A Letter to the Recent Graduates – 6 Ways to Kill it in Your First Year in Corporate America

Latifa @itz_unpredictable

I was tapping through my Insta stories the other day when I saw a young lady, Latifa, who just graduated from college had landed a job at Microsoft! I was so ecstatic, like she was my little sister. I mean, would I really be your favorite internet aunty if I am not hyped about things like this? But then right after my excitement came concern… will Latifa know what to do to excel in this strange land of corporate America? Good thing she has older siblings who are totally killing it, but I thought it won’t hurt to chook my mouth and offer some tips for success.

Shallout to all the Latifas out there who are recent graduates. I wrote this letter for you because I don’t want you to simply be regular and climb the corporate ladder like a slow turtle. We have no interest in the sluggish traditional career advancement plan that your HR team has put together. We ain’t following that plan, or we’ll be sixty something, about to retire, before we become manager of so and so. Latifa, I want you to be the exception, like Ikepo, who went from being an Analyst to COO in just a few years. So here are 6 simple, yet effective things you can do in your first year to catapult to higher levels.

Latifa @itz_unpredictable

1. Learn as much as you can as fast as you can. A new kid on my team set up a meeting two weeks into his starting the job. Subject of the meeting? “Performance evaluation.” Sweetie pie Johnny, I have only assigned you like what…? 1.5 tasks to you since you started?! Here’s what I told him during that meeting – while it’s great to want to have an outstanding performance, what is even more important at his level is to have the mindset of wanting to learn. Think of yourself as a sponge and just soak in and absorb as much information as you can.

I’ll bet you $1,000 they didn’t hire Latifa at Microsoft because they think she knows the ins and outs of their technology or whatever it is they do. More than likely, they hired her because she is hardworking, smart, and can learn and figure out stuff fast. That exactly is what you should be doing when you start a new job – apply yourself fully, and learn as much as you can as fast as you can.

2. Don’t leave money on the table. Employers provide benefits in many different ways – retirement savings plan, health insurance, education benefits for advanced degrees, and a bunch of other things. Sometimes, they will even ask you to walk a number of steps per day or to do some volunteer activity for additional $$$ for your health spendings. You bets be at the soup kitchen early Saturday morning. 

Take advantage of as many benefits as possible. When I first started working, I didn’t sign up for a 401k retirement savings plan for the first couple of years. My company offered a 5% salary match to the plan, and I pretty much just put that money into the dumpster. Biko, collect your company’s match. If you don’t want it, I can hold it for you.

3. Schedule a meeting with the higher-ups/executives. They may not come to you if you don’t go to them, and just like that they won’t even know that a whole Queen Latifa exists! Now, we won’t let that happen. So do them a favor and schedule those meetings to introduce the badass self that you are. Be sure to go prepared with a list of intelligent questions.

Latifa @itz_unpredictable

4. Be social. Attend the happy hours and team lunches, stay back in the conference room after your meetings and chat with your manager and peers. I know you’ve gats an important report to work on, but honey, so does Joe who is leading everyone to lunch. Joe understands that the team lunch is just as important as work. Besides, you’re badass Latifa. You’ve got this; you’ll get the report done.

5. Seek feedback. At the right time of course. I know I said you shouldn’t be so fixated on your performance, but also don’t wait until your annual review to find out how you are doing. By then, it will be too late. So 3 months or 6 months after you start, proactively ask for areas of improvement. Work on them, and then when it comes time for your annual review, you show your growth receipts on how you made improvements plus some more. No one can argue with receipts ever; it is what it is.

6. Keep track of your praise reports. Write it all down. Keep a log book, folder, journal, whatever it is. I keep track of everything – emails, comments from clients during phone meetings, feedback from peers, project accomplishments, every little thing. When it comes time for your annual reviews, people forget these details. This reminder is especially important for ladies. Last year, while reviewing my team’s annual reviews, e shock me. The guys confidently rated themselves as exceeding expectations, while the ladies (who are equally phenomenal) rated themselves as average or just meeting expectations. Ladies, let’s drop the fake humility thing. If you’re badass, you’re badass, and you should claim your badassness. Who humility epp?? So go on ahead and blow your trumpet the loudest. You’ve got the receipts to show, remember?

Looking for more career advise? You might enjoy this post.

Best wishes to you, Latifa, and to all the recent graduates! Dear experienced folks, do you have anything to add to the list for Latifa and our recent grads?

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7 thoughts on “A Letter to the Recent Graduates – 6 Ways to Kill it in Your First Year in Corporate America

  1. These words are diamond. Thanks I’m not out yet but when I will start apply these to my small jobs so when I’m out of school. It will be easily implemented

  2. Thanks Abisola, though I think I’m getting this so late, it’s my 6 years working in Nigeria and trust me, most if these points are my mistakes when I started working and affected me so badly..
    Well, it’s never too late I believe, I’m relocating, starting a new life and job and I hope these helps me..

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece, love from Nigeria LOLA.

  3. I LOVE this!! I’m not a recent graduate but I definitely haven’t been putting most of these into practice so I’d begin to do so.

    As someone who tends to keep to herself, I definitely should be more social- especially at work/ school.

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