New Grad? How To Understand What The Boss Wants

new grads first job tips

By Susan Ricker

Graduation was only a few months ago and yet your alma mater is already sending you alumni donation requests, it's been less than ideal moving back in with your parents and any graduation money that you got was burned through a long time ago. (Why did that new collector's pack of DVDs seem so cool at the time?) However, the upside to all this is getting your first job after graduation, and along with this new life comes some challenges -- one of the biggest being understanding your new boss.Whether you're working for a control freak or someone more hands off, there are ways to figure out what your boss is asking of you and how to impress her. From learning the communication style of your boss to becoming a star employee, here are some insider tips for starting your new job off on the right foot.

1. Learn the communication style of your boss.

If you have a boss who clearly spells out projects and expectations, you're already a step ahead in the game. However, if your boss tends to leave his expectations to your imagination, there are ways to decode his communication style.

Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting, an Atlanta-based business and career consulting firm, says, "You can simply learn other's communication styles from their eye movements or words they commonly use. People are always telling us what they want, even if they don't know it. We just need to learn to recognize these clues and respond accordingly."

For example, if your boss always uses adjectives that describe how things look, then they are most likely prefer to communication visually. The proper response would be to answer with visual descriptions or provide visual presentations so that they can easily understand and see what you're explaining. Communication is a key element in maintaining a strong personal relationship. This method is one way to ensure that you're always communicating on the same page.

2. Stand out with day-to-day excellence.

Looking like an all-star in the eyes of your boss doesn't necessarily mean hitting a homerun every day. Often, impressing a boss means being consistently responsible and reliable. Timothy G. Wiedman, assistant professor of management and human resources at Doane College in Crete, Neb., shares these mistakes that new-hires often make, and how you can avoid them:
  • Tardiness. Always be at work on time and get to meetings and appointments early.
  • Poor meeting preparation. Study meeting agendas in advance, then review related material and bring relevant files or documents to the meeting.
  • Lack of participation. Participate in discussions and ask relevant questions.
  • Missing deadlines. Always get an early start on projects so that the unexpected will not trip you up.
  • Non-professional appearance. Dress appropriately (which generally means conservatively) for your work environment. When in doubt, it is usually safer to overdress.

3. Demonstrate a great attitude.

The excitement of a new job can wear off by the end of the first day if the people you work with seem like a bunch of monkeys and your boss acts like a zookeeper. But you can tame your negative feelings and impress your boss if you have a great attitude and stay positive. Molly Mahoney Matthews, president and CEO of The Starfish Group, a communications and PR specialist group, offers advice for dealing with a first job and a first boss:
  • Be friendly, positive and willing to take on whatever is asked. There are two questions that bosses ask when evaluating a new employee. First, can this person get the job done? Second, will this person be easy to work with, respectful, professional and smart? Become that person.

  • Keep your complaints to yourself. There is an inherent frustration in entry level where you have more first-line knowledge than management does but are required to implement their bone-headed decisions. Get better at your job and rise to a place where you make the calls.

  • When you think you know better, tread softly. It's hard when you know that you can do better than those who are in charge. You may see a better, faster and cheaper path, but walk a fine line when you express opinions as a "newby."

  • Respect the experience of management. Management is probably handling more than you know (cashflow, clients, IT problems, hiring, etc.). Don't be a know-it-all before you know what you don't know.

  • Life isn't fair; entry level jobs are difficult and often unrewarding. Expect to pay your dues and remember that there will be difficult days and difficult people.

There are plenty of supportive bosses and trustworthy colleagues but you may not find them right away. Prepare to work with human beings and remember your first job is a stepping stone, not a destination. There will be time to assess where you want to go next -- your best ticket out of entry-level work is excellent performance.

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