5 Steps to Be Successful at Your First Job

July 27, 2022

I share my coaching and mentoring advice on Instagram and, based on the data, I can see what questions resonate most for people when it comes to their marketing careers.

The most popular recent video is my answer to the question: how can I be successful at my first job? Here was my response, and the five steps outlined in the video. 

1. Make sure there are metrics attached to your job description

If you’re in marketing, there should be metrics attached to your job description. Depending on what you do, they can vary. Here are some ideas of what you should be asked to achieve in your role:

  • Increase traffic to the website (by how much? 10%? 20%)
  • Generate leads (how many per month?)
  • Write blogs (how many per week or month?)
  • Manage a social media account (to grow followers by how much? Or increase engagement by how much?)

If there are no metrics in your job description, meet with your manager to discuss what metrics are best for your position. Your manager should be excited that you’re interested in measuring what you’re doing! Why are metrics important? Because they are clearly defined and measured and you either meet them or you don’t. This way your “success” in your role isn’t a popularity contest or an opinion; it is measurable and clear.

2. Ensure that the metrics are attainable

It’s not fair to you or the organization to have unreasonable goals. Whether you helped set the goals or someone else set them, be sure these metrics are attainable.

For example, if you’re supposed to increase traffic to the website, and there’s currently very little traffic, a 30% increase for the year might be reasonable. If you’re working for a large organization that already has hundreds or thousands of visitors, an increase of 3% – 5% may be a reasonable goal.

If you’re not comfortable reading metrics, this is a great time to combat that fear! Talk to experts in data and analytics. Read what experts have to say. Uncover the best way to measure what you’re doing and what the “standard” is.

For example, if you’re in charge of sending emails, you’ll want to increase your Open Rate or Click-through Rate or decrease the Bounce Rate by cleansing and organizing your lists. These metrics and benchmark metrics are available on third-party platforms.

3. Exceed your goals

There’s nothing that spells success better than having reasonable goals and then blowing them out of the water! It’s the best way to show what a great job you’re doing and how your hard work has paid off.

Again, sticking to numbers and metrics ensures that your job performance is about the work, not whether or not your boss likes you, or you “fit in” with the team. It’s not about face-time in the office, the number of hours you worked, etc. It’s about the results. And if you can show you’re a rock star, then you’ll know that you’re a success.

4. Share that success

When you have achieved a significant goal, whatever that might be, it’s important to share it with your manager. It’s almost impossible for someone to ignore data that shows you’ve exceeded your job description goals.

This does not mean you should flaunt your success to others on your team. Hopefully, your boss will do that! But it does mean you can feel confident that you’re doing a good job.

5. Ask your manager, “What will it take for me to get to the next level?”

If you have ambition and you want to move up, it’s important for your manager to know that. In addition, it’s also important to have a plan. Asking your manager this question shows them that you’re willing to learn and put in the work to move up in the organization. If this comes as a surprise, or your manager feels threatened by this, you now know that it’s time to look for another job.

The purpose of the conversation is for you (and your boss) to come up with a “roadmap” that you can follow to get to your next goal. The work to get there might include:

  • Taking online classes to learn a new skill
  • Additional industry or product knowledge
  • A lateral move to another team – to learn new skills or gain new knowledge
  • Training in an area – such as management training, to learn how to manage people
  • Time to wait for budget to be approved

Please note the importance of the last bullet point! Most companies budget for positions yearly so there may not be budget for you to be promoted for a few months. This is normal! And that’s often how it works. Don’t create unreasonable expectations that are outside of the company’s budgeting.

Having said that, if you’ve:

  • followed the roadmap
  • done the work
  • met all the goals

and the budget time rolls around and you’re not promoted, or there isn’t budget for the new title, you’ve been sent a clear sign. They don’t want to invest in you or promote you. And it’s time to move on.

Still have questions about your career? Check out the Executive Interviews and sign-up for one-to-one coaching during my Office Hours.