Taking that first step on the career ladder comes with a host of anxious questions. Does leaving the office before my boss make a bad impression? Is there a way to give myself a competitive professional edge beyond doing internship after internship? How do you tackle the green-eyed monster that rears its ugly head every time someone from high school updates their LinkedIn with a job that sounds way cooler than yours?
In the midst of your entry-level existential crisis, the power of a career mentor is not to be underestimated. Enter Lauren Berger, who has built a career out of demystifying the anxiety-provoking, competitive, yet exciting task of entering the working world. In 2009, Berger founded the website Intern Queen, a database and career advice resource for college students who are trying to set themselves up for success after they graduate.
Eight years later, the career guru has two books under her belt, speaks at numerous conferences, runs the IQ Marketing Agency, and still finds time to provide young people with honest, accessible career advice. In other words, she's made the most prominent task of adulting seem far less scary.
We got the chance to hang out with the professional guru at her LA offices for a day. We've teamed up with Red Bull to ask Lauren some honest questions about getting a job you love that you might not be able to ask your internship desk mate.
BUSTLE: How friendly should I be with my boss?
LAUREN BERGER: You definitely want to be friendly and respectful to your boss, but you also have to realize that your boss isn’t your friend — he or she is your superior. You want to carefully walk a thin line between being friendly and being overbearing.
BUSTLE: What can I do to increase my chances of turning my internship into a full-time job?
LAUREN BERGER: Make sure everyone on your team knows that you’d like to work for the company. Use the advice card. Ask team members and your boss if they'd like to have an informal meeting with you. Utilize this time (out of the office) to express your desire to work for the company and ask their advice on how to get from intern to employee.
BUSTLE: How do I ask for more responsibility in my job without overstepping boundaries?
LAUREN BERGER: Express enthusiasm for the work that you are doing and offer to help when the opportunities arise. As an example, “I love the work that I’m doing. Should you ever need help with anything, I’d love to be the one you come to. If there’s an opportunity, I’d be happy to learn a new skill or help on a new project." If there’s a specific project you’d like to assist on, just ask. As long as you are polite and stay professional, the worst they can do is say no.
BUSTLE: How should I handle an overly competitive co-worker?
LAUREN BERGER: Try to learn from them, befriend them, and understand how they do what they do. Keep your work frenemies close. At the end of the day, respect them and remember — there’s enough room in the sandbox for everyone to play. Keep your focus on your own work and achieving your own goals. Sometimes when people are bothering you at work, the best philosophy is to put your head down and work.
BUSTLE: Is it better to keep a job that you’re unhappy with to avoid a gap in your resume, or leave the job and devote all your energy to finding something that makes you happy?
LAUREN BERGER: If anything uncomfortable is happening to you at work, you should speak to someone about it ASAP. If you have decided you don’t like your job anymore for a non-threatening reason, I’d advise you to do as much searching as possible while you still have a job. Who wants the stress of looking for a job with no income? Sometimes you have more negotiation power when you already have a job.
BUSTLE: How do I avoid comparing myself to my college/Facebook friends who have jobs that sounds more “impressive” than mine?
LAUREN BERGER: It’s up to you to wake up every morning, go after what you want, and produce the best results that you can in your specific job. You are you — not anyone else. You can do what you can do. Focus on doing what YOU do at 100 percent. And if you catch yourself scrolling too much on Instagram or Facebook, give yourself a time out and put your phone down.
BUSTLE: I believe the time is right for my first promotion. Do I bring up the topic to my boss or wait for her to start the conversation?
LAUREN BERGER: If it’s a busy or stressful time of year, I’d wait until that time of the year has passed. If you have an evaluation coming up, I’d hold the conversation until that point. Also, if you're going to have this conversation before the one-year mark at the company, don’t expect a major result. Before going into a conversation with your boss, think about what you’d like the outcome to be. Meaning, don’t have a conversation if you aren’t going to be able to clearly indicate what you are looking for — title wise, promotion wise, raise wise.