Important.

Wouldn’t you rather work with someone who smiles and says a cheery “good morning” than a cranky, office complainer? Your new co-workers probably will too. Positivity begets positivity. Seek out the co-workers who are happy, successful and add value. Work as part of a team and treat others respectfully. Be sure to let others shine when it is appropriate, but it’s okay to ensure that your supervisor is aware of your contributions and accomplishments too! (Best time and place to do this is in a scheduled check-in or one-on-one meeting.) Avoid the slackers and gossipers; their negative energy can be infectious and create a toxic environment, one that you don’t want to be a part of.

Bottom Line: Approaching your new job with enthusiasm and positivity goes a long way to building credibility with your new co-workers.

Find a Mentor.

Does the organization have a mentoring program? Become a part of it. If they don’t, seek out a mentor within the organization on your own. Try to identify someone who you feel comfortable with, who feels like they align with your own vibe and may be able to help you shape and achieve your goals. Ask a lot of questions about day-to-day tasks, company mission, strategies, overall goals, skills needed and continued education. Listen. Listen. Then listen some more!

Bottom Line: Make a connection, ask questions, stop talking and listen.

Begin to Develop a Professional & Personal Workplan.

Since this job isn’t likely your destiny, you should begin to set some short and long-term goals. Think about the things that make you feel satisfied at work and the things that you don’t prefer. Work to figure out why. Does this feel right to you? Are the things that you’re doing supporting your personal passions and values? If not, what can you do to help them align? When you fantasize about the future, what does your professional life look like? What steps can you take to get there? Begin to formulate a list of skills you need to gain and experiences that you feel will be valuable to advance your career. Remember to always keep you resume and business social media profiles updated, like LinkedIn, Indeed and Zip Recruiter.

Bottom Line: Prepare for your own growth, professionally and personally.

Keep Learning.

It is very important to keep building a strong knowledge base. Learning helps keep you relevant and able to adapt to changing work environments. It helps you work toward achievable goals. You can add value to your professional offerings. There are so many ways to keep gaining skills, experience and develop professionally. You can take a short course, attend a seminar or a training. Good, affordable online options include Coursera, FutureLearn, Udemy and Udacity. Add reading books that inspire best business practices to your “to do” list (check out this cool list of must-reads). Stay on top of current events so you understand what is happening in the world and on a more local level how that can impact you. And just as important is to learn how to have fun, practice self-care, figure out what makes you feel good and work to fuel those feelings. 

Bottom Line: Be willing to continue to learn; be a perpetual student. 


We’ve all been told how important networking is, but networking done right creates connections and relationships. Find out where your opportunities are for connections. Join a networking group or trade association. Take advantage of in-house benefits that your organization offers, like office-sponsored sports teams, volunteer opportunities, special interest committee work. Does your community have a chamber of commerce, a rotary club? Join them and raise your hand for a leadership role and to be involved with what you enjoy doing. Don’t forget to join relevant social media groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Find a volunteer opportunity to meet up with people who share your same interests and passions. Don’t forget some of your greatest connections are your co-workers. Learn who are like-minded colleagues and befriend them.

Bottom Line: By building strong relationships and connections, you can be viewed in a positive way as someone who cares about the things they value.

Give Updates and Ask for Feedback.

No one likes being left in the dark, especially your colleagues and boss(es). Provide weekly reports to those who you are working with. This illustrates what you are doing and shows that you are contributing to the overall objective. Be sure to toot your own horn when it is warranted. Don’t be fearful to ask questions for clarity but do make an effort to find the solution first. Ask for feedback from your co-workers and boss(es) periodically. Learning what you could improve on along with what was seen as an accomplishment helps to inform how you will work In the future. Once you have this information, making adjustments communicates your integrity and dedication.

Bottom Line: People don’t know what you don’t tell them, and you can’t mind read what people want from you.

Review Your Social Media & Build a Digital Footprint.

In our digital age, your social media is a go-to place for potential employers and connections to explore to get a glimpse into who you are. Look at your social media from an objective perspective. What kind of picture does your page, tweets, posts, likes and tags say about you? Are you creating an accurate portrayal of how you wish people would see you? Does your social media highlight your values, skills and interests, or does it say that you are offensive, you party too hard and dress inappropriately?

Your social media accounts should all paint the same picture, no matter if it is  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others. Any social media account you think is private, is not always, and it can and likely will be viewed. Ensure they are all cohesive and make you look like a responsible and respectable adult. Remember to think before you post. LinkedIn can be one of your most powerful tools as a business profession; be sure you are making the most out of it. Conversely, no digital footprint also speaks volumes to how you will behave and communicate in the digital world. 

Bottom Line: Be sure you have the right presence on your social media accounts.

Move On.

Don’t feel tethered to your first job just because it is the first job. If you feel uncomfortable or unfulfilled, begin to think about what your next steps are. What have you learned about yourself? Start to build lists of skills you want to be using, an environment you’d like to work in and an industry that piques your interest. Identify what are your non-negotiables, things that you absolutely won’t compromise on in your next step, and why they are non-negotiable. What things are more flexible? Work on putting that narrative together.

Bottom Line: Be satisfied, accomplished and happy, or look for a new job.

Keep in Touch.

You worked hard to build those relationships; do your best to stay in touch with those connections. People will feel more invested in you if they feel you are investing in them. Keep them involved as your career develops.

Bottom Line: Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

Here are some final tips to help you find success in your first job!

  • Dress appropriately (look around to find out what that means at your organization, or ask someone)
  • Eat lunch with a colleague
  • Ask about creating a more personal space by bringing in things that are familiar and non-distracting
  • Do your job well and with pride
  • Set up routines for yourself that will work within the organizational structure
  • Be on time
  • Manners matter
  • Be accountable for your actions
  • Have fun

Welcome to adulthood. We’re happy you’re here! 

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