March 17, 2016

Four Tips for Becoming a Trailblazer at Your First Job


For four (maybe five – okay, six?) years, you’ve dreamed of walking across the stage at graduation, mom and dad snapping pictures, a diploma fresh in hand – that tiny piece of paper telling the world you’ve been stamped for approval by the Academy.

And now you’ve done it. You’re off the stage and onto the next step of adulthood. Within a few months, you’ll (hopefully) start your first job. Nervous though you may be, you’re likely determined to do well.

But, we get it. You’re new the real world. You’re not entirely sure how to do well. You’ve never had a career. No fear: Bill Peppler, managing partner at IT and tech staffing agency Kavaliro, has kindly offered his advice on how you can have an impact on your new organization and make your mark from day one.

1. Start During the Interview Process

If you want to be a trailblazer – that is, the kind of new employee who dives headfirst into things and keeps their eye on success at all times – you first have to find a job that is the right fit for both you and your employer. If you’re introverted and the job requires extensive people-to-people interaction and high energy, you’re not setting yourself up to do your best work.

During the application and interview process, you have to pay attention to your prospective employer’s culture and think about whether or not it’s the right place for you.

“Some companies may be so set in their ways or so structured and regimented in the way they do business that there won’t be the chance for someone to even be a trailblazer,” Peppler says. “It’s important to be honest about who you are as a person and be receptive to the ethos of the company, if you want to find the best match.”

2. Know What’s Expected of You Before Day One

In order to hit the ground running, you have to know what’s expected of you – and you need a clear sense of what you expect from the company.

“We ask that you share what’s expected on our end,” Peppler says. “How do we keep up expectation on things like pay structure and benefits when potential reviews might be done during the year.”

BuildingIn other words: You can’t meet expectations if you don’t know what they are. Your performance will reflect that – and that’s not great news if you’re trying to become a trailblazer.

3. Exceed Expectations

After you’ve been in the job for a while and have learned how to meet the minimum expectations set forth by the company, you have to then ask what can be done to surpass those expectations.

According to Peppler, a trailblazer “understands the role, understands what the goals may be, and understands how to supersede those goals.” It’s that bit about superseding that really matters here. Trailblazers go above and beyond whenever they can.

4. Communication

As with any job, communication is paramount. This can’t be stressed enough: A trailblazer establishes a clear avenue of communication from the very beginning.

“If there is something you see, what’s your solution for it?” Peppler says.

The assumption is that you’ll establish a line of communication, and anytime you have an idea, a fresh perspective, or an issue, you won’t shy away from bringing it to the table.

Ultimately, a trailblazer will do all of these things without being told. And you probably won’t have an endless supply of reminders once you enter the workforce. So, consider this your guidebook. Pocket it. Stow it away for later. Relish the fact that you don’t really have to do homework anymore – you’re a graduate!

But, when it comes time for the dream interview or your first day of work, give this article another look. Now follow those tips – and soon, you’ll be the kind of trailblazer that others are following.

Read more in Career Advice

Hillary Ferguson is a New York City-based poet and writer. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry and fiction at The New School and a coeditor of the forthcoming journal Politics and Poems. She lives a quiet, Netflix-filled life with her partner and their two dogs.