How to kick ass at your first job after college

| 694 Words | 4 minutes to read | work

Your first job after college can set the trajectory for your entire career. You’ll never be more inexperienced so you’ll be primed for learning. You’ll have developed very few, if any, bad work habits. You can be a sponge, learning from all the experienced people around you.

You’ll learn what it’s like to deal with shitty co-workers. How someone doing their job for years can still suck at it. And hopefully you’ll pick up tons of knowledge, experience, and mentorship along the way.

Here’s a short list of what you can do to kick ass.

Get shit done

There is a time when you’ll need to work overtime to get projects done. But that time is not every day. Working crazy hours is a recipe for burnout. You have your whole career ahead of you. Plenty of time to burn the midnight oil.

Resist the urge to be first-in and last-out of the office. Appearances are important, but getting shit done is more important.

Be efficient with your time. Don’t take hour plus lunches every day. Don’t waste time chatting around the coffee machine. Again, you’ll have plenty of time for that over the more than 13 years you’ll physically be spending in the office over your career.

Top performers aren’t made around the coffee machine. They’re made by doing the work. So do it.

Be fast, efficient, and accurate

Learn to complete your work quickly and accurately. Don’t rush through things only to have them sent back to you. But the faster you can build that report for your boss every week, the sooner you can move onto the next project.

As you get more efficient at doing your job you’ll start to have more free time. Your boss will think you can complete that report in a few days when now it only takes you an hour or two. This is an important crossroad. You can start coasting now, or you can put your foot on the accelerator and ask your boss for more work.

Ask for more. Your boss will appreciate you taking things off their to-do list. You’ll start getting involved in more projects. Suddenly you’re touching more areas of the business and doing things unrelated to what you were hired to do.

This is how top performers are made.

Make Mistakes

You will learn faster by making mistakes than you will by doing everything perfectly. Don’t be a perfectionist. You will learn so much more after a terrible presentation than after a successful one.

Your fuck ups will haunt you. They’ll keep you up at night. And they’ll also prevent you from making the same mistake ever again. Eventually you’ll have a whole trophy case of fuck ups. Cherish them, for they’re what will make you kick ass.

I’ve lost companies tens of thousands of dollars, multiple times. I’ve fucked up ad campaigns. I’ve crashed websites. I’ve sent out incomplete marketing emails to 50,000 people with broken unsubscribe links. My boss was the reply-to on those emails too, so she had to clean up my mess.

You will make mistakes. Learn from them. They’ll make you better.

Become an expert

Don’t say you know how to do vlookups when you really don’t. I’ve interviewed those people and asked them to prove it. Most of them fail.

Master the tools you need to do your job. Do you use Excel every day? Learn from Mr. Excel. Learn vlookups, pivot tables, and index match. Learn the formula by heart because it’ll make you faster.

Do you work for one of the 150,000 companies that use Salesforce? Get a certification.

Start with one tool, and become the go-to person for any questions about it. Then add another one. This is how you build your toolkit. You’re also creating job security for yourself.

If your company implements a new tool, be the first to master it. Learn all you can about it, get every certificate and training you can. You’ll be indispensable.


These are the tips I’ve picked up in my early career. What has been the most helpful tip you’ve picked up in your career? Drop a comment or send a message.