Key to Early Career Success: Managing Up

YouTern is happy to present this guest post by Allison Cheston.

Everyone knows it’s very important to make the right impression in the first few days of your internship or when starting your first job. It’s always difficult going from being the “kid”, to being judged as a colleague by workforce veterans.

So how do you make the transition—especially when requirements may be vague and expectations are very real?

In addition to getting along with co-workers you need to manage your boss.

“Managing Up” is the most valuable skill a younger worker can develop; one that will improve your career tremendously. Why? You’re probably going to be the junior person for some time before you start managing others. The people senior to you hold most of the cards; if you don’t do a good job working with them you may need to leave your job—probably before you’re ready.

Here are some tips on how best to “Manage Up” – without going crazy in the process:

Be Humble

Managing up is a lesson in humility. You’re smart and talented, but in the eyes of the more senior workers you’re green—and probably not going to be a huge help today. However, after working hard to develop rapport with your boss/mentor, and doing a great job from Day One, you’ll most likely get selected for additional (and probably more dynamic) assignments.

Show Up (On Time!) Ready to Impress

Show up on time, remain “low-key” for a few days, and be very polite. Figure out in advance how you should dress at your new place of work. Be well groomed and not flashy or sexy. Each office has a dress code—and you want to be on the conservative side  if there’s any doubt.


Everyone appreciates an earnest new team member, so roll up your sleeves and engage with your colleagues and co-workers. Figure out who the top performers are and emulate them where possible. Be ready and willing to do anything; be flexible. Make positive suggestions. Be a problem-solver.


Manage up by serving as a “reverse mentor”. There are many areas of business where your contributions may have an immediate impact: social media, technology, perhaps new apps or processes that haven’t yet been introduced to your new employer. Teach as well as learn. You’ll quickly become a huge asset to your boss—and the company.

Perhaps most important…


Watch Closely for Office Cues on What not to Do

Regardless of whether this is your dream job, you’ll be doing a lot of learning and growing. If all else fails, in addition to creating a good first impression, you’ll gain some information about what you don’t want to do in your career!

About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor that works with mid-career executives, young adults in high school and college, and recent graduates to help them understand how their strengths and interests fit in the world of work. Allison is author of the upcoming In The Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigational Skills for Young Adults, the first book to combine the perspectives of both a ‘Boomer’ and hundreds of Gen Y college grads aged 23 to 30.

An entrepreneur with cross-cultural expertise, Allison holds a BA from the University of Michigan and both an MA in International Education and a Certificate in Adult Career Planning from New York University.

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