How to thrive and build a brand in your first job after education

Recently I have been doing some research on how to hit the ground running when starting a new job. The problem I have found is that when reading website after website about how to be successful in your new job it’s all the same stuff…Set a 90 day plan, make friends, dress well, ask questions blah blah blah Some of these even had the header how to survive your first day….SURVIVE!

Like that’s the best we can do at something new.

Well I don’t want you to just survive your new role in fact I want you to thrive in it. I want you to hit the ground running so hard that after the first week people are already wondering who you are and what you will become.

There will be countless other people who will follow the basics and just try to get through each day until they have a basic understanding of the business and that’s fine if quick career progression is not on the top of your agenda.

If you like me however want to get on and fast I would suggest once you have mastered the basics of asking questions and dressing yourself properly you turn your attention to the real things you need to be looking out for and working on (these are the bits that nobody in education tells you and you only learn once in the job)

Whenever you enter a new role/company it is important to have a 3 stage attack in order to be hitting the major touch points of progression and these are:

  1. You – what you need to do and watch out for personally in yourself

  2. Your colleagues – how do the politics work? Who can assist you?

  3. The business – what direction is the business going in (so you can tailor your words to match the business plan when talking to superiors)

You – managing your brand

This is how you manage yourself to make sure you don’t get in your own way unintentionally (this happens more than you realise)

This can be split into two different categories when it comes to your own self-management and these are Actions & behaviours:


So there are a few key things you can do to demonstrate yourself as someone who is switched on and knows where they are going. The first of which is to stay humble! It is easy to get carried away with how good you are when you have just graduated and walked into a great job half way up the ladder with a nice salary and great expectations for your future.

Whatever you do make sure you stay humble and remind yourself that you know nothing about this business and the people within it. This will help because your co-workers will expect you to have a know it all attitude as so many before you have had (we are sorry about this!) staying humble will make people connect with you quicker and in turn they will want to help you. To your managers this will make you look like a team player and someone who has leadership potential for future roles.

The second thing to do is take a year out from your social life and dedicate yourself to the cause. Do the long days, learn about the business when you don’t need too, take on additional responsibility even if you don’t want it. All of these things will create a person who is tapped into the life blood of the business and actually has “substance” something that everyone thinks they have but not many do! Because you are new and a graduate people will be watching to see if you are any good – take advantage of the spot light you are getting and maximise your involvement on all fronts. We all know a person who is connected to everything and knows what’s going on in every circle…well that’s about to be you!


Ok so actions are the bits you do to show other people your brand and who you are. Behaviours however are the internal bits that nobody else see but guide your actions subconsciously. Every successful person is incredibly good at controlling their behaviours and tailoring their actions.

The 3 things that are key to master in the early stages of your first career are:

  • Fail as often as possible

fake it till you make is for fools and people expect you to fail in the first few months. Take advantage of your free pass because over time that expectation fades and you don’t want to make a mistake a year in when you have been promoted that you could have learnt in week one when it was expected.

  • Control your mind talk

be nice to yourself! You need to be the only one in your corner. There are enough people who will be watching to see you fail because you are a threat. The anxiety of change and something being brand new can hijack your brain and make you uncertain of yourself, abilities and worth to the company.

  • Don’t take everything personally

Everything up to now has been a direct focus on you as a person in education. Work is not education its business and if you do something that’s bad for business you will no doubt hear about it! Don’t take it personally it’s all a learning curve and you will get chewed out a few times in the early days….this doesn’t mean people don’t like you or you are a failure you just need to get better at this one thing.

Your Colleagues

This is the hardest bit because politics and agenda management is something we never teach you at school and can be the fastest downfall or helping hand you will ever have in business.

The phrase people buy people could never be truer and whilst you are taking care of your goals/priorities and learning how the business works it will all be for nothing if you cannot influence your peers and managers (and your team if you have one)

There are 3 key things to identify in the early stages of your new job that will make you a social chameleon or political animal (whichever you prefer!)

  • Find out who the real social leaders are

Every group has a boss but are they the real social leader? Most of the time the answer is no. This individual is usually the right hand person of the boss and directly feed into the business from an unofficial capacity. Every business has that one person who can make or break someone politically if you fall out with them because they can turn everyone else’s opinion against you, whether this is Janet in accounts or Dave the coffee guy every social group has one….find yours fast! Get them on your side and instead of working against you they will work in your favour making everyone else fall in turn and help you in your goal. They will also bolster your brand and social position to higher management without you having to do anything.

  • Understand the culture – do’s & don’ts

Every business has its own culture and “the way things are done around here”. This could be casual Friday or on Wednesday we wear pink! Whatever it is make sure you learn them and get involved. What this does is put you in the “in” group which basically means everyone else in the office who participates in this cultural activity will see you as just like them and will have a connection with you. By not participating it puts you in the “out” group and people will see you as different to them and therefore they will be less likely to support and defend you. This is a quick win to be part of the team and make it easier to influence people subconsciously building your brand all the way.

The Business

The idea with this is to learn as much as you can about the business so you can properly represent it and make sure your conversations & propositions are not only in line with the business plan but also puts makes you a part of the “in” group with your superiors.

The only way to create sustainable growth in your new role is to be credible in your opinion and relatable to the company’s direction.

There are plenty of things you could learn about your new company but to make an impact fast focus on the below points for the first few weeks:

  • Understand the structure and how everything connects

Learning this will allow you have a balanced view of any issues and allows you to identify who the key stakeholders are in each area. Getting these people in your corner will mean that when there is an issue that could affect your performance (stock not delivered) you can rectify this on your own and make sure your performance is not damaged by other areas of the business failing which in turn protects your brand.

  • Learn how the business works and its flow from end to end.

An example of this could be a shop. How does the product get into the shop, to the shop floor and then finally sold? This will include many hidden processes from stock control through to accepting deliveries.

  • Find out the plan for the year/next 5 years

Don’t you love it when you meet someone who has the same beliefs and mission as you? Understand the larger plan for the business and its direction. This will generally be known by management and will shape the year ahead. Find out what this is as when you are talking to people you need to influence you can support your argument with the direction the business is going and show that you are aligned to the vision. This is the type of stuff your bosses will be looking at and being pressured on so if you are able to relate to that they will instantly warm to you and see you’re potential.

Following this plan will give you structure and ultimately a direction to go in. It is only when we have no path to follow or structure to work to do we become mentally over whelmed and stop being able to project the best version of ourselves.

These things may take 6 months to learn and will be tough at times but what they will give you is a clear purpose and goals which by the end of it you will have created a brand as someone who is a leader, very talented and a great ambassador of the business….what more could they want when looking for someone to fill that next promotion?

Good luck my fellow graduates!

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