Why your first job still matters

We’ve all heard the saying, “first is the worst,” but according to experienced professionals, this isn’t always the case. Sure, your first job might incite fear and frustration, but if you can turn the mess-ups into shape-ups, you’ll be on your way to a first-place career finish.

In light of graduation, we’re throwing it back to the Fall 2012 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine to see what five Marriott School alumni have to say about their first-job faux pas, what they learned, and why their first jobs actually mattered.

 

Bill Benac

Bill Benac

Education: BA German ’71, MBA ’73, JD Pace University ’84

First job: Associate, GTE (now Verizon)

Current job: Partner, Crescent Equity, Inc.

What it did for his career: “My first job gave me confidence to move forward boldly in subsequent jobs, dive into thorny problems, and deal effectively with team members at all levels.”

First mentors: “Both the CFO and corporate controller . . . took a direct interest in my success by letting me operate independently while still trying to help me avoid mistakes; they answered my questions and listened to my ideas. Only years later did I really appreciate how important having the right mentors was—those connections served me not only throughout my seventeen years at Verizon but also many times in the years since.”

 

Brian MurpheyStephen Sloan

Education: BS Finance ’86, MBA Colombia ’88

First job: Investment Banking Associate, Chemical Bank

Current job: Managing Director, Portfolio Advisors

How he excelled: “I developed a group of colleagues and friends whom I could learn from and lean on while I was ‘drinking from the fire hose.’ I also learned that if I worked eighty hours per week, I would learn twice as fast and my productivity would more than compensate for the mistakes I would make in the learning process.”

What it did for his career: “It gave me the confidence, network, and skills I needed to establish my first investment management company only three years after graduation. We’re still going strong twenty-one years later.”

 

Cindi HookCindi HOok

Education: BS Accounting ’87, MBA ’90

First job: New Product Analyst, Hewlett Packard

Current job: SVP, General Auditor and Global Risk Officer, Comcast

How she excelled: “I worked hard to build a good rapport with the engineers and to be responsive to their needs and requests—I even joined their softball team! I asked lots of questions and showed great interest in understanding what the engineers did and the products they were developing.”

What it did for her career: “I learned I can adapt quickly and work with a wide variety of people. I still use many of those skills, such as properly framing an assignment instead of just launching it. I draw upon those early experiences with my team.”

 

Dicy Burton

Dicy Burton

Education: BA Comms ’96, MBA ’00

First job: Associate Marketing Manager, The Pillsbury Company

Current job: Cofounder and Principal, Sightline MSP

Biggest faux pas: “A coworker asked me to submit his daily reports while he was on vacation. After seeing that his new product was significantly outperforming forecasts, I sent congratulatory emails to his team. However, when the associate returned he quickly realized that the shipments were significantly under forecasts and the proclaimed success was the result of my spreadsheet error. I was mortified, but I don’t think I’ve made a significant spreadsheet error since.”

How she excelled:  “I found that I could move beyond my inevitable new-hire mistakes quickly if I took responsibility, corrected any issues, and avoided making the same mistake twice. I also tried to really understand my business—you can lose people’s confidence quickly if your numbers or rationale fall apart easily.”

 

Stephen SloanBrian Murphey

Education: BS Accounting/IS ’96, MBA Wharton ’02

First job: Staff Accountant, Price Waterhouse

Current job: Managing Director and Cohead, Capital Advisory

Biggest challenge: “Being patient and learning the important but not as glamorous parts of the job, such as reviewing client schedules, documenting work, and organizing audit files. I was anxious to do more complicated and challenging work but first needed to learn the fundamentals and build the respect and confidence of my colleagues.”

How he excelled: “Chance favors the well prepared, and I tried to be prepared so that when opportunities presented themselves, I was ready for the challenge. In every interaction I had with my colleagues, I tried to leave the impression that I was diligent and reliable.”

 

For more first-job stories and tips, read the full article, “Why My First Job Mattered,” in the Fall 2012 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine.