If I were 22, I think the best advice is the same advice my mom gave me constantly growing up – “always do your best.” I know it sounds cliché, but the best career advice I could give someone graduating college is to do your best, every time, no matter what.
Think the project is beneath you? Decided the task is too menial? Not interested in the subject matter? It doesn’t matter. Crush it. Knock it out of the park. Exceed everyone’s expectations. It will pay off.
My first job out of college was with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). My first project assignment, in my opinion, sucked. It was not a role I wanted. I went to my mentor and complained. I thought I deserved a better assignment given my strong performance during new hire training. He told me to suck it up, give it my all and prove to everyone that I was as amazing as I thought I was. So I crushed it. I exceeded everyone’s expectations. The result? I got a crappy assignment on the next project. And you know what? I did the same thing. I knocked the ball out of the park in terms of results. And by the time my third assignment rolled around, I had built a reputation as a hard worker who delivered quality work. I was seen as a top performer and a leader. And I got my pick of projects and leap-frogged many of my peers in career growth. It paid off. My mentor (and my mom) was right.
I will give you an example from modern times. I had a team member that joined at a relatively entry-level position. But he took every assignment given to him as the most important deliverable for the company. He was uncompromising in his commitment to quality. He exceeded expectations every time. The result – he quickly moved to managing a team, got promoted, and won marketing employee of the year. It pays to exceed expectations.
You never know where your next career opportunity is going to come from. If you consistently outperform your peers, no matter what the task, you will impress many people along the way. One of those people could be the person that opens the next door for you in your career.
You want to be seen as someone that delivers results – regardless of the complexity (or glamour) of the task. Treat every opportunity like it is on display for evaluation by a future boss – it could be.
My best advice: always bring your “A” game… you don’t know where it can lead.