Guest Post by Kristen from The Sophisticated Gal
It feels like not long ago I was going to one of my Advertising courses in college, spending countless hours on our final project that determined my grade in the class and if I would graduate. Fast forward three years and here I am settling into my career, looking back on the lessons I’ve learned since starting my “big girl” job in the real world.
Since I started my career, I have learned so much about what it means to have a job in the “real world”. When you’re in college, they don’t really teach you what it is like to work in the corporate world. Most of that knowledge I learned through my first real-world job and continue to learn more about every day.
Here are the 5 tips I would’ve given to myself when I started my career and what I’d like to share with you to help you with your journey into the real world.
#1 Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate Your Salary
When I was in college, I definitely had this idea in my head that once I graduated I would be making so much money. While there are definitely some professions that make more money than others, most entry-level positions have a lower starting salary. My first job out of college, I was just grateful to have a full-time position lined up but the salary was very low. At the time, I was too scared to negotiate my salary – I thought, why would they want to give me more money?! I just graduated and don’t have much “real world” experience.
The truth is, we all are bringing something unique to the table and we all have valuable skills that are worth it. There is a reason that this company wanted to hire you, so don’t be afraid to ask for more money. Take some time to do some research on what other people make in your industry and state to get a gauge of what you should ask for. You can use sites like Glassdoor, Monster and more.
#2 Invest in a Professional Wardrobe
This is something that I’ve learned recently in my career and have started investing money into. Having professional pieces in your wardrobe like blazers, dress pants and dresses is so important. There are events that you may need to go to last minute or client meetings where you need to dress more professionally, so it’s important to have some go-to pieces in your wardrobe for when these pop-up.
These pieces should also be versatile and good quality, so they last a long time and you can wear them in multiple different ways. Some of my favorite pieces that I always have in my wardrobe are:
- Blazers (I have a few because I LOVE blazers and they are also so easy to instantly make any outfit look more professional)
#3 Network, Network, Network
I cannot stress how important networking is and talk about the pros of having a mentor frequently on my blog. My mentors have helped me so much in my career and I am so grateful to have mentors that I can go to because they can be hard to find.
I have found my mentors through networking and through my jobs. Networking is such a dreaded activity that many absolutely despise doing, but you never know whom you will meet and how they will help shape your career.
#4 Use Your Voice and Speak Up
I know what you’re thinking…why would I want to speak up when I’m just starting my job? Why would they want to hear MY opinion? THEY DO! Believe me, I was so scared of sharing my opinions when I first started. I would tell myself that I didn’t know enough about the industry to speak up, but it is something that we all shouldn’t be so scared of.
If you think that you have a good idea or have something that you think could help improve the process, don’t be afraid to bring it up! The worst thing that will happen is that they say no, but most of the time – your opinion will be valued and they could end up using your suggestion. Plus, when you start speaking up and using your voice, you will likely find that your peers will respect you more and will come back to ask you more questions in the future.
Speaking up could help you stand out in your entry-level job, so don’t be afraid to use your voice.
#5 It’s Okay to Not Have It All Figured Out
If someone had told me back in college that I would be working on websites and becoming a Technical Product Manager, I probably would’ve laughed. The truth is when I graduated college I had NO idea what I wanted to do. I graduated with an Advertising degree and definitely liked advertising a lot but I had no idea where my career would take me. It’s totally OK not to have everything figured out when you graduate and even in your career. Over time, you will find what you like to do and what you don’t like to do. You’ll also figure out what you value most in a job and at a company, so eventually, you will find the right fit for you. Just trust that you’re not the only one who doesn’t have it all figured out and know that you are figuring it out as you go.
So there you have it, the five things I would have told myself when I first started my career. We have all been in those shoes and truth be told – I’m still figuring it all out. You will find what you like to do and remember that your career is a journey, not a destination – so just enjoy the ride.
What are some of the lessons you learned early on in your career or are learning now?
Kristen Stasko is the blogger behind The Sophisticated Gal and a résumé expert. Her mission is to help other millennials find their way in the real world and encourage others to follow their dreams. Whether that is through her various career advice topics on her blog or providing résumé expertise through her Etsy shop, she enjoys helping others feel more confident in their professional lives. In her free time, she loves practicing yoga and going on hikes. Follow her adventures on Instagram.