The First Day

Succeed at Work

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You’ve taken all the steps to getting hired, and now the real work begins! Entering a new position is no simple task. With new people to meet, environments to adapt to, and processes to learn, it takes your full commitment and effort to maintain a high level of performance, day-in and day-out. 

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to help you be effective. Use this page to prepare for workplace success, beginning on your first day and continuing throughout your career.

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Consider Your Next Step

What Direction Are You Headed Toward?

Whether your first position is everything you hoped and dreamed or a nightmare, at some point you will be ready to move up in your organization or move on to a different one. Many times, your first position may be completely different from what you expected!

Fear not--change is not only normal but an important aspect of your career development. Statistics show that most people entering the workforce right now plan to move on from their first position after a few years. Knowing this, it can be helpful to consider what you may want to pursue when you are ready to take your next step in your career.


Your career is something to attend to throughout your life. Just like brushing your teeth, make sure to take good care of it before it starts to rot. Make it a weekly practice to check in with yourself on your likes, dislikes, opportunities, and challenges from the last week. Routine reflection can help you take action in small but manageable ways.

Tracking Your Accomplishments

Before you decide what you want to do next, start tracking your progress in your current position. Create a new document to save notes on any accomplishment, completed task, new skill, or knowledge gained during your position (bonus points if you can share evidence of your results!). Think of this as a “Master Resume” or simply a messy brainstorm sheet to help you remember your results. 

When it is time for your next job search, refer back to your notes and choose the most important stories to share.


Exploring Options

At some point, you will be ready to explore options more deeply for the next step in your career. When this occurs, it is helpful to remember that career paths are very rarely linear and there may be more options than what you can currently see. More often than not, people make career transitions that are “lateral” or adjacent to their current position, rather than “upward” in terms of status or pay. 

To help you understand the options that could be available, you may want to have a conversation about your future with your supervisor. This can be a delicate conversation, so plan ahead by identifying what you do and don’t want to disclose. Much of this depends on the workplace culture within your organization, the nature of your position, and your relationship with your supervisor.

Here are some career options that may be available within the organization you currently work for:

  • Taking on a new project that changes your job duties (this could be formal or informal)
  • Training with a new department or team to gain a new specialty area
  • Applying to a new position within the organization

If you find that the options available within your organization do not match your career goals, it is worth your time to look outside of your organization for your next career transition.



Don’t look for a “perfect job.” Instead, look for a job that meets a few of your most important needs at this point in your career and life.

Learn More

Review our Career Exploration page for tips to discover new options for your career.


Leaving and Giving Notice

Eventually, the time will come when you are ready to move on from the organization that you currently work for. You have worked hard to contribute through your position and develop yourself professionally, and the only way to move forward is to move on.

Before you make a final decision, consider the benefits and challenges that come with leaving your organization.


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Common Benefits

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Common Challenges

  • You start fresh with a new chapter of your career and your life
  • You create the opportunity to reach your career goals in ways that are not attainable through your current organization
  • You move on from a position or workplace that no longer makes you feel successful
  • You have a chance to reconnect with your own potential that you can bring to the workforce
  • You face concerns from prospective employers if your resume reflects a pattern of “job hopping” among multiple full-time positions within a few years
  • You are not given all of the information needed to make an accurate decision about your next career opportunity 
  • You fall victim to disillusionment and think that working for a new organization will solve all of your life’s problems
  • You are seen as a less desirable candidate by prospective employers if you become unemployed for several months or more


A significant consideration with any career transition is the feared perception of “job hopping” by prospective employers. Throughout the 20th century, most members of the workforce stayed loyal to one organization for an extended period of time--often for their entire careers. Now in the 21st century, much of the workforce changes at a rapid pace, with employees commonly working in entry-level positions for one to three years before taking their next career step. 

If you are unsure how your organization views employee tenure, it will help you to learn more. Some supervisors and organizations openly encourage their team members to develop and move on after a certain period of time (e.g., one to three years), others openly discourage it, and others choose to stay neutral. Try to get a sense of these attitudes before making any formal announcements about your departure.

Did You Know?

Similar to dating, leaving an organization can feel a lot like breaking a relationship.

Until you discuss it together, it is challenging for both you and your employer to sense how the other side feels.

If you fear that your organization would disprove of your decision to leave--or even publicly shame you for it--the truth is that they are limited in what they can do as long as you are not breaking any contracts. Even in the most vicious situations, the most common “worst case scenario” is that your organization can state that you are “not eligible for rehire” when receiving a reference check from a prospective employer. Though this may not be favorable, it is unlikely to crush your career, there are strategies to work around it, and it is quite rare in reality.

Ultimately, people do what is in their best interests, and organizations do what is in their own best interests. If you know that it is time to leave, it is time. The most important thing is to leave on good terms. 

To leave on good terms, have an open conversation with your supervisor, give at least two to three weeks’ notice of your departure (tell your supervisor verbally, and then ask if they would like your official notice in writing), and do everything in your power to make the transition easy for others. You can offer to create a document to help train the next person who fills your position, assist with hiring, and anything else that would be helpful for your organization to make this transition. 

Leave a strong final impression, as this is how people will remember you.


Realistic Expectations for Change

The world of work is a complex and ever-changing environment. With changing markets, technological innovations, policies, and personnel, there are many shifting dynamics affecting your day-to-day career experiences that are out of your control. In addition, as an evolving human being, you are changing in your likes and dislikes, skills, goals, and life situations that affect your career decisions.

Did You Know?

“Adaptability” is often cited among the most important skills for career success in the 21st century.

Given the high frequency of changing conditions with technology, policies, and market demand, career changes are happening at a faster pace than ever before.

Amid changing conditions, set realistic expectations for what you demand from yourself and your workplace. In these situations, it often takes time and continued effort for things to develop. Whether you are trying to accomplish a new goal, finish a project, or grow toward a certain direction, be patient with the process and let your motivation drive you toward long-term success.

And remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.

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