Time flies, doesn’t it?
I remember my first day on the job like it was yesterday.
I remember taking an awkward photo for building security to use on my security badge. I also remember walking fifteen minutes from Boston South Station all the way up to State Street in July – I was sweating through my shirt by the time I got there. Welcome to the real world, right?
I heard about the “real world” all the time while I was growing up; from the time I was a toddler until I graduated college.
To the best of my knowledge, the real world was a place where everything enjoyable in life ceased to exist; the beginning of the end; where freedom ended and work began.
Well, I’ve spent four years in the “real world” now, and here’s what I learned my first four years of working.
Key takeaways from my career so far:
First impressions matter
There’s no such thing as a blank slate in business.
Every new employee comes in with expectations and a certain perception, whether fair or not. It’s your job to understand and surpass those expectations.
The best way to do that? Work hard.
In the insurance industry, people generally begin working around 8:30 in the morning and head home around 5. I had a long commute between Boston and New Hampshire (usually around 1.5 hours each way), so I had to find a way to make the most of that situation.
First, I decided I would be one of the first people in the office every day. I typically arrived between 7:15 and 7:30 AM, and everyone knew I had a huge commute. What kind of message did that send about my brand?
Next, I figured out a way to be more productive on my commute (I took a coach bus, for your information). The insurance industry has many designations – each one consists of a series of tests. Earning these designations helps give you a broader and more in-depth understanding of property-casualty insurance while demonstrating a dedication to learning the business.
The CPCU is the big one; it has 8 different tests and takes most people at least 2 years to finish. I finished the CPCU, RPLU (10 tests) and ARM (3 tests) in just 1.5 years.
Even though that took over a year to complete, it left a positive impression on my manager and coworkers. However, I didn’t begin the tests until I had spent 6 months on the job and was fairly comfortable in my new role.
I’d say you get about 1 year to make a “first impression” on your new company. In that year, do as much as you can to maximize your long-term potential. But, no matter how ambitious you want to be, you need to take care of what they hired you for first.
First impressions matter. Make sure it’s a great one.
Additional responsibility is good (if you can handle it)
The best advice I have for new employees is to take on all the additional responsibility you can handle.
That doesn’t mean you should walk in the door and demand the toughest projects on day one. What it means is that as opportunities arise and you become more comfortable on the job, take advantage and don’t look back.
Personally, my opportunity was thrust upon me right when my training was over.
My company has a 6-month training program for new underwriters which helps them learn the fundamentals of underwriting and sales. A week after completing the program, my mentor (who handled $13 million of business in my unit) left the company. Guess who was left to pick up the slack?
This guy. I was scared to pick up the phone for a week, but I was eager to prove that I could step up and be a major contributor right away. Thankfully, I performed well (if I don’t say so myself). Part of that was my willingness to ask for help when necessary.
Ask for help when you need it
Everyone’s busy, not just you. Many new employees feel like they need to shoulder an incredible burden alone, and while that’s admirable, it’s not the wisest move.
The better way to approach things is to ask for help when you really need it.
Don’t let your work product suffer and think that everyone notices how much work you have; they’re probably too busy with their own work to notice. Not only can you learn from your coworkers when you ask for help, but the end-result tends to be better, which is what’s ultimately important.
Don’t try to be a savior; don’t suffer in silence. Focus on achieving optimal results and ask for help every once in a while.
Every relationship counts
You may think you’re being slick by trying to get cozy with upper management at your company. You can picture it all in your mind: the new employee who made CEO in just five years by rubbing elbows with the decision makers.
Believe me, I get it.
At the same time, it’s important to understand that you can’t manufacture relationships unnaturally. The ones that’ll benefit you most are born out of everyday interactions. These are the people who will know you best.
You’re better off building genuine relationships with your direct manager, your coworkers, and the clients you work with on a daily basis. These are the people who can help you get to where you want to go.
Having lunch with the CFO is great, but what’s the next step? Plenty of people are hounding that person for their time. Don’t force it – there’s a good chance you’re being more annoying than anything.
Work on establishing yourself within your current sphere of influence. If you produce great results, you’ll expand that influence and the CFO might just ask you to lunch someday.
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: Josh Ramos
After earning an undergraduate degree in Economics and a Master of Arts in Management at Wake Forest University, Josh has paid off over $130k in student loan debt in 4 years. By founding Home at 30, Josh wants to help you make the most of college, build a successful career, and achieve financial independence.