When I was a senior at Wake Forest University in the spring of 2016, I applied to jobs in many cities. Graduating from a liberal arts college, I hoped to have many opportunities, but was unsure where I wanted to take my career. Amidst the job search, I stumbled upon Coleman Research at the Wake Forest Spring Career Fair. At the time, I did not know anything about expert networks. I quickly did my due diligence and applied for an Analyst position on the Client Management team.
I drove to Raleigh for the first time for my interview, and before I knew it, I was signing a lease for my first “real-world” apartment and starting a job within a month of graduating. While I felt like I was being thrown into a new life without any preparation, I was excited to start the next chapter.
Reflecting on my own highs and lows over the past year, I have learned a few things:
1. Be your biggest advocate
Growing up, we often have family members, teachers, and other “adult figures” in our life to help guide us on our path and advocate for us when we don’t know how to do that for ourselves. Transitioning into my first job out of college, I have learned the importance of standing up for myself. From promoting myself as a good resource for a specific project, to taking on more responsibilities within a project or even advocating for a more senior-level position, I have learned to be my biggest advocate.
2. Manage your time
Time management in college was about balancing classroom and on-campus responsibilities with my free time. Time management in the “real world” has meant learning to balance the pressures of my job with a sudden lack of free time. I have learned that making time for the things that mean the most to me is crucial. While it is easy to get hung up in the day-to-day responsibilities of work, it is important to stay connected with friends and family and focus on the things that matter most. Simply setting daily, weekly, and annual goals can help to stay on track with your priorities.
3. Life is a contact sport
I used to be very stubborn about wanting to do everything myself – finding a job, learning about a new topic, or even fixing a flat tire. In the past year, I have quickly learned that a little guidance goes a long way. For example, simply asking questions helps you get farther, more quickly than you would on your own. You can never know enough people. Life is a contact sport, and the more people you know, the better off you’ll be. Take the time to network.
4. Learn from the projects
While this piece of advice is very applicable to work at Coleman Research, it can be transferred to any job. At Coleman, when I spend a few minutes researching a topic ahead of time, I find the project is much more fulfilling and I have more success. Plus, it makes for great small talk!
If you are trying to ensure that you come across as professional, a simple solution is to proofread. Grammarly has helped with making sure that my writing is clear and professional.
Studies will tell you the importance of following up, and our work at Coleman is no exception. In our daily workflow, follow-up calls and emails are important to improving our response rate. Even outside of work, accomplishing small tasks can easily be improved with a simple follow-up.
A year has gone by so quickly and as I have transitioned from a college student to a young professional, I have learned so much. I have enjoyed embracing new ideas, meeting new people, and I look forward to what’s to come!