5 things I wish I knew when I graduated

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Congratulations! You have graduated and are about to start your professional life. Let me share with you some of the lessons I have learned since joining the Young Hub, TriFinance’s graduates program. That was five years ago, and I recently celebrated that wooden anniversary.

1. It’s all about growth – Don’t settle into a first job

When you graduate, it’s difficult to pinpoint what you actually want to do. Already after a couple of months, it may become clear that your current job doesn’t really offer what you aspire to. Or you may quickly realize that your growth is stagnating. Don’t wait for others to determine your future: take your growth into your own hands.

Many people don’t really know what they want to do, so they settle into their first job and start making excuses and promises. However, it can be very beneficial to look back at what you have achieved, at what you liked and what you disliked. This introspection can reveal what gives you energy or drains your energy. Once you have discovered this, you can take action and find a new challenge where you can continue to grow.

2. Find a mentor

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. A career is not a sprint, but a marathon.”

A mentor is someone who supports you in your personal growth. They share their experience, insights, and network with you and can really kick-start your career. How to find a mentor? Look around you, find someone you look up to or someone whose career path, skill set or attitude you want to pursue, and just ask them to provide feedback.

Mentoring is a focus point for TriFinance. Every consultant is assigned a mentor to support them and their project. For me, this has proven to be very valuable. My mentor offered me a different perspective or a helicopter view when I myself or my project got blocked; he acted as a soundboard when I had to make decisions.

3. Don’t feel too good for the dirty work

Some graduates expect to start as a senior associate or set out the company’s strategy. To get there, however, you will first have to develop your experience, network and knowledge and show your abilities.

If you aspire a job for which you’re not qualified or experienced enough yet, try adding elements of the desired job to your current one. This demonstrates your motivation and skills, while in the meantime you’re gaining experience. I started at reconciliation in a project comparing two data sources. This basic task gave me insights into my strengths and weaknesses, into what I like to do (and don’t) and into what it’s like to work in a professional project team. This also allowed me to look further than my day-to-day job and to grow as a professional.

4. Be proactive but patient

In every job, but especially your first one, you should try to take initiatives and deliver the one-thing-more. Something that your team leader or colleagues don’t expect. After a while, more opportunities will come your way. Try to say ‘yes’ to many new things. By being proactive, you’ll be in pole position for new challenges.

However, be patient and don’t try to rush things. There are no shortcuts in the process. Sometimes you need to spend time working on the basics in order to build the experience that will help you later in your career.

5. View your colleagues as co-workers instead of competitors

Some organizations encourage or even organize internal competition. A classic example is the personal sales objectives. Or sometimes knowledge ís power that helps you forward, which incites everyone not to share knowledge. This leads to many missed opportunities for learning from your colleagues.

Try to be open and learn from others. Consider your colleagues as co-workers who all have the same goals. A famous quote in the start-up world says “always pay it forward”, in other words, pay other people without expecting something in return. Most of the times, nothing will be returned, but every once in a while the return will be much higher than you ever expected.

So, these are my five ‘wooden’ tips for starting your career. Make it happen. Good luck and fair winds!

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