In this article, nine seasoned professionals, including a business owner and a president and CEO, share their insights on the most valuable traits they developed during their first job. From valuing hard work and efficiency to digging into details willingly, these leaders offer their advice to fresh graduates on how to cultivate these crucial traits. Dive in to discover their invaluable experiences and tips.
Valuing Hard Work and Efficiency
I am a hard worker, influenced by my mother and grandmother. Right out of school, I had a lot to learn about my industry. I worked long hours, not only to complete my tasks but also to learn as much about the profession as I could. I loved my job, so it was easy to immerse myself in it.
Once I started to learn the skills, I then learned to make my job more efficient. This gave me a lot more time back to continue to focus on the areas I enjoyed and offset the mundane daily tasks.
Paul Cannon, Owner, Cannon Creek Farm
Embracing Resilience and Proactivity
When I started my first professional job, my mother told me, “Nobody wants a problem.” Looking back, I think it was great advice. So, based on my experience, I think having resilience is the most useful trait to have.
By that, I mean that you need to enter the workforce with a can-do attitude. Got a question? Be proactive and find out the answer yourself. It’s about having a positive attitude, being adaptable, taking ownership of your work, communicating effectively, and being a team player.
Most managers are busy and stressed, but they will notice and appreciate your effective communication, collaboration with colleagues, going the extra mile, and embracing all the change that comes with starting your first job.
So, think solutions, not problems.
Katharine Gallagher, Professional Growth Specialist- Education, Career, Recruitment, Productivity, Business, katharinegallagher.com
Be Willing to Embrace Uncertainty
In my early professional days, adaptability stood out as the linchpin trait. The tech arena is ever-changing, and swift pivots were routine. For fresh grads, my advice is twofold: immerse yourself in continuous learning and embrace uncertainty. Seeing challenges as growth opportunities fosters resilience and prepares you for any curveball.
Alex Stasiak, CEO and Founder, Startup House
Being Proactive and Assertive
After graduation, some valuable traits I had to develop were being proactive and assertive—essentially “pushy”—especially in a competitive job market. Many of my peers were too passive in pursuing opportunities, and while I had to ensure I wasn’t being perceived as overly aggressive, I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted.
For example, when I made a job application, I followed up by calling the hiring manager and asking for an interview, only emailing if they wouldn’t take my call. During the interview, I asked if they had any reservations about my application and asked for the job. Then, after an interview, I followed up that day, expressing my continued interest in the position. Finally, I’d follow up two weeks later if I hadn’t heard anything.
Being proactive and assertive, without being abrasive, were key traits that quickly got me my first job.
Geoff Newman, Founder, Starget.co.uk
Committing to Continuous Learning
A firm commitment to continuous learning has been the most valuable trait in my first job. Embracing a mindset of always wanting to learn helped me adapt to new tasks and challenges.
To develop this trait, fresh grads can actively seek out opportunities for professional development, engage in ongoing education, and stay curious about their field of work. Being open to learning not only enhances personal growth but also makes one a valuable asset to any team or organization.
Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded
Maintaining a Positive Attitude
The most valuable trait during my first job was a positive attitude. It’s something fresh graduates can work on to improve their career prospects. Having a positive attitude means being optimistic and enthusiastic about your work. Employers really appreciate this quality. It shows you’re motivated and ready to take on challenges.
A positive mindset helps you stay motivated even when work gets tough. It’s like having a “can-do” spirit, which is great for your productivity and job performance. You’ll look for solutions instead of dwelling on problems. Being positive also helps you build good relationships with your colleagues.
To work on your positive attitude, focus on the good aspects of your job. Set realistic goals, and try to see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Surround yourself with positive influences and practice gratitude.
Jessica Shee, Marketing Manager, iBoysoft
Helping Others for Success
Helping others is an incredibly valuable trait. During my first job, the ability to help others was really valuable. It demonstrates your ability to work well with others and your willingness to go above and beyond for your coworkers.
You develop close relationships and foster a great work atmosphere by helping people and being there for them. This trait can be developed as a fresh graduate by actively looking for ways to assist your coworkers, paying attention to their needs, and working well with others.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback to enhance your supportive skills. Keep in mind that by being helpful, you not only support the team’s success but also enhance your professional growth.
James Owen, Co-Founder and Director, Click Intelligence
Believing in Yourself and Improving
I remember my first job well, where I always told myself, “Look ahead and make the most of what you have.” With these words, it follows that the most important trait that was and is believing in yourself, that everything will work out for you and everything will be as you want.
The first job is an opportunity for further growth, and one must understand that the first small step is the foundation for a big step into the future.
In order to believe in yourself, you need to improve constantly. To improve in all spheres of life—professional, physical, psychological, and moral—a person can be successful only when he keeps a balance in these aspects.
Iana Varshavska, Digital Marketer and Yoga Therapist, Yanva
Digging Into the Details
A willingness to dig into the details was the most valuable trait during my first job. It allowed me the chance to immerse myself in the role and shake off any shades of self-doubt I had. When you go all in, you truly get to learn about your role, and also about yourself, and who you are as a person and a professional.
On top of that, nobody can fault you if things don’t work out. Have a sense of perspective, and realize that you’ll look back on this job one day and probably feel that you could have worked harder.
Gates Little, President and CEO, altLINE Sobanco