Editor’s Note: This is part of our new series “A New College Grad’s Guide to Your First Full-Time Job” written by Nikunj Kothari who just graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Though this is written from the perspective of a recent college graduate, a lot of these lessons are ones we can all afford to learn again.
tl;dr: Listen intently. Never eat alone. Celebrate the small wins. Work Hard, Be Nice. Stay Focused and Keep Executing.
After graduating from UIUC in May, I took a three month holiday and started my first full-time job at LinkedIn. Having just completed one month as an Associate Product Manager working in the LinkedIn Ads team, I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned from my peers and mentors so far:
Be an Active Listener
Be very curious in your work. You’re new only once, so make sure you ask a lot of questions, challenge the standard models and intently listen to all the feedback/answers you get. Being an active listener not only applies to listening to other people, but also to your own thoughts. As my favorite entrepreneur Elon Musk says: “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
Hat tip: Use a tool like Evernote in every meeting to write down all the important talking points and takeaways.
Never eat lunch alone. Celebrate the small wins.
Brought up in a large family that always ate their meals together, I made it a personal rule to never eat lunch alone in college and now at work. Reach out to other people in your team and then slowly to people not in your team to eat lunch together. Lunch is also a great way to learn what’s happening in other parts of the organization and learn best practices on processes. Another key part of team building is to celebrate the small wins in your team like record sales and project releases. I have realized that giving donuts are a great way to get people to participate in surveys and get feedback on your projects.
Work Hard, Be Nice
I asked my eldest brother for some advice for my first full-time job and he wrote just four words in his email reply: “Work Hard, Be Nice”. Be very passionate about your work and be thankful to the people who take time out to help you get up to speed with the different acronyms and projects. That lesson from my brother and two other lessons (see below) have had the most impact on my work ethic:
Be very rigorous in your self analysis, certainly being extremely tenacious, and just work like hell. - Elon Musk
A great Product Manager should have the Brain of an Engineer, Heart of a Designer and Speech of a Diplomat. – Deep Nishar
Stay Focused and Keep Executing
The best way to understand a product, a team or a process is to “learn by doing”. Ask your manager/mentor to give you a small but meaningful project that you can lead from start to finish. This will help you understand the different teams that you will be working with for future projects, the various processes that are required to release something and give you a project to “hang your hat on” until the next big project. As Alec Baldwin says in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be Closing, Always be Shipping”
In just one month at LinkedIn, I have learned a lot about the advertising business, worked with the smartest people in the industry and enjoyed a ton working on exciting projects! It has been an incredible adventure so far and there’s more to come, so stay tuned.
- Work at LinkedIn