The things I wasn’t told about getting the best out of my graduate program

Like most university graduates I was unsure of my direction after completing my university degree. So, as a first step, I decided to apply for a graduate program.

Everyone’s graduate experience is difference but the lessons I learnt, and now see played out in others, are worth sharing.

The importance of seeking regular feedback

We are all guilty of taking feedback to heart. If you are going to develop both personally and professionally you need to seek regular feedback. The discussion and sometimes criticism can be hard to take but it is important to take it on board for your long term development.

Not everyone develops and grows at the same rate

It important to understand and accept you will grow and develop at different rates compared to other members of your graduate cohort. Therefore don’t compare your own career trajectory to any other graduate. It just isn’t helpful.

It is important to be self-aware

Some graduates will develop an attitude they can do no wrong. Ultimately this is an unhealthy behavior that only leads to disappointment. Adopt a mindset that enables you to grow and is cognisant of your current capabilities and limitations.

Prioritise your professional development

Although I was given access to learn and develop as a graduate, one thing I regret not doing earlier was spending more time identifying specific areas for my own personal and professional development. If you don’t set aside time each week to reflect and develop you will soon be overtaken by those who are constantly seeking to grow.

Don’t be in hurry to climb up the ladder

Most graduates want to climb the ladder very quickly. But don’t be in too much of a rush to progress. What is really important is taking the time to develop your core skills and current capabilities. That way, when an opportunity presents itself you will be ready to take it with open arms. There is nothing more damaging or career limiting as taking a job you aren’t ready for. I don’t know what is worse? Explaining to a potential new employer the reason why you are applying for a more junior role than your previous role or the dent to your confidence?

Be accountable

Although this should be a given, most people hate to admit when they are wrong. If you make a mistake own up. It is better to be honest and upfront when the situation can be fixed rather than waiting to a point where the situation is beyond repair.

Learn from your mistakes

Nobody will hold it against you if make an honest mistake, it is part of learning, but if you keep making the same mistake over and over then there should be concerns.

So rather than seeing your mistakes as failure, be open to learning and see these mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

The ability to adapt to change

In life there is one constant – change. If you are going to survive in any environment you need to adapt. In an uncertain market you need to have a broad offering not just niche skills. However you also need balance to ensure the skill sets you’re building aren’t too diverse and don’t allow any one skill to develop to its peak ability.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side

If you are looking to jump ship to another employer just reminder that it might not be all that different. So although you might be unhappy in your role take the time to look for a good opportunity not just the first opportunity.

Be realistic

It sounds like a common sense but most graduates start off wanting to be the CEO of the company they work for. There can only be one CEO, so be realistic about your skill set and the life you want to live. CEOs don’t magically inherit their roles overnight. It takes a lot of time, energy and patience.

I had the most amazing time on my graduate program. Most past graduates will agree there is a special sort of kudos that comes with the title of graduate.

In fact I see the same feelings each year as a new cohort of graduates start. You see it in their eyes, the nerves, the anticipation of what to expect? But behind the new clothes and fresh haircuts is the reassurance they have made it.

Part of that is true, they have made it, but little do they know that the hard work and the fun has just begun.


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