Career tips for your first job

So, you’ve landed your first job. Congratulations! Your first professional job is an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and get your feet wet in your industry.

But landing the job(opens in a new tab or window) is just the first step. Once you’re actually in the job, it’s up to you to succeed—which can feel pretty overwhelming when you’re brand new to the professional world.

Now that you’ve successfully landed the role, the next stage is to think about how you can take this initial success and spin it into a fulfilling and challenging career?

Below, we provide you with a few tips that will help you succeed, thrive, and get the most out of your first professional role:

Place a value on professionalism

Place value on professionalism. Image from Canva via Pixabay.

The professional world has a certain set of rules—some spoken, some unspoken. And while no one expects you to know those rules from day one, your employer will expect a certain level of professionalism from the start.

When you land your first job, it’s important to understand that you’re walking into a professional workplace, and it’s important to act accordingly.

So, for example, it’s fine to get friendly with your coworkers. But oversharing about your personal life can cross a professional boundary.

The way you carry yourself will have an impact on how your coworkers, managers, and executive team look at you—so make sure you bring an appropriate level of professionalism to the office.

Carrying yourself with a sense of professionalism will help you succeed at your first job—and a professional resume will help you succeed in getting your next job. Design a resume that will get you hired with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Green Health Photo Resume(opens in a new tab or window) or the Green and White Two Tone Corporate Resume(opens in a new tab or window).

Ask for help when you need it

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Image by rawpixel on Pixabay.

So many people are hesitant to ask for help when they need it—especially when they’re in their first job. They worry that it will make them seem unqualified for the role.

However, when you start your first job, you are going to face new challenges and situations every day—and asking for help in navigating those challenges and situations shows your employer that you’re willing to learn and grow, not that you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you get assigned a task that you don’t know how to complete, ask your manager to walk you through it. Take detailed notes and make sure you understand the entire process.

Or, if you feel overwhelmed by your workload and don’t know how you’re going to manage all of your tasks, ask your team for support. As a new employee, your team is there to guide you and support you. And, because they’re more experienced, they can pull on their experience to help you think of new ways to approach your task list and increase your productivity.

Asking for the help and support you need—including the right tools—will help you thrive in your first role. If you’re having trouble staying on top of your to-do list, a planner is the perfect tool to help you get you organized. Get started one of Canva’s planner templates, like the Yellow Minimalist Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Simple White Boxes Ocean Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window).

Take responsibility when you make mistakes

Take responsibility when you make mistakes. Image from Canva via Pexels.

If there’s one truth about the business world, it’s this—everyone makes mistakes. And as someone working in their first job, you’re probably going to make more mistakes than most.

And that’s totally ok! The problem isn’t making mistakes—it’s trying to cover up those mistakes because you’re too embarrassed or scared to own up to them.

If you want to thrive in your role, the second you realize you’ve made a mistake, you need to bring it to your manager’s attention, own it, and come up with a solution.

So, for example, let’s say you sent out a company-wide email—and, after hitting send, realized that it had a few typing errors. Instead of ignoring the problem or sweeping it under the rug, one idea is to send a follow-up email to your manager. Tell them you just realized you sent out an email with a few typos, apologize, and let them know how you’re going to avoid making the same mistake in the future (for example, by running your email copy through a grammar tool).

You’re going to make mistakes at your first job (and at every job thereafter). But if you can own your mistakes—and, more importantly, learn from them—they’re nothing to be afraid of.

Seek out a mentor

Find yourself a mentor. Image by Christina Morillo from Pexels.

When you’re just starting out in the professional world, it’s helpful to have someone more experienced to show you the ropes—and that’s where a mentor comes in.

A mentor is someone who can help support your career growth. Ideally, they’ll be someone with more experience, and someone whose career path you aspire to.

You can seek out a mentor(opens in a new tab or window) who has climbed the corporate ladder all the way to the top, or you can partner with someone who has just a few years more experience than you do. Either can be extremely beneficial.

For example, let’s say you just got hired as a junior graphic designer at a design agency. You could seek out a mentor at the director level (like an art director or creative director), who can give you more big-picture insights into what goes into a long-term career in design. Or, you could seek out a mid-level graphic designer, who could give you insights into how to grow your skills and move up to the next level within the company.

The point is, being mentored by people more experienced than you can help you move forward in your first job—and, more importantly, help you move forward in your career.

Being a mentor is a big job. So if someone takes the time to help you along in your career, you want to make sure to say thank you. Express your gratitude and say thanks with one of Canva’s postcard templates, like the Pink and Blue Diagonal Wave Line Thank You Postcard(opens in a new tab or window) or the Neon Red Blue Shapes Modern Thank You Postcard(opens in a new tab or window).

Be consistent with the small things

Be consistent in the small things. Image via rawpixel on Pixabay.

Many people think that in order to make a good impression, they need to be a superstar in their first job. And while being a high-level performer certainly doesn’t hurt, it’s often the smallest things that make the biggest impression.

Show up on time. Ask your team if there’s anything you can do to help them with their tasks. Accept feedback with grace and humility. Always come prepared for meetings. Greet people with a smile.

These seem like small things. But when you do the small things well, they help you develop a reliable reputation.

Put down your phone

Let go of your phone. Photo by Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash.

We live in a world of 24/7 connectivity. And while you may feel like your phone is surgically attached to your hand, if you’re going to succeed in your first job, you need to put the phone down.

Checking your phone every five minutes will not only make it harder to focus at work, but it can also have a negative impact on how you’re viewed in the workplace; if people see you on your phone all the time, they’re going to assume you’re bored, disengaged, or not interested in your job—and your professional image can suffer as a result.

When you get to work, turn your phone on silent (or, better yet, turn it off completely) and store it in a place that’s out of sight, like in your desk drawer or in your work bag. If you can’t see it, you won’t be tempted to check it!

Don’t tackle personal tasks during work hours

Keep your personal work separate. Plan accordingly. Image by rawpixel on Pixabay.

Chances are, there are going to be times at your job where you don’t have any specific tasks to work on; for example, maybe your boss is out for the day and didn’t leave you much work to complete.

It can be tempting to tackle personal tasks when you have downtime at work. But if you want to do well at your first job, you need to fight that temptation.

Work hours are for working—not for personal calls, checking your Instagram feed, or watching Netflix on your phone. If you need to tackle a personal task, save it for your break, lunch hour, or after you clock out.

Having trouble balancing your work and personal tasks? Stay on top of all your to-do’s—and make sure nothing falls through the cracks—with one of Canva’s planner templates, like the Light Purple General Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or the Minimalist Grid General Daily Planner(opens in a new tab or window).

Related articles

See all

Bring your ideas to life in minutes

Express yourself with the world's easiest design program.