I loved my five years in college. It was probably the best time in my short life thus far, in terms of new people, experiences, and knowledge. All good things must come to an end though, and undergrad is no exception. We all must eventually face the real world and challenge ourselves to climb the corporate ladder after college as best we can.
The transition from the classroom to the real world is definitely not an easy one. Home At 30 aims to make the transition easier by providing readers the background knowledge to make smarter (and earlier!) financial and career moves.
Getting a job is one thing, especially in a hiring market that’s as tough as ever. The real key to financial freedom and building up wealth from an early age is thriving in your role straight out of school.
I love thinking of career progression in various “windows”: 1-year plan, 5-year plan, 10-year plan, etc. Figuring out where you want to be and benchmarking progress regularly is going to create a goal-oriented series of habits out of the gate. After landing a role in the business jungle, consider the following while you plan. Here are some strategies to start climbing that ladder ASAP out of school.
Climbing the Ladder
Be a Problem Solver
Companies of any size have inherent problems in the way they currently do things. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking Google or a start-up with five employees. There is always going to be room for improvement in the way things are done day-to-day.
When you start at a company, first things first: Get an understanding of their workflow and process as it currently stands. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Find opportunities to improve an existing process that other employees have been complaining about.
The key to setting yourself apart is all action-based; identification doesn’t mean a thing if you sit back and complain! Becoming a problem solver and creating the urgency to be more efficient goes a long way to get noticed early on. A fresh set of eyes is a valuable asset to a company doing things a set way for a long time. Remember to spot the opportunities to be better!
Consider the MBA/postgrad route
While I know a fair amount of executives who never took the MBA route, there’s no denying it can be a critical feather to have in your cap as you climb towards a leadership position. We spend four years in college laying the basic foundation of knowledge to take into the postgrad world. A lot of times (with me included), new college grads won’t have a real handle on their desired career path. Taking a few years to learn about your industry, then coupling that with a relevant MBA or Masters degree, can get everything to “click” together.
I have eyed the MBA route myself for some time, and I know Josh took advantage of the Master’s program at Wake Forest. Personally, I’m learning a TON every day about the world of technology in my current role. Enterprise sales is sort of a crash course MBA in the real world, in my opinion. I still want to pursue a further degree someday – the key will be location and timing.
No two postgrad situations are the same, and it comes down to figuring out a fit for your situation. One thing is for sure – There’s no denying a well-timed MBA or Masters, combined with a long-term career trajectory planned out, is a safe bet to get you to the next level.
Don’t put up the “Starter’s Facade”
Too often, I see new employees at my company take weeks or even months to ditch the initial “shell” of reservation. It takes a few months to see someone’s true personality and get an idea of what it’s really like to work together. Not ideal if you ask me. I’ve coined this the “Starter’s Facade”.
While there’s definitely a happy medium to be achieved here, aim to be a bit less reserved out of the gate. This is a two-headed coin: You want coworkers and management to get a feel for working with you, as well as the opposite! “Cultural fit” is a hugely overused buzzword but often rings true. Find out early how you work and feel in your new environment; if things aren’t panning out early, you won’t waste months putting up a facade to fit in.
Don’t be afraid to assess comfort level as early as you can. Getting into a situation where you fit culturally will be way less painful in the long-term. In turn, you’ll be at an advantage to climb the corporate ladder after college.
Build your Acumen, Everyday
Every day is an opportunity to get better. You’ll find the work world has its fast days where you don’t come up from air between 8:00am-6:00pm. Then, there will be days where managers are out and no pressing tasks are on hand. It can be quite easy to coast, especially as a younger employee with less responsibility. This is where you REALLY have a chance to shine.
Make the “slow days” at the office your time for personal career development. I’ll use myself as an example here. Acquia has a library of thousands of whitepapers, videos, training, and more for every product we sell. It’s easy as a seller to do the minimum, get a feel for what we sell, and be ready to pitch when the day requires it. What I like to do on slower days is deep-dive into a training or product and sharpen my own skills. I come out of a day that others might consider boring with a better understanding of what we do!
The Kaizen Approach for Self Improvement is to get 1% better at something every day. Put this into practice and watch yourself out step your peers faster than you thought possible. Promise!
Above are four strategies you can put into action, TODAY, to set yourself up for long-term success. These work both in the corporate ladder-climbing world and the entrepreneurial world.
- Find a process and way of doing things that can be improved, and get to work fixing it.
- If (only if) an MBA makes sense, plan to find a program that aligns with your desired career path.
- At a new company, be yourself. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time if it’s not a fit.
- Take the lulls in the week to sharpen your skills, and get 1% better every day.
Hope this helped put a high-level strategy in place for how you can start to think about climbing the ladder from an early age. Let me know if there are other strategies you’ve heard of as well! That’s all for now.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
Author: Joe Savoia
Joe is a 2014 graduate of Northeastern University and currently works in a field sales role for technology company Acquia. He has worked internationally as one of Acquia’s earliest Australia-based employees and helped in the early stages to develop that region. Today Joe is based out of Boston and lives in Somerville, MA. Joe’s primary interests vary widely, including everything from robotics/AI to finance, blockchain, and the rapidly evolving world of tech we live in.