By Jill Schlesinger
Tribune Content Agency
I am often asked to offer career advice to recent college graduates, which makes me think back to the advice I received before starting my first post-collegiate job as a commodities trader: "Do your job and don't screw up!"
I still believe that this may be the best advice that I can offer, but let me couch it in a kinder way. You, young graduate, think that you have much to offer your benevolent employer. In fact, you offer very little except potential. Sure, eventually you may add some good points every now and then, but your first goal should be to make a good first impression, and the best way to do so is to do what is asked of you - and more.
I know that you may be of the generation that seeks a great work-life balance, but as a former boss of a certain generation, I can tell you that in the beginning, I want the balance to tip more toward work. You want to gain the reputation of being energetic, diligent and collaborative. In his Harvard Business Review article, "The New Science of Building Great Teams", MIT professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland notes, "The best team players also connect their teammates with one another and spread ideas around."
If you are an introvert, you may be rolling your eyes right now, but Pentland notes ideal team players are "not necessarily extroverts, although they feel comfortable approaching other people. They listen as much as or more than they talk and are usually very engaged with whomever they're listening to. We call it 'energized but focused listening.' "
Of course you will be encouraged to ask questions, but do not make the mistake of seeking constant feedback, which can quickly translate into your boss thinking that you are needy. Instead, make sure that you check in on a regular basis - weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on what your organization/job requires.
Part of your first experience should be building and maintaining relationships, also known as the dreaded networking process. The best networking tip I have ever heard comes from career coach Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, cofounder of SixFigureStart, a professional coaching consultancy. Connie said that the networking rule of thumb is "to give twice as much as you receive," because too many professionals use networking as a way to ask for something, rather than seeing it as a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship of give and take - with emphasis on the give!
Thanasoulis-Cerrachio warns that you don't want to be seen as an "ask-hole," always asking people for something, but tone deaf to how annoying that can seem. This is especially sage advice for new college graduates, who are in the early stages of developing their networks beyond their current social connections.
There can be connections based on what's right in front of your face, like coworkers in your group, or those who have shared interests and folks in employee networking groups. But also be willing to move beyond what you may have in common to learn about people outside your department - find out who they are and what they do at the firm.
Although in the digital age, connection can seem as easy as a click, I can't emphasize enough the value of physical interactions to help foster these relationships. According to Pentland: "The most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. The next most valuable is by phone or videoconference, but with a caveat: Those technologies become less effective as more people participate in the call or conference. The least valuable forms of communication are email and texting."
Contact Jill Schlesinger, senior business analyst for CBS News, at askjill@JillonMoney.com.
This column was printed in the May 29, 2016 - June 11, 2016 edition.