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How To Get Noticed As A New Grad In A Large Company

How To Get Noticed As A New Grad In A Large Company

After completing my Master of Architecture in 2010, I got a job at a large firm in Melbourne, Australia. As a new graduate, I got involved in as many of the groups and events I could, including the ‘design presentation’ committee.

Soon after I joined, the company’s CEO requested a member from each committee give a 10 minute presentation to him and the other directors at their next board meeting.

At our next committee meeting, the group leader asked if anyone would like to volunteer to give the presentation.

Everyone immediately looked at the floor, crossed their arms in defence or pointed to someone else. “Nope, I’m not doing it!” said one colleague. “I’ll do the slides, but there’s no way I’m speaking!” said another.

I sat in silence. Are you kidding?, I thought. This is a great opportunity! Yet at the same time, I was thinking: I can’t volunteer, I’m only new! I don’t know anything! Why would they send a grad to the board meeting?

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize I had nothing to lose.

If I ask, I thought, the worst that can happen is that they say no. At least they’ll still respect me for having the guts to do it!

The next day, I nervously approached the committee’s chair, and told him that I would be happy to volunteer. To my surprise, his face lit up. “Of course you can do it!” he said. “In fact, I think everyone else will be quite relieved that it’s not them!”

The Big Presentation

A few weeks later, I found myself in the board meeting, with the CEO staring me down from the end of the room, with a dozen or so male directors around the table. It felt very Shark Tank.

And here’s me, a bubbly 24 year old grad about to convince them of why our committee deserved to exist. Of course I was nervous, but I figured that even if I was only half-good, they would at least give me pointers for trying!

Thankfully, the presentation went well. And one of the other committee members was there to help me answer questions at the end. It was also nice of him to mention that I was the ONLY person who had volunteered for the gig!

What happened after

I am certain the experience had a positive effect on my success during the next 3 years with the company. I always had great projects to work on, I received training and courses when I asked for them, and I made it through multiple rounds of redundancies (an unfortunate reality of the architecture industry).

Guess who has the final say in these decisions? Yep, the Board.

But the clincher came when I resigned in early 2014. The new CEO had been there a week, and he asked to speak with me privately.

He said “Look, I don’t know you, but from what I’ve heard, you work hard, you get along well with everyone. You’ve made quite an impression on the people here. We really value you, and we are happy to offer you a different role here doing what you really want.”

Wow. This I was not expecting.

I told him thanks but no thanks, and he replied with “Well, if you’re ever stuck, just give me a call. You will always be welcome back here.”

What I learned from this experience

In a large firm, it’s very easy to just sit at your desk, do your work and go home. But what impression is that making on your colleagues, your superiors, and the decision-makers?

Sure, you may do good work, but MOST PEOPLE do good work. If you want to get noticed, promoted and the jobs you want, you HAVE to stick your hand up and find opportunities to lead and get in front of the people who matter.

It may not seem like it makes a difference, but believe me, they notice.

Back at that board meeting, I felt totally under-qualified delivering that presentation. But I did it anyway. And if I, a young female grad in a large corporate male-dominated architecture firm could do it, so can you.

In the words of my favorite piano rock star Ben Folds:

If you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head
It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead
Go on and
Do it anyway



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