This complex plan involved placing top 20 in a uni course to tour a big 4 bank, pestering the poor bankers to let me work for free (DIY internship), and then making the most of my 6 week stint to get recommended to the grad recruitment team (bypassing my ugly grades) and land a dream grad role.
Most importantly though, the lessons I learned during this time put me in the perfect position to excel when I started my grad program. Within a few months, I somehow found myself presenting my strategy to the bank’s executive team and topping my cohort in performance reviews (excuse me while I shamelessly pat my back).
The point is - having a clear idea of how to excel and a plan to achieve this is the best possible way to get a head start to your working life.
Learning the basics, like a boss
Now you’ve started work, it’s time to think like a boss. As a boss, you don’t have time for chit chat, so let’s get straight to it.
We’ve developed our patented Boss Basics as your go-to guide on acing your start to work. It covers six boss categories:
- Mindset & Behaviour: What’s the right attitude and mentality to get ahead?
- Capability & Output: How can you smash your work and projects?
- Brand & Networks: What relationships and reputation should you be building?
- Stakeholder Engagement: What’s the secret to winning over your stakeholders?
- Workload: How do you juggle priorities and pump out your work?
- Direction: How can you drive towards your longer term career objectives?
1. Mindset & Behaviour
- Be a keen(ish) bean. The overly keen grad is a classic stereotype, but being enthusiastic rather than apathetic is always the better choice. Don’t overdo it, but look to bring energy and a positive lens to your work.
- Be humble. Stay grounded and be willing to prove your worth. Accept you don’t know everything and don’t be the grad who thinks they’re too good for certain tasks. No doubt you’re highly intelligent and capable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t roll your sleeves up for a dose of grunt work if needed!
- Be ready to learn. Demonstrate a genuine willingness to learn and actively seek to improve. It’ll get your manager on-side, and be hugely rewarding for both of you when you demonstrate growth.
- Back yourself. Be confident in your ability and assured in your approach (without being arrogant!). Believe in your capabilities and stay calm when faced with work that may seem overwhelming - we both know you’ll get the job done!
Pro tip: Behaviour and ability to learn are often more important factors than pure capability when evaluating grads. No employer is expecting a grad to arrive as a finished product. Read up on the KPIs used for your performance review and take particular note of the ‘behavioural’ metrics - if you can nail these then you’re already on track for a great review!
2. Capability & Output
- Create a plan, Stan. Before diving into a task or project, break down your approach into logical pieces. If you need to draft a document, what are the sections of that document going to say? If you’re asked to do some analysis in a spreadsheet, how will that sheet be structured and what are the rows and columns? Having a plan will do wonders for the quality of your work and ability to communicate it to your team.
- Identify gaps. Figure out what your weaker areas are and identify methods to address these. Don’t be afraid to communicate these areas to your manager. Not only will this prevent any misunderstanding about your capability, but your manager might have some tips and work opportunities for you to improve these areas.
- Train up. Actively seek opportunities to improve your skills, knowledge and experience. This could be both at work (volunteering for certain tasks or projects) or outside of it - such as training courses and general learning. Communicate your desire to skill-up to your manager and team.
Pro tip #1: Seek feedback on your output and performance earlier rather than later. It may not always be a comfortable answer, but better to know what you need to improve when there’s still time to make changes, rather than at the end of your project when the verdict is finalised.
Pro tip #2: If you’re stuck or don’t know how to do something (and even Google hasn’t helped), don’t be afraid to reach out to others! Whether from your manager or colleagues, seeking help is a genuine avenue to learn and not a reflection on your capability.
3. Brand & Network
- Get to know people. It’s an annoying cliche but it often does come down to 'who you know' and not just 'what you know'. Building relationships with your team and broader colleagues not only helps you do your actual work, but is invaluable for future opportunities later down the track.
- Pursue exposure opportunities. Volunteer for or pursue opportunities to work with, present to or generally engage with a broader set of stakeholders outside your day-to-day colleagues. Some of these opportunities may not be in your comfort zone (eg presenting to a large audience) but their value can’t be underestimated. Building your personal brand is ultimately an exercise in good work and marketing!
- Engage mentors. It’s critical to build relationships with peers at your level , and this should never be neglected. But equally, don’t shy away from engaging with more senior leaders and stakeholders. In particular, identifying and engaging a senior stakeholder to be your mentor is hugely valuable - providing advice, direction and coaching that isn’t always offered by your peers.
Pro tip #1: Reach out! Make it a point to catch-up with team members, stakeholders and broader people in your organisation. These can be formal catch-ups regarding your work and goals or more informal ones to get to know your colleagues better - both are important and valuable!
Pro tip #2: Say yes. Exposure opportunities can be varied, such as joining a work committee (eg social, diversity), presenting at a meeting or undertaking a project with new stakeholders. In any case, saying yes to these opportunities never hurts! Just keep your workload in mind and in check.
4. Stakeholder Engagement
- Understand drivers. Every stakeholder has their own motivators, whether it be their official work KPIs or more general motivators. Identifying these drivers is a core part of understanding your stakeholders and ensuring you can engage with them in a productive way.
- Don’t be a robot. Adjust your communication style to suit each stakeholder and situation. Every stakeholder is different, and a big part of stakeholder management is recognising this and adapting accordingly.
- Be clear. Be crystal clear with your stakeholders around things like responsibilities, timelines and expectations. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstanding which is often a key cause of stakeholder conflict.
Pro tip #1: Do your homework. Particularly for important stakeholders, it always pays to do your research on who you’re engaging with. Any intel you can gather on their style, perspective and drivers will help guide your approach. This doesn’t just apply before you meet them either, it’s an ongoing journey of intel!