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Monday, May 25th, 2015


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Ask the Right Questions to Start Your Career

These are uncertain times in the world of work, both for employers and recent graduates starting their careers. Many solid companies are struggling to control costs and ensure earnings in the infinite quest to satisfy shareholders. Yet despite these uncertainties, the need to obtain and retain a talented workforce is more important than ever.

If you are just starting your career, you need to maximize your experiences and develop your skills. Remember: In this employment environment, you are expected to manage your own career. That may sound like a daunting task in this brave new world, but there are road signs that may help you navigate, advance your career development and find satisfaction in your first job.

Many life considerations will contribute to your happiness as a new graduate entering the workforce, such as job location, cost of living, community, and the opportunity to connect with people of similar ages and interests. You may want to ask yourself the following questions to determine your priorities and what you expect from your first job.

Job Training

Will you receive the training you need soon after being hired and in the first year or two with the organization? The type of training varies with each job, so during the recruiting process, you should ask about the initial and ongoing training. Are you comfortable with the offering? Does it seem there will be additional opportunities for learning beyond day-to-day experience?

Career Clarity

Does the employer provide a clear picture of the career paths and opportunities available to new hires? This may become more important once you have completed a training program. How long are expected to remain in the first assignment?

Work Autonomy

Each new hire comes with a different set of experiences and learning curves. Discussions with supervisors should include assessments of your skill level and your desire for appropriate autonomous work. Once you have completed a training program, can you work independent of close supervision?

Work Tasks

Is there opportunity for clearly defined work assignments that are interesting, satisfying and challenging? Satisfaction often comes with accomplishing assignments that stretch you. Are you able to share in decisions about your work assignments?

Supervisors as Coaches

Is your supervisor capable of establishing a coaching relationship with you? Supervisors who can provide direct performance feedback and career advice contribute to greater retention of new hires. Does your supervisor help you acclimate to the company culture and assist you in meeting staff from other departments?

Career Development

Does your job open you to diverse learning experiences that help develop your career? Are you heading in the direction agreed upon when you were hired? Are there opportunities to move in different directions as your interests change and you develop new skills?

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe working environment and to compensate you for your contributions. And remember that you have obligations too.

Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning filmmaker, addressed a university commencement by saying, "I learned to stay forever hungry to learn more. To not be afraid to try and to fail. I learned to appreciate that collaboration is as important as genius. I learned how much there was I didn’t know. I learned to enjoy the pleasure of asking, trying and testing."

Not everyone will successfully navigate these uncertain times. You may find yourself caught in a company’s struggle to maintain its course, or you may voluntarily choose another direction. Regardless, it’s important for you to continually acquire new skills, knowledge and experience to prepare you for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

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