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  • Writer's pictureCherise Adams

A Black Girl's Guide to Your First Job

A few days ago marked my fourth work anniversary at my first full-time job. This carries a bigger distinction from my first job or my first "real" job. My first job was folding clothes at a retail store, specifically working the night shift, praying that I didn’t run into any customers. My first "real" job was at an influencer marketing agency, working part-time, being the coolest 21-year old that I knew, and working my butt off doing things that I loved. However, none of those can take the title of my current job at ADP, my first full-time job. I started just weeks after graduating with wide eyes, ready for whatever challenges were to come. In other words, I had no clue what I was getting into.

Now, four years deep into my career doing what I love to do every day, I feel that I have a few good tips to share with those of you who may be just as wide-eyed and optimistic as I was. These tips are organized to represent the biggest lessons that I learned in each year at ADP and why they matter. These tips are compounding, and while they come from the point of view of a Black, female millennial, these tips apply to anyone in search of a new job, a new industry, or a new start.

1. Do Your Research

I got my job at ADP by posting my resume on my college's job site and hoping for the best. When I stepped into that conference room, I had no idea what I was interviewing for, or what skills I may have needed. I went in, answered some questions, and somehow that was enough. I did no research on who I'd be working for or what I'd be doing, but I took the job anyway. This lack of research could have set me up for a very different blog post with very different reflections.

I got lucky because ADP is an amazing place to work. They already had a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, prided themselves on integrity and service excellence, and had programs to grow each associate through their chosen career path. While not every company has this level of associate engagement, many do. Before you invest your time and energy into an interview, make sure that the company that you interview with aligns with your values. Take a look at their executive board, do they inspire you? Do they represent you? Research their core values, their mission, and see how they interact with their customers and associates online. Do you see yourself representing this company? We spend more time each week at work than we do at home, make sure that you are proud of the work you do and the company you represent.

2. Save the Receipts

The best thing I did when I started my job was setting aside a folder for "kudos." This folder contains every "You saved the day!" and "Congratulations" that I received throughout my career. Not only is this a great pick-me-up on a rough day, but this tracking also allows you to remember why you landed this job and that you're killing it!

Remember, you are your own advocate. You cannot expect everyone else to keep tabs on how well you're adjusting to post-grad life, how much you are excelling through your on-the-job training, and what certificates you may have earned. Save every email giving you kudos and every award you win. Take screenshots when you are featured on the company blog, and never be afraid to share your credentials when needed. All of these little moments will be valuable when annual reviews come up. Just as you practiced your elevator speech at networking events, practice sharing your achievements. Over time, advocating for yourself will become second nature.

3. Practice Growth and Intention

One of my sorority sisters shared a quote with me that I will never forget. She said, "Don't let the grass grow under your feet." This means, don't get complacent and don't be afraid to move. There comes a day at every stage in life where you realize that growth is inevitable. Now, this won't always mean it's time for a promotion. More often, you'll feel that tug to learn more and stretch yourself. Lean into that feeling.

Life after graduation can feel monotonous. Take this time to learn a new skill that adds value to your life and your career. Take an online class, get a certificate in your industry, or be way too ambitious like me and go back to school! Take steps toward being the best person, colleague, partner, and friend, that you can be.

4. Know Your Worth (And Add Tax)

In a perfect world, every person would be paid what they think they are worth. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. This means that you need to be aware of where you stand in your industry. Does having a degree make you more valuable? Do your certificates constitute an increase in pay? What quantifiable impact have you made to your department?

Intention begins with knowledge. Research what others in your industry pay for your work and qualifications. Make realistic income goals for your career and be firm with yourself on these goals. Recognize whether or not you’re doing the things that it takes to reach those goals (hitting metrics, learning, participating in stretch projects, etc). Don't be afraid to ask for what you know that you deserve, and if you feel undervalued, go where you will be valued.

They say that after five years, you're in your career for life. That means that I've got 362 days to go. If the rest of my career looks anything like the four years I've experienced already, I'm looking forward to years of fulfilling work, personal growth, awesome coworkers, and lots and lots of potlucks. Here's to four years and many more to come!

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Cherise Adams
Cherise Adams
Jul 04, 2020

I’m so glad that you loved it and found value to share with your loved ones! Thank you for connecting with me!


Jul 03, 2020

Hello Cherise:

I loved reading your blog about your first "full-time" job! We share a love for our work at ADP. I spent 33 years with the company, ending my career there in 2018. Thank you for sharing the tips around searching for a new job, new industry, or new start!! Although you pointed out that these tips were coming from a Black, female millennial, I am sharing it with my Black, male millennial! He will, for sure, benefit from keeping these tips tucked in his wallet:).

I am so proud of you and your accomplishments! Continue to "save your receipts!"

I will send you a connect in LinkedIn so that we can stay in touch!


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