Building a Strong Foundation: How to Start Your Career on the Right Foot

Starting out in your career can be both exciting and overwhelming, but here’s how you can set the stage for future growth.
Ivy Simon
Editorial Writer
Building a Strong Foundation: How to Start Your Career on the Right Foot

Your early career as a graduate will be a key part of your life. Your first few years in the working world can have huge effects on the trajectory of your future career, as you encounter all sorts of opportunities, new challenges, and moments for personal growth along the way. So how do you make the most of this exciting new stage of your life? Here are some tips. 

Self-Reflection and Goal Setting

To start off, you need to have some idea of where you’re heading. Do a bit of self-reflection and set goals for yourself. It’s important to understand yourself and your needs better before you can set your sights on where you want to go. 

For instance, what are your short-term wants and priorities? Is it to repay your student loans? To gain as much experience as you can in your chosen career sector? Do you want to climb the ranks, or are you saving up for an important purchase? Knowing what you want can help you make smarter choices about how to steer your career.

Next, look at setting goals. You may have a big picture idea of where you want to go in your career, but setting clear, achievable goals is what will guide you there. Consider your priorities and the specific requirements of your new job and figure out how those intersect. Then break those big dreams into smaller steps – like little checkpoints on your map. Each time you reach a checkpoint, make it a point to celebrate that win, no matter how small! It's all about moving forward, one step at a time.

Keep in mind that goals can change! As you grow, learn, and experience new things, your perspective might shift, and that's okay. Stay open to change, and let your goals evolve with you. Treat the process like an adventure, and be open to discovering new paths along the way.

Network and Build Relationships

Networking and building relationships are the secret sauce of future career success. Advancing in your career is often not just about what you know, but also who you know! 

Networking as a professional is more than just exchanging business cards or putting on a professional façade. It's about forming genuine connections with people who can really make a difference in your journey. Attend industry events, conferences, and networking sessions whenever you can. Rubbing shoulders with folks from different fields or levels of experience, sharing ideas, and staying in the loop with the latest trends is a good way to grow your knowledge and expand your horizons. 

You’ll have to do a bit more work than just showing up at events, though. Reach out to aspirational people or experts in your field once you’ve gotten their contact info. Drop them a friendly email or a message on LinkedIn, expressing your admiration for their work and asking for insights or advice. You'd be surprised how many experienced folks are thrilled to share their wisdom with eager newcomers like you!

Platforms like LinkedIn are a goldmine for making connections and showing off your skills and achievements. Make sure your profile is professional and up-to-date, and don't shy away from engaging in conversations with other pros in your field.

Not only does networking open doors to other cool job opportunities or professional collaborations, but it's also a fantastic way to get inspired. Hearing about how others navigated their career journey can be super motivating, and you'll gain plenty of insights or touchpoints to help you conquer your own challenges. 

Develop Marketable Skills

Employers are always on the hunt for candidates who have desirable skills and can keep up with changing market trends and best practices. So, it's super important to do some research and figure out which skills are most marketable in your chosen field at any point in time. Once you know what's in demand, dive in and start developing those skills. 

There are plenty of ways to build up your skillset. You can sign up for online courses, join a rotational graduate programme, volunteer yourself for work projects that require you to develop those skills on the job, attend conferences or seminars, learn from experts you’ve networked with, or seek out a mentor. 

This often means doing more work than just your usual 8 hours on the clock, but remember that you won’t be an exceptional professional if all you’re doing is just what your job requires of you! Consider the extra time you put into developing your skills as an investment in your future. Though remember that what’s marketable can also change at any point in time, so it’s important to keep yourself up-to-date.   

It's not just about hard skills. Don’t neglect your soft skills too! There will always be a demand for professionals who are great communicators, team players, adaptable, resilient, and have brilliant problem-solving and time management skills. Keep an eye out for opportunities to exercise those in your day-to-day work as well. 

Build your Track Record

When all is said and done, remember that you still have to do your job! Getting things done on time and done well is key to building your track record as a professional, while giving you opportunities to gain much-needed practical experience too!  

Practical experience is a treasure trove of hands-on knowledge that you'll carry with you on your career adventure. So, grab every opportunity to learn, contribute, and grow – because it's the key to becoming the amazing professional you know you can be.

At the end of the day, remember that the only party you should be looking to impress is your own self. Make sure things get done and keep elevating your standards for no other reason than just to be proud of yourself. Taking pride in yourself and the work you do is one of the most powerful ways that you can build a track record in your career – because that pride will drive you forward in everything that you do!