How to make the most of your first job

After I graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2015, I quickly learned the end of college was only the beginning of my journey. During my senior year, finding both a city and design firm to help me grow as a person felt like an impossible task. Now, two years after moving to Kansas City and joining Populous, I can say they were some of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

Populous impacts millions globally but is incredibly invested in the pursuits and growth of individual staff. Our leadership prioritizes mentoring and cultivating the next wave of Populous talent. They offer recent grads opportunities to try on new hats, build new skills and do meaningful work.

Take me as an example: Right out of school, I joined the team designing the expansion to the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Stadium. Being my alma mater, it was a culture I knew well, an environment I was comfortable in and an opportunity to make an immediate impact as a resource to my team. Pair that with the incredible design mentor I had on the project, and it was as close to the ideal first job experience as you can have.

Populous gives recent hires the chance to pay it forward as well. Pairing with an intern every summer, we share our experiences transitioning from college to career and show them how hard work and having fun co-exist. The investment in young staff doesn’t stop there: This fall, I’ll be traveling to our London office to deliver a talk on the daily decisions that better ourselves and those around us. Populous constantly pushes the limits of our profession, and that includes providing an internal platform for innovation.

All of these experiences don’t even touch on the things Kansas City has to offer for young professionals. The city is an extension of the Populous culture, a place where you truly feel at home as an individual and not a number. The city radiates energy and comes together through events like Corporate Challenge, a city-wide Olympics of sorts. I loved recreational sports in college and have taken up a leadership role in organizing and rallying Populous teams in a variety of events like flag football, track and kickball.

In the two years since leaving college and joining Populous, I’ve had the chance to make a lasting mark at my alma mater, lead after-work outings and practice thought leadership on the global stage. This is only the beginning, but Populous has already helped me accomplish more than I could’ve imagined.

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