How to Get the Most Out of Your First Full-Time Job

By Ellevest Team

Starting your first full-time job is really, really exciting. It can also be a little bit — or maybe a lot — intimidating. Everyone else there knows things: where the good bathroom is, where to sit in meetings, what to say to impress the boss. They all seem so … professional. Meanwhile, you’re over here wondering when the awkward’s going to stop.

How to Get the Most Out of Your First Full-Time Job

But they hired you for a reason. You are awesome, and you’ve got this. We want to help you crush it, so we turned to the (also awesome) Ellevest team for some words of wisdom. Here’s our advice for starting out in your first full-time job.

Show ’em how great you are

First up: How to be a Professional Go-Getter. How to make people see fire emojis when they look at your work. How to get ahead in your job. Aka: What they probably didn’t teach you in school.

“Do every job you’re allowed to do in your first role, and ask to do even more (if you can handle it). It builds out more skills and shows initiative.”
— Rachel Sanborn Lawrence, director of advisory services

“Become the go-to person for something — you’ll naturally become that person if you’re super curious about a specific area and are obsessed with learning as much as you can about it. Being that person others come to for answers is one of the best ways to gain visibility and feel valued, especially in your first job. It’s also a good way to get recognized and get more responsibility.”
— Rajesh Jayaraman, chief technology officer

“First: Always be on time. Second: Learn how to communicate with your manager or supervisor. Be honest and balanced about your discussions. Third: Learn as much about the business and company as you can. It’s best to know how all the moving parts work so you can see where any initiative you take can be best spent.”
— James Campbell, senior software engineer

“Ask for book or podcast recommendations from your boss and company leaders. Read and listen to what they're trying to learn about. That way, when the time is right, you’ll have perspective to add to strategic conversations, and your opinion will be informed by materials you know they find relevant.”
— Joanna Curran, director of people operations

Set a path to your $$$

Every time you earn a raise, Future You feels a little more financially secure. And the raises you earn now set the stage for the raises you’ll get in the future. But to negotiate a raise effectively, you have to put in the work to earn it first.

“Take time to understand the priorities of your company and team. Perfection meant a lot in school, but delivery means more on the job.”
— Monica Gallegos, senior software engineer

“Write down all of your accomplishments and continue to do that; it will help during performance reviews, resume building, and you’ll be able to see how much you’ve done!”
— Lia Skalkos, senior software engineer

“Set up time to shadow your superiors and try to take little tasks off their hands. It shows initiative, you learn a ton, and you’re more likely to get greater responsibilities and promotions more quickly.”
— Jennifer Dobak, software engineer

“Doing excellent work is important for getting that raise or promotion, but it’s not the only thing. You and your manager have to agree upon what ‘excellent’ is, and your manager has to believe that the things you’re doing excellently are the right things to get you to the next level. So don’t be shy about asking what it will take to get you to that next level. And then don’t be shy about asking whether you’re meeting those standards.”
— Julie Ross Godar, editor in chief

Teach yourself things! I am 100% self-taught.

“Teach yourself things! I am 100% self-taught.”
— Hana Elhattab, senior data scientist

Networking. It’s a skill.

One of CEO Sallie Krawcheck’s go-to pieces of advice is “Network, network, network, network, network.” And she’s right.

“Networking doesn’t mean adding someone on LinkedIn. ‘Networking’ works best when you make genuine human relationships, and get people invested in your growth and story. I would be absolutely nowhere without the people who have helped me along the way.”
— Hana Elhattab, senior data scientist

“Develop and nourish your professional relationships from day one. These relationships could help you in three, ten, or 20 years.”
— Stephenie Girard, executive coach

“Make friends and acquaintances, but never enemies. You’re not going to like everyone, and that’s fine. You can still work well with people you don’t personally gel with.”
— James Campbell, senior software engineer

PS: Here are some networking tips to get you started.

Put your money to work, too

Your first adulting job probably also means your first adulting salary. Which means you are probably jumping feet-first into the world of managing your money. Good news — good habits can start now.

“I wish I’d learned that ‘salaried, full-time job’ doesn't give me permission to spend like crazy. Learning to simply live within my means was huge when I got my first full-time job. I really wished that I’d learned how to create a budget (and follow it) much sooner, pre-credit card debt.”
— Kaitlyn Manlove, QA engineer manager

“Don’t do what I did, which is pay no attention to whether they offer a 401(k) match. (Take advantage of it!)”
— Lia Skalkos, senior software engineer

Another one coming your way: Here are the money moves we recommend for new college grads.

Self-care is key

Part of financial self-care is career self-care. Because work and professional relationships are emotionally complex, and they will take a toll on you. And you can’t be your best at work if you don’t make space for your own wellness.

“Make a cheesy folder in your inbox called ‘Happy.’ Keep every happy email that makes you smile (great feedback from your boss, joy from a client, etc). This will mean a ton to you on your rougher days.”
— Kaitlyn Manlove, QA engineer manager

“If there’s more work than you can do in a day, ask your manager to help you prioritize and troubleshoot. If you didn’t understand something you’ve been asked to do, ask for clarification. Trust me, your manager would rather spend a few minutes helping you out before you get totally overwhelmed or waste a lot of time trying to puzzle something out yourself. So don’t be shy about asking!”
— Julie Ross Godar, executive director of brand marketing

“Balance drive and ambition with patience and gratitude.”
— Stephenie Girard, executive coach

“Don’t take things too personally. You’re going to spend a lot of time, daily, around a lot of new people, each with their own personalities and ways of doing things.”
— James Campbell, senior software engineer

“Take more risks. If you fail, you have plenty of time to recover.”
— Peter Yuen, director of investments for Ellevest Digital

Don’t martyr yourself.

“Working hard is good, and going above and beyond — when it’s warranted — is good, too. But don’t martyr yourself. Resist the urge to work on nights and weekends just to ‘get ahead.’ Don’t sacrifice your mental health just to show them how hardworking you can be. That’s how you burn yourself out. Instead, communicate and prioritize with your manager. Hard work is an action; time management is a skill.”
— Deedi Brown, financial writer

We hope this helps. Now get out there and slay — and remember us when you’re CEO of the world.


© 2019 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All opinions and views expressed by Ellevest are current as of the date of this writing, for informational purposes only, and do not constitute or imply an endorsement of any third party’s products or services.

The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice.

The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person.

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