What Entry Level Designers Need to Know When Starting a New Job

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Chair Of The Month

In celebration and support of the launch of our new job board, we’re rolling out a series of articles to help you know what to keep in mind (or, what to highlight on your resume) if you’re looking for a new position in the workplace industry, or the right person to fill it. Here: what to keep in mind once you land the gig.

The studio space at FOX Architects' McLean office. Photo by Roy Blunt.
The studio space at FOX Architects’ McLean office. Photo by Roy Blunt.

Congratulations! You’ve just been offered a position at the design firm of your dreams (perhaps our new job board helped get you there!). But now what? We reached out to Julianne Kim, the talent acquisition manager at FOX Architects, to find out what you should keep in mind as you start this new gig.

1. Be a smart worker

A good impression is a lasting one, so make an entrance at your new job by proving you have inner drive and know how to work intelligently. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always the first to arrive and last to leave, but simply proving you produce work in an efficient manner. Time is money and the projects you’re on will have allocated time for specific tasks. It’s your job to ensure the task is completed before the deadline and done correctly. There’s no more wiggle room in negotiating deadlines with clients. A deadline is a deadline and it’s critical you meet it consistently.

Listen to and observe how your supervisors manage their time. A good supervisor will be transparent in sharing previous mistakes that they’ve learned from and share tips in how to be successful on the team. Be aware of what time your supervisor comes in — follow his or her lead in how they work and emulate it. Imitation, we know, is the sincerest form of flattery: compliment your colleagues and supervisor by imitating their positive work traits.

Prioritize your work and avoid distractions such as texting and emailing your friends during at work. Catch up on personal emails or errands during lunch hours so you can stay focused on the task at hand. Supervisors notice when you’re cruising online or sending personal emails, even if you’re getting work done. Your firm may provide the latest and greatest technology platform for you to multi-task, but it’s best to separate your personal life from what ought to be happening during business hours.

2. Ask, seek, and knock

A respected employee is an individual who displays intellectual and practical knowledge with regard to their work. Asking thoughtful questions is a good way to learn in your new role. Good supervisors encourage and welcome answering questions from junior staff. However, before you tap your supervisor’s shoulder, do a little leg work by checking to see if you already have the answer. Check emails that were previously sent to you or look to see if it’s located in internal folders or on your desktop. Make sure you do a quick search online. Refer to the notes you took — try to answer your own question by seeking out the answer. It may be right in front of you.

Organize your questions into categories during your first week. Take notes and refer to it since it will seem like you’re drinking from a fire hose of information at first! This prevents you from repeating questions to your colleagues and present a polished professional image to your supervisor.

For smaller task-related question, nudge the colleague sitting next to you. For bigger questions like management or professional development, request one-on-one time with your supervisor at the end of the week.

3. Get back in the saddle after making a mistake

Everybody makes mistakes — it’s really a matter of when you will make one. Whether it’s small or large, own up to it and resolve it quickly in a calm manner. No need to panic as most likely, the mistake is something that is a quick fix. If the issue is bigger, loop in your supervisor or teammate so they are aware of it — they may be able to provide a solution or brainstorm with you to alleviate it. Don’t forget to apologize, quickly and sincerely, if the mistake causes inconvenience to your team.

Most of all, learn from your mistake and move forward. Learning from mistakes shows your growth as a mature professional. And be willing to share past mistakes with other junior employees who will appreciate your wisdom.

4. The soft touches in communication

Remember the KISS rule when emailing — Keep It Short and Simple. It’s best to err on the side of formality in your emails, phone conversations, and texts to colleagues. That means starting your emails with “hello”, “hi”, and “dear” — not “hey”. The way you communicate at work should be different than the way you communicate with your friends and family. Limit the exclamations, abbreviations, and word trails for your colleagues to guess what you’re thinking. Write in complete sentences and clarify the document that you’ve attached to the email you sent, instead of thinking they’ll figure it out by reading the document title.

Keep your tone of voice and language clean by avoiding foul language or sharing inappropriate jokes. If you’re unwilling to send the same email to your parents, it most likely means you need to edit the content before sending it. Emails are like social media — they cannot be deleted once sent. And poorly written emails may come back to haunt your professional reputation in the future.

If you’re caught up in a heated email exchange, take the time to cool down before you type a response. Request a second opinion from a neutral party to make sure you’re not reading too far into things.

And if the mistake you made was not yours, but you were blamed for it, err on the side of being graceful and do not point fingers. Always stick to the facts and calmly provide a solution in a professional manner. Do not publicly shame or get overly upset at the individual. Instead, have a private meeting after you’ve cooled down. Avoid office gossip or engaging in negative talk. Take the high road by choosing to move forward and focus on your own professional growth.

These soft communication skills require attention to detail. It’s the small things that make a big impact in the long run.

5. Common courtesy

A positive attitude at work indicates your attitude to life in general. There are more negative people who bring others down than those who take the high road and build people up. Choose the latter. Common courtesy goes a long way. Mind your manners — sometimes it’s as simple as saying please and thank you.

Leave the gossip and negative comments at the door. People will take notes in how you speak of others at work. Instead, focus on yourself before judging others. Take the time to help your fellow colleagues, but make sure you do not compromise your work and deadlines. Clearly communicate what you can do for your team and what you have on your plate rather than lashing out once you’ve been overloaded with work. People can easily read you’re stressed by the tone of voice in your email.

Common courtesy should be a concept that is passed down generation after generation. It’s not an obsolete behavior, rather, it should be a common thread throughout your career.

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