4 Lessons From a Recent Grad

Adam Mikkelsen grew up on a farm in Oregon where, no matter the chore, he was always looking for ways to improve. At BYU he studied economics before switching to global supply chain so he could be more hands-on with his work. As a student, he interned at an industrial auditing firm as an auditing intern, where he traveled across the western Chinese province of Qinghai in order to share best practices and greener technology between the companies there and in Utah. Later, he worked at Walmart as a merchandising analyst for apparel sourcing. He accepted a job as a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte after graduating in April 2015 because he believed international consulting will give him a better opportunity to work and travel.

Almost two years later, Mikkelsen is excited about his career and has enjoyed a successful start. He gives four pieces of advice (and one extra) to students about to graduate and enter the workforce:

  1. Travel before you start working

“Before you start your first job out of college, take a minute to breathe. There is more to life than school, and there is more to life than work. When people ask me what they should do to prepare for their first job, I tell them, ‘You’ve been preparing your whole life for this. You got into BYU and the Marriott School—you’re an exemplary student and a hard worker. Go relax. Take your signing bonus and blow it!’ I graduated in April and didn’t start work until the following January. In that time, I bought a motorcycle and traveled all across the United States and Asia, including a 5,600-mile trip from Beijing to Bangkok. I learned so much about the world, and I’m writing a book about my experience right now.”

  1. It’s not your fault, but it is your problem

“People say crap rolls downhill (usually in less genteel language), and as an entry-level employee that means you’re going to have to deal with it. As a person at the bottom of the food chain, you’ll need to learn how to operate with and address the problem. For example, one client didn’t provide us seventy percent of the data needed to complete a consulting project, but we had to make do and work around the problem and provide an analysis anyway. That’s another thing: know that in consulting, you will always struggle with dirty data!

  1. People pay you to make their lives easier

“This is the greatest form of job security. If you can make your superior’s life easier—whether it’s providing clear information in a concise email, or doing your job so efficiently you require little-to-no management and oversight—that will make your life easier in the long run as well. Any chance you have to pass it up the line is good. People don’t remember what they heard, they remember what they felt, so make your boss feel relieved and at ease to have you working on his or her team.”

  1. Be an improver, not a complainer

“As I’ve sat in meetings, I realized there are three ways people talk. Pointing out a problem but no solution is called complaining. Pointing out a problem and suggesting a solution is called critiquing. Pointing out a problem and implementing a solution is called improving.  Employers want the third. So when an issue comes up, think about how to solve it and what that would take before going to your manager. Again, you are making the lives of those around you easier.”