STEM grads, want a promotion at work? Intel recruiter gives advice for advancing your career

Posted December 05, 2017 by


Do you know how long should you expect to stay in your entry-level role before looking to move up? Campus Relations Manager Jeff Dunn, at Intel Corp., has advice for you. From years of experience recruiting and developing entry-level employees, Dunn has seen patterns. We checked in to get his advice about what skills STEM grads typically need to develop before they’re ready to get a promotion at work, and what mistakes he sees them make.

Read Dunn’s advice here, or watch our discussion at the end of this blog post.

How long to stay in an entry-level role before looking to move up

Before you can think about moving up, you need to demonstrate your capability in the position you are in. Dunn recommends staying in your first role for at least 12-18 months. He explains that this time “will allow you to learn the job expectations, learn the company environment, and contribute measurable results.”

Companies want to promote you if you are capable in your current position because they want to help broaden your experience. Companies like Intel want to retain their employees. “They are not going to pigeonhole anyone,” Dunn states.

Skills entry-level STEM employees should improve to advance their careers

According to Dunn, networking is the most important skill to improve in order to advance in your career. Fill your professional sphere with people that know and respect you. This will help you down the line.

A couple other key skills to build up are organization and flexibility. Organization is super important in terms of accountability. If you are looking to advance in your field, people need to know you’re responsible. Keep track of meeting deadlines and prepare accordingly.

Flexibility is crucial in any field, but is particularly valuable in STEM fields.

As technology changes ever-faster, companies need to change too. If you are flexible and capable of adjusting your approach, you will have more success.

Dunn emphasizes that there are many other skills you need in order to get a promotion at work. For example, consensus building is a crucial skill to mediate conflicts, which will inevitably arise in work environments. Another thing that just takes experience to improve is the development of specific technical expertise.

Most graduates entering STEM fields already have good technical skills, and companies tend to hire talent for technical skills, says Dunn. They might need some improvement, and in fact, Dunn states that “Intel will actually pay for you to get graduate degrees.”

The skills that really come from experience, however, are soft skills. It’s usually not the inability to do the job that leads to someone getting fired. One of the most common “job-ending conflicts” is the inability to cooperate.

An employee who is not willing to listen to and learn from other people’s perspectives is not a good employee.

Your real success will come from working in teams. Skills that can’t be taught in a classroom are just as, if not more important. That is, helping others, going into meetings with an open mind, forming cross-functional groups, and getting results.

How to increase your visibility among superiors, without being fake

Dunn’s advice is to document all of your accomplishments. This will be important for your performance reviews. He explains, “Documenting your accomplishments will help you provide concrete examples” when someone in leadership questions you.

He also encourages entry-level employees to attend professional social events, because they are great opportunities to network. You will meet people outside of your own department and broaden your sphere.

Also read “Networking: A Definitive Guide For Students and Grads to Succeed in the Job Search”

Dunn offered another great piece advice to increase your visibility. Shadow a colleague. Even if just for an hour, walking in their shoes can help understand other positions. It may seem uncomfortable to ask to shadow someone, but honestly, it’s flattering. Dunn explains, “People are usually happy to help, whether it’s shadowing or having a one on one informational interview. People love talking about themselves and sharing what they like about their job.”

Also, speak up! Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. If you talk more and meet more people, sometimes people will let you know about an opportunity before it is advertised.

Mistakes entry-level employees make that cost them a promotion at work

One huge mistake Dunn sees often is people trying to bounce around too quickly. If you just got a job six months ago, don’t try to angle for a new job yet, he advises. After six months, most people haven’t delivered any results. You need to prove you’re capable before trying to get a promotion.

Another big mistake is making demands too soon. If you haven’t spent enough time learning, you haven’t earned the right to demand anything. It is important to understand the company and its dynamics. Dunn explains just how important it is to work within a team environment. If you insist on approaching technical problems “your way” without collaborating with others, you’re not going to make allies. It will make joining the community extremely difficult.

Don't push your ideas too quicklyDunn points out that offering dramatic changes too soon will likely give off a bad impression. It can be hard to hear, particularly for millennials who have many great new ideas, that your suggestions are not always welcomed right away. It is something you want to wait until you’ve built up your credibility. “It’s not about tenure. It’s not like you have to sit around for five years before you can speak,” Dunn makes clear. It’s more a matter of understanding the context. You have to understand how the team works, and understand the customers, not just the technical stuff.

There is a learning curve for any role. “Be sure you’re on solid ground before start making big suggestions,” Dunn advises. Don’t try to take charge of a project or a team, as that won’t impress anyone and you won’t be able to build consensus. A good way to be involved in the process is by asking questions. You can ask why things are done a certain way– that is a great way to get your voice heard while learning from others and learning the context before you swoop in with your own suggestions.

Four general career advancement tips for entry-level employees

  1. Don’t just meet expectations – exceed them, says Dunn. Offer help wherever you can, even outside your department, which would really show initiative. Employers will likely be quite impressed if a new hire is already going out of their way to help others.
  2. Be a continual learner. Businesses naturally change, so what you learn one day might be obsolete in a year. Always work to adjust and enhance your skills accordingly.
  3. Honesty is also very important. Many people are afraid to tell an employer what they prefer working on. If you don’t, you will be working on things of no interest to you, which doesn’t help you or your employer because it will likely slow down your productivity. However, when you are assigned a task that doesn’t interest you, you still need to complete it.
  4. Find a mentor. Dunn suggests that “finding a mentor helps you with introductions, improves your skills, and avoids pitfalls.” This will help you not only advance upwards but also broaden your skills. Even just a quick informational interview with someone else at the company can help a lot.

Watch our discussion with Jeff Dunn, Campus Relations Manager at Intel:


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