The ‘fresh graduate’ guide for the first 5 years on the job

Career

This post is the a part of the Education and Career Planning series.

From my 5 year of job experience I came to believe that to shine in career a person need to focus on three major things. They are

  1. Knowledge
  2. Connections (aka networking)
  3. Credibility

These three factors actually need to be used throughout ones career. However the focus should be on one specific area at a given period .

Note that this guide is definitely not a one-size-fits-all one and might not match with everyone’s unique situation. It will however give some broad guidelines. Furthermore, the most important ingredient for career success is hard work. There is no shortcut whatsoever.

Years 0-2: The knowledge gaining years

I like to say that a fresh graduate is a liability to companies in most cases. The reason is that the graduate often has no meaningful work experience (not in all cases), has to be paid and also taught. Therefore the fresh graduate should ideally prioritize knowledge and learning over everything else. For my first job I chose the one with a lower salary because I felt it had more learning opportunities. That decision paid off quite well.

It is quite easy to get lost in trying to decide what exactly to learn. The emphasis should be on one’s area of specialization. A marketing major should thus spend more time studying marketing.

Fresh graduates studying for better career planning

For my first 6 months, I used to spend hours on Amazon trying to find the best books to read. I shortlisted them in excel, read them and rated them. Finally I used to try to apply this knowledge in my job.

Nowadays people don’t have to just rely on books. There is a range of other options available to learn. Check out my presentation called “Knowledge from unconventional sources“. I presented this to students at the NSU Career fair 2013.

Years 3-4: The networking years

Gaining knowledge is great but if other people are not aware of it what is the point? That is exactly why we need to network.

My analysis shows that after 3 years of experience, an employee’s value to the employers go up dramatically. It is at this point that the knowledgeable employee has the bargaining power, specially if he/she gets other job offers.

Networking is a whole big concept by itself and I pretty much try to know as many people as I can. However, the key focus should be around ones specialization. If I am a finance person, I need to mix with other finance people.

Linkedin groups, facebook groups thus come in very handy. Sometimes if you can’t find the right group you have the big opportunity of creating one. For example, I couldn’t find a suitable facebook groups for economics enthusiasts in Bangladesh and thus “Econ Exchange” was born.

Year 5 and beyond: Getting the credibility

Now comes another very important part. We have gathered knowledge and we know a lot of people. For becoming really valuable we must show that we are experts or semi-experts in our fields. This is the time when we should consider

  1. Writing in newspapers,
  2. Opening a personal blog or website
  3. Answering questions on Facebook and Linkedin groups, Quora etc
  4. You might even go the whole way and build up your social media personality in as many platforms as possible

I hope this small attempt of mine was helpful. Feel free to post your questions in the comments section below.

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Effective networking: Swallow your pride

A really smart person I had as a boss once told me that we should ‘network without any shame’. If we need to reach somebody we have to keep on trying and be tenacious until that person bulges. I was too young at that time to realize the value of that statement. Now, after 5 year of job experience I realize that he gave me one of the finest advice that I ever received.

Networking
Freedigitalphotos/cooldesign

When I started networking quite aggressively I realized that many people are not as forthcoming as I would have wanted them to be. Some of them could be downright rude. They will not pick up my calls or reply to my messages and emails. But I really couldn’t afford to stop trying. So usually after a couple of attempts I tried to use some sort of different approach.

The key theme of this post is not to talk about all the fancy techniques used to get a person to take interest or wriggle information out of a person. The main idea is that if we want to network we really need to swallow our pride. There will definitely be people who would completely ignore us. And that’s fine. A person ignoring us will not make us smaller. We would only be ‘stupid’ if we stopped networking just because a few people chose to ignore us.

Finally, the best part comes when the very person who ignored us once later has to come to us for help. Should we give them the same treatment they gave us? Not really. That is the time to show who the greater man is.

P.S. I dedicate this post to Aminul Haque bhai who was a great person and an even better mentor.

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