by Sarah K. White

How to become a trailblazer at your new job

Apr 05, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Skills

You don't have to keep your head down at your first job. In fact, you should do the opposite. Here's how to become a trailblazer starting on Day 1.rn

Your first job in tech is the first impression you’ll make on your career — the job that will hopefully define your career trajectory. The connections you make in the industry and the colleagues you work with will all be a major part in your future success — so it’s important to remember that just because you’re new on the job scene, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a trailblazer.

Bill Peppler, managing Partner at Kavaliro, an IT staffing firm, has seen plenty of millennials head into their first jobs, and he’s thinks he’s figured out what turns some millennials into quick success stories. “A trailblazer in the tech industry is someone who understands the job they are placed with, recognizes the responsibilities they are handed and ultimately exceeds all expectations. A trailblazer dives head first into the tech industry and keep their eyes on success at all times.”

It starts in the interview

If you think being a trailblazer can wait until you’ve landed the job — you’re wrong. According to Peppler, your first impression starts in the interview process. You want to establish yourself as a trailblazer during the job hunt and use the interview process as a way to set the stage for your success.

You may be eager to get your career started, which can make it tempting to apply to any job that fits your background — but just because it’s your first job doesn’t mean you should just take whatever you can get. Peppler says that you should apply “for jobs that are the right fit for you and your employer.” For example, if you like a livelier environment, and you go in for the interview to find the office has a quieter atmosphere, it most likely won’t be the best fit for you or your employer.

He also notes how you should use the interview process not only to make a good first impression but also as a fact-finding mission to learn more about your employer, boss and future colleagues. And it might be tempting in the interview to avoid being authentic to present yourself as professional, but you want to let some of your personality show by being honest about yourself as a person, says Peppler. By remaining transparent, it allows the hiring manager to figure out if you’re a right fit for the company as well.

[ Related story: 6 employee engagement trends that will shake up IT in 2016 ]

Prepare before your first day

Your first day on the job might seem stressful, but you can ease some of the anxiety by walking through the doors of your new office well-prepared. Peppler suggests doing some research on the company and reevaluating the job description so you have a better idea of what to expect. Think about how you would prepare for an interview by researching the company to better understand their overall mission — you want to do the same for your first day on the job. “Show up on the first day with the knowledge of what the company is looking for and prepare questions about what you expect from the company as well. It will show that you are looking to go above-and-beyond and the right people will definitely take notice,” says Peppler.

Head to your new company’s Twitter accounts and other social media profiles, see what you can find about them through a Google search or simply delve into the company’s website to find as much information as you possibly can. This will not only help you ask the right questions on the first day, but it will also give you the confidence to make your mark as a trailblazer right out of the gate.

Stay engaged once in the door

Once you’ve made it past your first day, you should start taking note of the company culture so you can learn to mirror it, says Peppler. Every company has its own culture, set of politics and overall structure, and you want to study it to make sure you understand the overall dynamic. According to Peppler, this will help you learn how to bring up issues or communicate ideas in the future, “Once you realize what the culture is and how everyone interacts with each other, you’ll better understand how to voice your opinions and ideas.”

While you’re working to figure out the company dynamic and how you fit into it, you should spend some time looking into industry trends. Peppler suggests setting up a Google Alert for your industry and/or company and setting aside some time each day to really dig into emerging trends relevant to your career and company. “Stay a step beyond what everyone else is doing and be on top of the industry trends. If you are bringing new ideas to the table, it will show how determined you are to make a difference at the company,” says Pepper.

[ Related story: 10 reasons to encourage workplace distractions ]

Keep up communication

After you’ve learned the company culture, figured out where you fit into the overall structure and determined how employees and management interact with one another, according to Peppler, it’s time to focus on communication. Communication is one of the most important aspects to a successful career, so developing an ability to share ideas and clearly communicate them to colleagues early on will help propel your career at high speed. According to Peppler, if you want to be seen as a trailblazer, you need to establish strong communication skills to set you apart from other entry-level workers who might not be as comfortable speaking up. It’s difficult to earn your status as a trailblazer if you bring ideas to the table or speak up, as Peppler puts it, “Without proper communication, your voice will never be heard.”

Staying vocal at work will help build your reputation as a trailblazer and catch the eye of the people making the big decisions in the company. As Peppler says, “You need to be vocal. No one will know what you have done if you don’t tell anyone about it. Express how you feel and voice any concerns you may have — good, bad or indifferent. It will show the people who matter that you care about the organization and are looking to see it grow within all aspects.”