Friday, 10 December 2010

So you got yourself a job....

Firstly, congratulations. Seriously. It's incredibly tough out there and if you've secured yourself a role on a graduate programme, then you've done very well indeed for yourself and hopefully you're happy that your hard work has paid off.

A lot of grads get very enthusiastic about their new role and ask what they can do to prepare to really hit the ground running when they join, so I thought I'd offer some advice on this topic.

The first point I always make to grads is to relax, enjoy and make the most of the time off you have been end of exams and the start of your job. You're probably about to enter a period of at least 40 years of work with 25-30 days holiday and maybe a couple of career breaks if you're lucky. Go and do something fantastic that you've always wanted to do - take out a small loan if you have to (just my opinion) and go and travel around Vietnam / climb Mt Kilimanjaro / drive Route 66 / bungee in South Africa. You might not get the opportunity for a while.  In addition, it works out better for us as an employer too if you come back refreshed and happy after a good break and ready to face into the start of your career. Sometimes grads who start work too quickly after Uni are the first to ask about career breaks after 18mths and that's not great for either side.

Keep up-to-date as best you can with what's happening in the industry. In this time of newsfeeds / news letters / twitter / google news alerts, etc, it's not hard to make sure that information is 'pushed' to you rather than you having to pro-actively go out and search for it constantly, so set up a few key notifications and a little time to run through them every now and again and you will be up-to-date. Keep in mind you don’t need to understand the same level of detail as you do for an interview. No one is going to sit you down on your first day and say 'tell me what was on the front page of the FT last Thursday' (unless you're very unlucky!), you just need to have a reasonable idea of what's going on. Obviously if you're going into a Trading role, then it will probably be to your benefit to stay even closer to the news.

Keep up to date too on the company you are joining. Have a look on their website on what they have that you can sign up to. Read the annual report (these will often come out in April/May time) to see how things are going. Keep an eye on the share price (if applicable), keep an eye on the Communications / Investor Relations pages for what's going on with the company.

Have a look for Facebook Groups being set-up by your soon-to-be start group and if you can't find one, consider setting up one yourself. It's a good way to start to get to know people in advance of day 1. Sometimes the company has already done the set up of a group for the new starts, so might be worth checking.

The one skill that I would tell any graduate to work on in advance of starting a new graduate job is Microsoft Excel skills. It sounds really boring, but it is the skill that the majority of grads working in finance / consulting will need in their early years. In addition, many of the grads who really make an impact are the ones with great Excel skills and you become a 'wanted' resource. That's not to say that all you end up doing is Excel, but it’s a great way to find yourself in a key position, in demand, and therefore able to make an impact in many ways over and above your Excel. It can be a 'way in' that can lead to lots more. No matter what your level of Excel is, there is always more to learn. If you only know the basics, teach yourself how to use functions and tables. If you can do that, teach yourself Pivots; if you can do that, teach yourself Lookups; if you can do that, teach yourself Visual Basic… the list is endless. I promise it will stand to you very well if you are good at Excel and can move knowledgably and effortlessly around the software. There are loads of great tutorials online, so if you are interested, take some time to 'upskill' yourself a bit.

The other area that might be worth putting some thought into is self-awareness. Being self-aware means to understand your own strengths, and your own limitations, and the impact that these can have on you and on your team. You should also note that you need to develop both your strengths AND your weaknesses. Sometimes people focus on trying to improve their weaknesses at the expense of continuing to develop your strengths. Your strengths are what will make you shine and be successful. Your weaknesses are what hold you back. You need to keep improving both at all times. Have a look at this site on Jung Types to help identify what your preferences are.  If you get the opportunity to do Myers Briggs / Belbin types during your graduate training, this will further enhance your self-awareness.

Hope that helps… congrats again on the new job.

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