The New Year is filled with new opportunities, and many college students and graduates are kicking off 2020 with new classes, capstone internships, and full-time jobs. These new experiences are exciting, and each provides an opportunity for strategic students and graduates to effectively maximize the outcomes in order to position themselves for career success.

At Priority Candidates, we not only help clients get the jobs or internships they want, we guide them on how to lay the groundwork to maximize these opportunities. Whether one is starting a new class, internship or job, these are a few areas to invest time in before getting caught up in the hard work that lies ahead.

The Place

If you’re starting a new internship or job, set aside time to do fresh research about the organization. Look at anything you can find about the company – try to understand how it is organized, and what lingo is used to describe its divisions, products and clients. Discover materials about its history, and make sure you’re familiar with the organization’s mission. No, you don’t need to read the entire 850-page book about the founder before you start, but having a grasp on the company’s roots, goals, and trajectory is going to be helpful as you start to meet senior people on the job.

The People

An experience is oftentimes defined by the people – and it’s important to learn about the backgrounds of the people you will work most closely with. If you’re beginning an internship or job, you should be familiar with the backgrounds of your manager, and any senior people in your area. Use tools such as LinkedIn, and for startups, try Crunchbase or find media coverage of their founding. Glean what you can – see where they’ve worked before, or where they attended school. You may discover you share common bonds – maybe you’re both alumni of the same college – and at the very least you’ll be better prepared with questions for them as you develop rapport. If your peers or others in your industry participate in professional organizations, you may want to consider joining – keep in mind, many offer low rates for early careerists or students.

If you’re starting a new class, learn about the professor’s background and if they specialize in any areas. Discover the papers or books your professor published, and search for online interviews. It’s also important to find out if your professor employs students to join them in their research work, and how you might be able to apply. If your class will be taught by a TA or adjunct professor, you should learn about them as well – they may have a job outside of school and by getting to know them, this may lead to future opportunities.

Remember to approach things from a personal standpoint, not just a career-oriented one. Your co-workers and professors may very well grow to be lifelong friends – by investing in those around you, you will bolster your personal life in addition to furthering career ambitions.

Move Beyond Your Job Search

If you’re starting a new position, it’s time to embrace the end of your job search. Turn off the job alerts and any other notifications you no longer need. Clear the decks on your computer and email to file away the cover letters, resume drafts and job descriptions you have accumulated during your search. You can store the important materials – you may one day reuse some of them or share some with friends looking for similar roles. By eliminating distracting relics of the search process, you can allocate greater focus to the upcoming experience you will be beginning.

Preparing For Your Opportunity

In the days leading up to a new experience, you can reduce stress by making sure you’re prepared for all aspects of the opportunity. Practice the commute or route to your classes to understand what the journey will be like. Is it really a 15-minute route during rush hour, on city streets or across a bustling campus? Is the building easy to find, and do you need to account for any additional time to get to the classroom or office? It’s good to be sure, as you don’t want to arrive frazzled and tardy on your first day. You may even want to lay out your clothes for the first day or two in advance, so you have one fewer thing to worry about in the morning.

Adjusting to Company Culture

Once you are on the job, be sure to follow the culture of the environment, and when in doubt, choose the conservative path. For example, don’t use your cell phone while at your desk, and be sure it’s set to silent. If you experience downtime, ask your supervisor how to best manage that, and find things to do that are company-focused. If you are having difficulty with anything, don’t be afraid to seek guidance – you can ask questions of those within the organization, and rely on an external mentor or career coach for feedback on how to approach delicate workplace situations.

Spread The Word

For a new internship or first job, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to tell friends, family, and your full network about your new role. Thank them for their support in helping get you to this important milestone. Your exciting news will likely increase your contacts, as you hear about other people who work there, used to work there or want to work there.

Overall, having time before you begin something new is a luxury that does not come along very often in life. Most changes occur unexpectedly and immediately. Use this time to discover what is most interesting to you about what lies ahead and plan to engage with the place, the people and the experience fully.