Last Updated on September 22, 2017
Congratulations! You have your degree and are now officially a STEM professional. Everything you’ve done in college (long nights of studying, passing your classes, summer internships etc.) has paid off. You have started your first job; a company has realized that your soft and technical skills will bring value to their organization. Here are few tips to help you start your journey as a STEM professional:
Learn the Company Culture
One of the main reasons individuals don’t succeed at an organization is their inability to fit in with the culture of the organization. Each company has its own unique culture and it is often implied. You can learn the culture of your company by observing things such as but not limited to dress code, business hours, work environment, companywide management strategies, employee communication and relations, work environment and ethics. In a nutshell, company culture is the character or personality of the organization.
Learn What Your Benefits are and Use Them
Every organization offers its employee benefits; the Human Resources Benefits Department is the place where you find out what benefits are available to you. The benefits your company offer can include standard benefits such as health insurance, retirement saving, life and short-term disability insurance. But there can also be an opportunity for other benefits that sometimes are managed by third parties such as discounts on gym membership, travel and entertainment. It could also be things that are offered on site such as free lunch and health and wellness programs.
Set a Budget and Make a Financial Plan
The great thing about being a STEM professional is that you will make a comfortable salary and your starting salary is a lot more than jobs in other fields. You just went from a broke college student to a professional with a steady paycheck, so it can be easy to get into financial trouble. Prior to getting your first paycheck, set a budget and your financial priorities that balance the lifestyle you want to live based on your salary with savings, debt repayment and planning for your future.
Understand Your Role and Work Responsibilities
You are an early career professional, so even if you don’t stay at this first company your entire career; the work that you do here will shape your career. Your job title isn’t always an indication of what your work responsibilities will be. Meet with your manager/supervisor within your first few days and learn what their expectation of you are, what projects you are expected to work on and when they need to complete them. Talk with your colleagues within your department and company to help you learn things that can assist you with developing systems as well as learn what relationships you need to build in order to help you successfully do your job. Finally talk to Informational Technology and Human Resources to see if there are any software, tools or training that will help you develop skills and systems to do your job.
Make a Career Plan
Your career is what you make it. Now that you’ve accomplished this huge milestone in your career, getting your degree you have many more milestones to achieve. Your career plan should be set based on your comfort level; it doesn’t have to be a long term plan because as you advance in your career your plans may change. You can start with the things you want to accomplish in your current position and the next position you would like after this one. Your plan should include the education you need to obtain (whether professional development courses or additional degrees), what type of projects you need to work on to develop your professional and/or technical skills, who you should build relationships with and what professional activities (conferences, affinity groups, professional societies) you should participate in that will help you achieve your goals.
Build and Maintain Relationships
Relationships are important to having a successful career. It is important to be strategic with who you build relationships and make sure that your relationships are positive meaningful and mutually beneficial. Building positive relationships with your boss, your team members/colleagues and others within your organization should be your priority and where you should spend a lot of your time and energy. You should also build relationships with other individuals at other organizations in your field, in STEM and professionals in your geographic area. You can build these relationships organically by attending events in your company, events with your alumni association and professional societies, professional events such as mixers and conference and getting out in your community doing things your enjoy. Relationships are important because you must develop your professional reputation; people need to know who you are and what you do.
Update Your CV, Resume and LinkedIn Profiles
When you get your new position it is important to list it on your resume/CV and on your LinkedIn Profile. It is also important that throughout your career you keep these updated as your successful complete projects, participate in professional events and when you get additional education whether it is professional development courses or additional degrees.
It is exciting time for you in your life; celebrate this milestone. This is the start of your journey to create the career and lifestyle you envision for yourself. Enjoy this phase and every phase of your journey and continue to grow and evolve as a person and professional.
A native of Miami, Florida and an alumna of Florida A & M University, Ms. Tokiwa T. Smith is a social entrepreneur and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educator with over 10 years’ experience working in education and philanthropy. Ms. Smith is CEO and Principal Owner of Kemet Educational Services, a STEM educational consulting firm and the Founder and Executive Director of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc. a nonprofit organization that exposes urban youth to STEM. Ms. Smith is also a writer and workshop speaker on topics in STEM education and professional development. Ms. Smith conducts workshops on various STEM education topics and serves on the Advisory Council of the University of California at Berkeley Pre-College Trio Program. She is a member of the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science (CoPUS). Ms. Smith’s work has been featured in several media outlets. In 2013 she was named as one Ebony Magazine’s 10 Black Twitter Tweeps to Watch! and in 2014, she was featured on NPR’s Tell Me More Women Digital Thinkers Tweet for A Day. In 2014, she wrote her first book A Guide to Hosting STEM Events.