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6 dos and don’ts for graduates starting their career

30 Sep 2022

For those embarking on the start of their working lives, we collected top tips from recent graduates who have learned from experience.

Click here for more advice for the sci-tech class of 2022.

Over the last few weeks, we have turned the spotlight to those at the beginning of their careers, from graduates and interns to those starting out on a new career journey.

It can be daunting making the transition from student life to work life, or from one industry to another, especially when you’re starting at entry-level again.

But to help make that move a little easier, we heard from several graduates and early-stage professionals to find out what their top advice would be to those following in their footsteps.

Do your research

KPMG’s Niamh Kiely advises people to research different companies to help pick a graduate programme that is right for them.

“I would connect with past graduates on LinkedIn and ask them questions about the company and the programme. People are always happy to help and the more information you have the better-informed decision you can make,” she said.

Fidelity Investments’ Fionn Bracken added that it’s important to research the type of role you want. “I would also say don’t be afraid of following your passion,” he said. “Things can feel a bit daunting when starting out, but people will always be happy to help and answer questions.”

Don’t be afraid to speak up

Starting out a new job, especially at the bottom, can feel overwhelming. Amy Rowe, a software engineer in test at Mastercard, knows from personal experience that impostor syndrome can creep up if you need support completing tasks or if you don’t understand everything being said to you initially.

“It’s important to remember that everyone is working together as a team, and everyone has been in that position before. If you haven’t been provided a mentor, request one from your manager,” she said.

“You’d be surprised how much of a difference pair programming and collaborating on tasks can help you to learn about the product you’re working on and to further your skills.”

With that in mind, Accenture’s Lara Sommerville said: “Don’t be afraid to make your voice heard and make yourself known to whoever you are working with. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – in my experience people are always willing to help.”

Do have patience

When you’re starting out, there can be a lot to learn and the adjustment period can be quite long. This can leave new starters feeling frustrated that they’re not getting to grips with things quick enough.

However, Personio’s Ross Deegan said it’s important to have patience with yourself. “As you enter your first role in your career there will be so many new skills to understand and master, and it’s easy to forget that you’re not expected to know everything straight away,” he said.

“Remember that your teams want you to succeed, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and get it wrong – that’s how you learn!”

Don’t panic

Kiely said another recommendation she has is not to panic if you don’t know everything straight away, and that graduate programmes are set up to allow you to get the support you need.

“For the first year, I would work on listening in on meetings and asking as many questions as possible, networking and getting involved in firm-wide events,” she said.

“At the start, you may not be super busy on projects, so this is a good time to develop your skills and complete chosen certifications.”

Do use it as a learning opportunity

Another piece of advice from Rowe is to use every opportunity as a chance to learn. “When coming in through a graduate programme, you will find that this provides the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about the company and to grow your network,” she said.

“Use being a graduate as an opener to strike up a random conversation with someone at the coffee machines, to email someone with the purpose of learning more about their role, or to volunteer for committees or causes in the company you are passionate about.”

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Finally, while the key takeaway from many who have gone down this road before is to have patience and not to worry if you don’t know everything, it’s also important not to be fearful of making mistakes.

Deloitte’s Ornaith O’Reilly said: “Graduates aren’t expected to know everything, and often you learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right.”

Equally, Liberty IT’s Sean Kelly added that “there are no stupid questions”, especially when you’re just starting out.

“Ask all the questions you can, even the silly ones. You’ve worked hard in college so you’re here on merit, so don’t feel intimidated. And above all else, enjoy the journey.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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