So you have finished your university degree or gotten your diploma. Now it is time to start looking for a job – a real job; no more just working part time as a waitress or barista at Starbucks – it’s time for the corporate world.
For me this transition into a ‘real job’ was a bit of a challenge. I mean,where do you start looking for a job that is corporate in the first place? Many of my friends had connections, friends of their parents, people they had met at networking events in their business classes and the gumption to just out right start applying for jobs they had heard of through advertisements in the paper, on certain internet sites and through job ad’s that companies post at universities. Those are all great ways to start applying for a corporate job.
Having an English degree with skills particularly focused in writing and communication, my first thought was to apply all over the internet to certain administrative jobs and work my way up in a company. I was lucky enough to have an interview with a ‘head hunter’ or staffing company that interviewed me and sent me on my way to my first job as a ‘temp;’ this was great because I could stay in a job if the company I was sent to work at liked me and I liked them, and if I chose otherwise I could move on to the next temporary job. After, leaving one small company who managed condos, I began to work as a receptionist at a small corporate company in the commercial development industry.
The first thing I learned from this company was to write everything you needed to know down and to be a fast learner. If you make a mistake, apologize and move on – but do your job because that is why they hired you for. A difficult thing about being a receptionist was having so many bosses, but I learned to be accommodating. When you are at the bottom of the so called ‘totem pole’ you get to do the jobs that sometimes are not so glamorous such as photocopying and scanning, sending out packages through FedEx and sorting/delivering the mail. It is important to be okay with doing these little jobs, to know it is part of the learning process and that everyone had to do jobs like you are sometime in their life. If you do a good job at the small things, the people who are above you will begin to trust you with bigger things and trust you as a person in general.
Starting at the bottom of a company and doing the small and seemingly unimportant jobs will actually make you important to the company. For instance, I learned the phone system well at the office I was at and was the only one who could program the phones at my office; this made me indispensible in some respects. I also learned not to be afraid to ask questions. I have found that people would rather you ask questions and do a good job, then continually do a bad job; this way you will learn and make other people’s job’s easier too.
Doing well at my receptionist duties also meant dressing for the part. As they say, “dress for the job you want to have, not the one you have.” As a front line person it was important for me to look professional and put-together, to wear light makeup and have my hair styled nicely. You would not believe the compliments I received once I got my hair cut into a more professional style. Also, it is important to have good manners, to be friendly and kind to the client’s coming into the office. Millions of dollars were at stake in the business I was in so this was particularly important. It was also vital to pay special attention to the head bosses of the company; if they wanted something done I would do it immediately or go ask their assistants to help me if I was busy taking coffee orders for clients. The head bosses especially appreciated if I was in before 8:00 am when they were ready to do business.
It is important to keep things professional in the office between you and other staff. I do not recommend constant gossiping and hitting on other attractive staff, especially in a smaller corporate offices; this can make work awkward and unpleasant for employees whether the gossiping or hitting on is wanted or not. The best thing you can do is to stay out of that drama and do your job – or at least keep things that are private outside the office.
When you receive the chance to move up in the corporate world because people have noticed that you have been working hard, be grateful to the people who noticed your work and work equally as hard for them as you did in your old position. In my case I got to move up to the construction department to be an administrative assistant downstairs; this was a really exciting opportunity because the construction manager wanted me to take courses in’ construction administration, ‘ LEED’ and to learn to be a junior project manager. In turn, I also learned to be kind and let the new receptionist do her job when she messed up. I was patient with her and ready to help whenever she needed it.
One of the best pieces of advice one of my favorite bosses in construction gave me was to remember that knowledge is transferrable and you can use it anywhere you go in life. Even though I am no longer at my job as an administrative assistant for construction, I can take the skills I learned with me to other jobs in the corporate world. Another thing I learned from them was that it is important to make good connections with people; you never know when you might be working for them or need someone’s aid for a project.