February 20, 2015

5 Lessons I Learned at my Entry Level Job

Everyone has to start somewhere right?

I was lucky enough to start my career, and my first entry level job, at an advertising agency. Looking back now, I didn't appreciate it nearly enough. Coming out of college during the last economic down turn (2010) with an Advertising degree is a tough place to be. Yet somehow I landed right where I was supposed to be - even if it took me 9 months post graduation.

Sure I had to do things like make the Costco or Jimmy Johns runs, sit for hours collecting surveys for a market research project or stuff and address hundreds of Christmas card envelopes, but I also got to do the cool advertising stuff like go on commercial shoots and work with radio stations.

But whether you have your "dream" job starting out or not, that first entry level job teaches you a lot.

Here are 5 things I learned from my entry level position:

1 | The blessing of a mail merge. College teaches you things like PowerPoint and how to write well, but sometimes those simple things like balancing a check book or creating a 300 contact mail merge goes untaught. Although for one project I had to hand address nearly 500 envelopes to make them look "personal," utilizing the mail merge for some of my other entry level projects was a life saver. Along with that, Excel in general. As a non-business major the joys of Microsoft Excel escaped me until my first entry level position - where I had to learn hard and fast to keep up with the workplace.

2 | No task is too small. As hinted to above, I was kind of the "everything" bitch slave at my first job. Whether it was taking everyone's lunch order or facilitating the design of a client's ad, I did it all and everything in between. I handled contracts, ran focus groups, collected and summarized research data, the works. And it really paid off. Not only do I now have experience in soooo many things, I also got rave remarks from everyone I worked with that I was the "go to" person for just about anything. It's a cool title to have, even if you are running next door to get 8 cups of coffee...

3 | Personality goes a long way. Along with #2, I did everything with a smile. I wanted to help and be a part of everything. I never hid my sense of humor or my competitive spirit. In fact, I was told by the managing director of the company (my boss' boss) that they hired be because of my snarky cover letter. It was sarcastic, sassy and full of confidence, and they liked it. So when they met me in person they knew exactly what they were getting. Just make sure if you are all those things you still are OK doing #2 and can always tone it down when needed.

4 | Be the Ying to the Yang. My boss at my first job was not always the most organized. And, I am the first to admit that I am not that organized either. However, since my position was somewhat of an "assistant" to her (as well as everyone else), I needed to function as her organizational component. I filed her papers, often helped with her schedule and was always there for her to "bounce" things off of to make a plan when things were flying in every which direction. Although I was aware it was not my strength I knew it was what she needed - I acted as that ying to her yang. The result? I was a much needed part of her business and thus that much more valuable.

5 | Don't be afraid to ask for help. I think this applies to your entire lifelong career path. Often times when I started out I would sit completely overwhelmed trying to tackle a project and not get anywhere. Then something magic happened. I swallowed my pride and asked my boss for help. You know what? She was thrilled that I had came and asked. It allowed her to show me how she wanted it done, and honestly I learned a lot along the way. From that point on I was never afraid to ask for help. I want to get the job right the first time, so if that takes a little assistance, I'm all for it!

What did you learn at your first real job? Are you still in that position? What work lessons have you taken for granted?

All this work talk makes me glad it's Friday!

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  1. YES! All of these are lessons I've learned, too. Entry jobs are always that way, aren't they?

  2. "Don't be afraid to ask for help." I totally agree with this one! While many feel it's a sign of weakness or ignorance, most employers see it as enthusiasm to learn!!

  3. oh man, these are all such handy pieces of advice. I feel like swallowing my pride + asking for help has to be the hardest thing. I hate admitting that I can't do it all by myself.

  4. Oh mail merges. Was that a lifesaver when I learned that trick. I looked at my boss and said "You mean to tell me I had this option all of college and NOBODY thought to show me???"

  5. Isn't it funny how asking for help that first time is terrifying, humbling and embarrassing, right up until you finish asking? And then you wonder why you haven't been asking for help all along?

  6. mail merge is the best thing we were never taught :) I also think that doing everything with a smile goes a LOOONG way.

  7. Yes, mail merge! That has to be one of the best inventions ever!

  8. This is all so true. And go you for getting that job so quickly (wow 9 months is quickly....). I graduated in 2011 with advertising and English degrees and my first job out of college was a PT social media/whatever else they needed assistant and I hated it. I learned that you just have to suck it up and learn what you can so you can move on to bigger and better things!