For the many of the ambitious young graduates heading into the business world to find fame and fortune, I want to pass along a few pieces of advice I have heard over the years.
A friend of mine in Washington who had been promoted to the chief of staff in a congressional office told me, “There is only one guy in this town that doesn’t have to get coffee for someone.”
Outside the beltway, the reference may not seem applicable, but it is.
The analogy is meant to remind us that no matter how much you might know, or how high up the ladder you may climb, it is best to approach your career with a servant’s heart.
In other words, check your ego at the door. It’s hard to do, I know that first-hand.
After spending so many years in school and finally achieving the milestones established by your university, you have every reason to feel like you know something.
But trust me, you still have a lot to learn. In all honesty, you always will.
Remember that you are likely not the only person your future employer could have hired.
They chose you over a pool of similar candidates.
On top of that, the job market is not exactly welcoming for new grads right now.
So when you do find a position, whether its collating papers or making a sales pitch to potential clients, do it with gusto.
Be thankful for every opportunity.
The ones you learn the most from might surprise you. I learned the most about humility in service in my first role as a manager, responsible for a large staff of young, educated men and women, eager to get their own start.
My director at the time told me, “We don’t pay you to take the garbage out, but to be a good leader, you have to be willing to do it.”
She said, “Never ask anyone to do something you are not willing to do yourself.”
I took that advice to heart and quickly found the folks I worked with noticed.
They may not have all liked me, but they respected that work ethic and in turn, worked hard for the organization.
You will probably have managers you love and others you may find more difficult to deal with.
Just remember, they were all once where you are now. Mentors and teachers can come from unlikely places.
Try to learn as much as you can about the organization you support.
Learn to make coffee. As often as you can, be the first one there and the last one to leave.
My mom told me early in my career, “Everyone is replaceable.” It may not sound like good motherly advice but thankfully it doesn’t stop there.
She told me to find a way to make yourself invaluable at work.
You likely will not stay at your first job forever, but the job you do there will follow you for years. So be positive, be enthusiastic, work hard and be humble.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to change direction one day.
Congratulations. You have a great adventure ahead of you.
Your education in the classroom may be over but I can assure you, it is only just beginning.
Contact Sarah Robinson at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal