If you are nearing graduation, you may be contemplating what your first job is going to look like. If you already are part of the workforce, perhaps, you take that stroll down memory lane from time to time, thinking about the type of job functionality you were prepared to assume way back when you graduated.
Let’s face it. You really didn’t know squat, even though you thought you did.
You may have been well-educated but you lacked the professional experience to assume responsibility and understand exactly where you could add value.
In other words, you learned on the job. You were inexperienced. We all are when we start out.
We couldn’t have had any idea of the type of curves that would be thrown at us on the job. We couldn’t have anticipated the water-cooler gossip and behind the scenes (or not) Machiavellian politics that went on. We couldn’t have created a reality show as good as the one we all lived when we got our first job.
We were inexperienced. We learned on the job.
For those of you who are freaking out because you won’t be able to walk into a major corporation and fit right in and take charge and make your mark, you are not supposed to know how to do that yet. You are still too full of book learning. You lack practical experience of not only the hands-on engineering or business expertise and experience, but the day-in, day-out grind, routine, personalities, schedules and possibilities.
Let’s not forget the possibilities.
There’s no recipe for gaining experience. However, you do need to be alert to opportunities and take stock of, and avoid, pitfalls. That’s gaining experience.
What works for one person who wants to “get ahead” in your organization may not work for you. Even though everyone wants to fit in and run with the pack from the get-go. Copying mannerisms, corporate cultural behavior and jargon just may end up not feeling right. Sort of like an ill-fitting suit of clothes. So don’t go there.
Now that’s gaining experience.
Finding out the name of the person who has been around the longest and understands how everything works all the way from reception to operations to finance to the loading dock will help you gain experience.
Cultivate that relationship. Grow your experience base.
Determining the individuals who are able to work cross-functionally and finding out how and why they adopted this approach to their career may be beneficial to understanding how to apply your knowledge to other folks’ problem solving needs.
More on the job, unofficial experiential training.
Understanding that your job description doesn’t define who you are, and that how you contribute to your functionality across your organization is more valuable to everyone, including you, is a piece of experience you can walk in the door with.
Companies hire inexperience. Even if you are a first-time start-up and call yourself the CEO.
We learn from our experiences. We attempt and succeed or fail. Hopefully going all-in. Hopefully spectacularly. And hopefully not making the same screw-up twice.
Corporations hire our inexperience because they see our possibilities. Sometimes even before we do. Use your inexperience to grow your professional experience.
If someone told me when I graduated where I would be today and what I would be doing, well, you know the answer to that one.
Babette Ten Haken provides technical people and other sellers a solid strategy for how to explain a product, its benefits, and its value in ways that buyers can easily understand and sellers can comfortably present. She gets people together who are often on opposite sides of the table, like engineers and sales people or entrepreneurs and investors. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, works with technology-intensive entrepreneurs and manufacturers, focusing on revenue-generating business development strategies to take your business to the next level. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? was named 2012 Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Awards.