What is important to know in the first year of work?

First Year of Work

There are several things to think about in your first year of work. It may take some time to fully develop each of the items below as they may involve an understanding of your company processes and environment. Some companies will have very formal policies for some of my recommendations while other companies are simply to small to warrant formalizing these items.

My 1st Recommendation: Create a “Status Report” for your Manager

Your manager needs to know what you are doing so they can appraise you at the end of the year. Typically, managers will have status update meetings weekly or bi-monthly with all of the employees in the group so they can be aware of the work going on in the group and can be sure the objectives of the department are being met. But, if they don’t have regular status update meetings with you, it is okay to schedule an update with your manager as it is in your best interest to keep your manager apprised of your work assignments. Here is an example of how you can create a Status Report.

My 2nd Recommendation: Create a “Development Plan”

A Development Plan contains your ideas of where you want to be in three to five years. The Development Plan is your document and it can change at any time, but you should revisit it at least once a year. Some companies will have formal Development Plans that also include a formal discussion with the manager. This can be a very good thing as it allows your manager to identify opportunities for you that are in line with your long-term career goals. For example, if you write that you would like to become a manager in two years, then your manager could have you “shadow” one of the executives in the company for a week. Whether your company has a formal Development Plan or not, it is in your best interest to create your own Development Plan so you can always be thinking about where you would like to go in your career.

My 3rd Recommendation: Understand how your “Appraisal” works

Your manager will probably explain how your appraisal works. However, if they don’t, this would be a good topic for one of your status update meetings. You want to understand how the manager weights various activities like teamwork, leadership, problem solving, finishing assignments to schedule, making recommendations, speaking up in meetings, and so on. Once you understand your manager’s expectations, you can tailor your status updates to address each of these criteria.

My 4th Recommendation: Let your manager know if you want to be “Promoted”

There are two assumptions that many new-hires make which are not correct. First, they assume that everyone wants to be promoted. And second, they assume that if they work hard and do a good job, the manager will automatically promote them. There are some managers who will watch out for their employees and follow these two assumptions. But, you shouldn’t make these assumptions for yourself. There are some employees who don’t want to get promoted because they are happy with the amount of work they have and the level of accountability in their assignment. If you want to get promoted, you have to let your manager know this so they can plan for your promotion.

When a manager knows you want to get promoted, they can look for opportunities for you to demonstrate that you can work at the next promotion level. The manager is going to need to “sell” your promotion to their bosses. At some level of the management hierarchy, they are going to have to “budget” for your new promotion level which usually includes a higher salary. There may be a limited number of promotions allowed per year and each manager under the boss may have to compete for their employees promotions.

A good way to “work” your promotion with your manager is to change the last bullet in my sample Status Report to say: “Is the scope of my job on track to get myself promoted? (i.e. am I doing what is needed to show that I deserve a promotion?)”. If you ask this question in every status update meeting, your manager will know you want to get promoted and you can ensure you are working on tasks that demonstrate that you should be promoted.

My 5th Recommendation: Don’t be surprised if your first appraisal is lower than you expected

You join a company, you work really hard, you meet regularly with your manager, you create weekly status reports, you have a lot of good ideas, and life is just good all around. Then you get your first appraisal and it is the lowest mark on the scale. What happened? This is a very common occurrence and it can be very deflating. But there is a reason for it and it isn’t as bad as it initially feels. In many companies, managers are expected to appraise on a curve meaning there will be a small number of high marks, a small number of low marks, and most of the employees will be in the middle. In a difficult economy, the employees getting the low marks might find themselves dismissed at the next employee layoff.

It is easy and common to give the newhire in the group the low mark because it is very unlikely the company will invest the money to bring on a college student and then immediately lay them off. With newhires joining the company mid-year (ex. June), it is very easy for the manager to explain the low appraisal by saying, “you just joined the company, how can you possibly expect to be working at the right level.” Since the first appraisal isn’t that important, I advise students to just understand why this happens and not dwell on it.

To read more, see my Paperback/Kindle book on Amazon.com

“My Recruiting Secrets for Engineering Students” (Published Sept, 2013)

The first year of work is very important in terms of setting your career on the right track. My book has several more recommendations on things to consider and do during your first year. For example, my book explains how you can create a Status Report for your manager that allows you to formally discuss your work and accomplishments. My book also shows you when and how to position yourself for your first promotion in your company, and how to use your Status Report to track your promotion.

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