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How to Be a Star in Your First Year

Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder writer

Starting a new job often comes with a lot of additional concerns for which you may not have bargained. From learning people’s names and getting used to a new routine to setting up your benefits and completing necessary training, there’s a lot demanding your attention aside from your basic job duties.

So with all these extra things to worry about, how are you supposed to make a name for yourself around the office as a top performer as well? Here are five key steps to being a star worker by the end of your first year on the job.

Keep learning

During the hiring process, you probably learned a lot about the company – and just because you got the job doesn’t mean you should stop. A clear understanding of your new surroundings is an essential starting point for becoming a standout performer.

“Pinning down the major problems and opportunities facing your organization presents vital clues about career success,” says John Lees, career expert and author of “How to Get a Job You Love.” “Work out who the key people are in the organization – the people who may make decisions about your future. Spot the people who can make your job easier, or can make it hell. If procedures seem odd or flawed, run with them temporarily. Don’t inadvertently make life enemies now. Seek out information brokers – the people who know how the machine works, but also identify future work partners, especially key people in HR, IT and finance.”

Network within the company

Similarly, just because your job search may be over doesn’t mean you should top networking. Getting acquainted with new coworkers – as well as individuals not on your immediate team – will help you get the lay of the land, become a familiar face and expand your professional network.

“Too often people mistakenly think networking is for sales people or those in job searches, but networking is not schmoozing when you need something, it is about the creation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships,” says Thom Singer, CSP, professional master of ceremonies and keynote speaker. “Your efforts to build these connections must not only be externally focused, but for those wanting the most success, they must build contacts inside the company where they work.”

Find a mentor

Even if you’re exceptionally organized and attentive, keeping track of all the inner workings of a company while still performing your job can be difficult. It often helps to have a mentor to guide you not only through the bureaucracy and office politics, but also provide advice for advancing your career.

“If there is someone at work who has a lot of knowledge and experience, ask questions of that person. If it seems appropriate after you’ve worked there a few weeks, see if that person can mentor you on the job,” says Karen S. Roberts, author of “47 Tips You Can Use to Get a Job Promotion.” “A good mentor can help you learn the ropes much quicker. He or she will have contacts within the company also and can introduce you. By learning from someone with good experience, you’ll cut down the time it would take you to learn your job on your own.”

Ask questions

No one expects you to know everything right away, so don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of something. In fact, in many cases, asking questions to clarify instructions or better understand a project can demonstrate that you’re interested and focused on the task at hand.

“People soon forget what it was like to be a new hire and they won’t necessarily recognize the need to explain things unless you speak up,” says Anna Lundberg, career coach and co-founder of Wolf Leaders Academy and co-author of “How to Succeed in Your First Job.” “It’s better to ask ‘stupid’ questions at the beginning than to pretend that you know everything and then mess up further down the line. Most people are more than willing to help.”

Be indispensable

More than anything else, it’s important to be reliable. When you come through on tasks, your coworkers will begin to trust you with bigger, more important projects – which puts you in the position to be a standout performer in the office.

“Be that person that people can count on. Meet the deadlines, deliver your projects, be collaborative,” says Anna Lundberg, career coach and co-founder of Wolf Leaders Academy and co-author of “How to Succeed in Your First Job.” “You want to be the one that managers choose when they have an important project to assign, the one they recommend for a new position, the one they think of when a promotion comes up.”

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