The Harbinger Group

How to Succeed in The First Two Years At Your Full-Time Job As a New Graduate

Starting a new job as a recent graduate is exciting but can also be overwhelming and filled with anxiety. As someone who has been in your shoes, I understand this feeling all too well. I began my journey with The Harbinger Group two years ago as an intern and was hired full-time after graduating in May 2023.

As I approach my first anniversary as a full-time employee at The Harbinger Group in June, I reflect on a year filled with personal and professional growth. I’ve made mistakes, celebrated triumphs, completed outstanding work, formed meaningful relationships with co-workers, and learned valuable lessons along the way.

The first two years of your career define the professional you will become and your success within your current organization. Your work and behavior can significantly impact your career trajectory. Here are six pieces of advice that I’ve learned in my first year that will help you navigate this important phase and set you up for success:

1. Speak up about what you want to learn

First and foremost, as a new graduate, your boss does not expect you to be an expert! Especially since you’re most likely coming in with only internship experience, these programs typically last only 12 weeks, and let’s face it, it’s impossible to learn everything you need to know within this period of time. 

However, your employer does expect you to take the initiative in learning and be dedicated to your professional development. 

How do you do this? Communicate that you want to try a new project, such as media pitching. Or ask your colleagues to teach you how to do something; most of them have been in the industry for 10+ years and will be able to provide you with answers based on their experience.

2. Take Initiative and be a leader 

Improve processes

Just because you’re in an entry level position does not mean you can’t lead your team and improve operational processes. 

Your thoughts hold as much value as anyone else’s. Do not be afraid to speak up and say hey, I don’t think this process is working for our team. Here’s how we can improve it. Always remember that as much as you still have to learn from your team members, you also have ideas and knowledge to offer them.

Encourage Accountability by Communicating Your Needs

There will be times in your career when you can not complete a task without a deliverable from your supervisor or an executive on your team. You might feel nervous and won’t want to “bother them,” but I can not urge you enough to reach out! There has never been a time when a colleague has not appreciated me giving them a nudge as what I needed simply fell through the cracks. if you don’t speak up and you continue to just wait for them, and you can’t move forward with your workload, you’re not helping your company and are ultimately failing your team. 

One way I like to ensure I have everything I need to move forward with a project is by sending a list of what I need to my colleagues. It might look something like this:

 

“Hello team, in order to stay on track with our content plan, we have a few tasks we need to complete. Below I have added the deliverables we all need to complete by the EOD today. If you have any questions or concerns please let me know and thank you!

  • Emma, can you please provide final approval on this blog [Insert Link]
  • Kara, can you please design a graphic based on the directions in this document [Insert document]
  • Allie, can you please review this graphic and offer any feedback ”


Being a leader isn’t just about providing guidance to your team, it’s about stepping up and taking action – we all have those tasks that we don’t enjoy doing because they’re time-consuming or hard – BUT I can not stress enough to step up and volunteer to do those daunting tasks. It won’t go unnoticed. Your number one priority when entering a company is to learn and show your excitement about the position, communicate that you want to be there and you want to contribute to the organization’s success. Everyone starts somewhere and you are only going to excel if you show you are a hard worker. 

3. Stop thinking of criticism and edits as a bad thing

Completely change your mindset about constructive feedback as being bad. You are new to this industry, you won’t be perfect at writing a press release or a blog, and sometimes, people have different working styles than you. Take this feedback as an opportunity to grow. As someone who has worked at the same company for two years, I have seen exponential improvement in myself and my skills. I used to be hard on myself when my work was critiqued, and I thought maybe I was not cut out for this industry, but then I completely changed how I looked at it. If I no longer receive feedback, I cannot get better or excel at what I am doing! Over time, you will receive fewer and fewer edits, which means you learned something that is so incredibly important.

Also, it’s not personal, and it’s not just you! Your coworkers who have been in the industry for 10-20+ years are also still receiving feedback, which means they are also still learning as they go. Really take in the comments you are receiving from your team and remember them as you continue to complete similar work.

4. Know who you’re speaking to

As someone new to your company, you must take the time to understand your clients and team members. Get to know the people you will work with and learn their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Understanding them better will only help you tailor your communication and work style. 

It is equally important for you to know how to communicate effectively with your team and clients. Everyone has different learning styles. While some may need a visual representation, others do well with verbal explanations. Recognizing this will only make your workdays go smoother and help you save time.

Flexibility is a crucial factor in being a good teammate. You should be willing to try different communication channels based on who you’re working with. If a client or team member is confused, it’s important to be flexible and willing to use a different approach to communicating communication, whether it’s hopping on a quick phone call or Google Meet for a more interactive discussion or sending an email with additional resources and information.

Understanding your clients and team members and adapting your communication style to their needs can create a more efficient and productive work environment. 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

“There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.” – Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Asking questions does not mean you’re not smart or capable. It’s incredibly important to ask questions because if you lack understanding, you will deliver work with mistakes. You’ll have to re-do it, and it’s frustrating to work with someone who constantly turns in sloppy work and wastes company time by circling back and fixing work when they could have asked initial questions and completed it correctly the first time. 

My advice is if you don’t understand what you’re being asked to do, immediately ask a team member for more context or to show you how to complete the task. I have never had anyone deny me a tutorial or further instructions, and they ended up appreciating it in the long run because we avoided having to go back and forth to make edits. 

6. Triple check your work and the directions

While everyone appreciates receiving work back quickly, no one wants poorly constructed work that needs to be redone. Stop rushing projects. Your team would rather you spend a few more hours on projects to produce high-quality work than spend more time fixing the mistakes you made.

To avoid making mistakes, I have a few tips I suggest following:

  • Thoroughly read the directions of a task. If you need more clarification on what you’re being asked to do, ask as many questions as possible or ask for a demonstration. There has never been a moment when my team members were upset that I asked them to show me how to do something or asked for additional information. At the end of the day, they appreciated it, and I produced high-quality work. 
  • If you foresee a potential deadline issue,  it’s best to communicate this early with your team. They can then assess if an extension is possible or provide the necessary support to help you meet the deadline. 
  • If you’re writing a blog or press release, re-read what you wrote aloud to catch any grammatical errors or fluency issues. 


Remember, you are hurting yourself and your agency’s credibility if you do not take the appropriate steps to complete the work. If you do this, you will never excel in your career because no one wants someone working for them who can’t follow basic directions or that turns in careless work. 

Following these six steps will ensure you lay a strong foundation for a successful career as a new professional. Remember that the habits and reputation you establish early on will follow you throughout your career, so you should always be mindful of your actions and start on the right foot.  For more insights on how to succeed as a new graduate in the first few years of your career, listen to episode 66 of Can You Hear Me? “Advice for New Grads Just Beginning Their Careers.”