As you prepare for your first full-time job or your first semester of graduate study, I have 3 tips to help you be more successful in this next step of your career journey, and they all relate to one small word: ASK. But, ask what?
Ask for help
Last week, I met with Andrea (I changed her name), a graduate student, in a mock interview to help her gear up for an actual interview for a job she really wants. During our conversation, I asked Andrea to describe a challenge she faced in the past and how she was able to get past the challenge. She told a story about her transition to graduate work here and how difficult that transition was. But, Andrea was smart, as Andrea asked for help.
When I was Andrea’s age, I avoided asking for help because I thought doing so would make me look bad. Was I ever wrong! You look worse if you’re struggling and don’t ask for help to navigate your struggles. Andrea, on the other hand, called on her "Personal Board of Directors" for assistance as she worked through the many changes and challenges she faced as she moved forward in her graduate program. And she took their advice to heart and is now preparing to finish her studies.
When I started my first job after college, I felt like I shouldn’t ask questions in meetings. I was afraid that not knowing all the answers made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing, or that my question might be viewed as a stupid question. It wasn’t until years later that I stumbled upon these words noted to be a Chinese Proverb (and also attributed to Mark Twain):
Asking questions comes from a position of strength where we who are doing the inquiring are self-aware enough to realize that admitting we don’t have all the answers or don’t understand makes us look smarter, not the opposite. Asking questions also demonstrates you’re interested in what is being discussed, you’re listening and you care. Asking questions as a new employee or a new graduate student also gives you an opportunity for your voice to be heard in a meeting.
Ask for more
A big fan of quotes, my final piece of advice relates to asking when it comes to salary offers.
A few days ago I met with a student, Natasha (name changed) by phone to discuss her upcoming conversation with an employer about her salary offer. I told her about a printout I have of the graphic above about Ask4More taped to my computer screen. This has been my mantra ever since I read these words for the first time a few years ago. Why? The starting salary you accept will most likely be the base from which future raises (often a percent of your current salary) are calculated. You’ll be better off starting higher, right?
Many employers expect you to negotiate after an offer is made. No matter how you feel about the offer, you can ask if the offer is negotiable. And, even if you’re happy with the offer, consider asking for more if you feel you’re in a position to do so because of the value you’re bringing to the employer.
If need help with evaluating your offer or with preparing for your offer discussion with an employer, contact us in Career and Professional Development so you, too, can Ask4More.
Congratulations on your new role as an employee or graduate student. And, remember…