Surviving Your First Job

This is so not like the Office…

As an undergrad I was told that my first job would be full of encouraging words, and that people would be falling over themselves in an attempt to be my mentor.  These visions of my first job left me with delusions of fast promotions and after-work happy hours with my equally amazing co-workers.

Wrong.  So very wrong.  While I’m sure this is the case for some, it’s not the case for most.  I didn’t experience this employment utopia in my first position nor did any of my friends.  In fact, most of us encountered the opposite.  Most of us were thrust into situations where everyone, including our new bosses, had way, way too much to do.  This meant that trainings were rushed, and that we were simply expected to know certain things. 

Mentor-less and frustrated, my first job was rough to say the least.  It took a lot of personal growth and adjustment to get through it to a point where I felt like I was doing a good job.  Though it was a difficult time, it was an invaluable learning experience.  I learned so much about myself and learned a lot of things that I will apply in every future job I occupy.  Here are a few things that I learned that can help you do more than just survive your first job:

1. Be humble.  Yes, you got the job.  Yes, that really IS a wonderful thing and you should be proud of yourself.  However, all of your new co-workers?  They got the job just like you did.  Sure, they’re probably glad to have you on the team, but they have work to do and so do you.  Recognize that you’re new and that you still have a lot to learn. 

2. Ask questions.  Sure, you just got your degree.  Again, you SHOULD be proud of yourself.  However, chances are that all of that learning has little to do with your day-to-day tasks.  Also, it didn’t teach you squat about office culture.  Ask questions about how and why things operate in a certain way.  Do you know what expectations and standards you’re supposed to meet? Ask!  Just remember that you’ll never know if you don’t ask. 

3. Get to know everyone.  Having conversations with people is one of the best ways to learn about your new job.  Plus, nothing is more obnoxious than someone you barely know asking for a favor. Some offices are large, still, take the time to get to know as many people as possible.  How do you do this?   Do informational interviews.  Take lunches or coffee breaks with new coworkers.  Ask about their favorite or least favorite parts of their job.  Not only will you learn about the company as a whole, you’ll get a great feel of the office culture and learn ways in which you can be an asset to your co-workers.  Also, if the mentor you desired does not immediately emerge, you can figure out who would make a good mentor for you.

Side note: ALWAYS make friends with the IT department.  Be it a quick computer fix, or a fancy new screen, it’s always good to have IT on your side.

4. Know your triggers.  Though you’re excited and eager and willing to work your hardest, know your boundaries and things that trigger negative emotions.  Knowing your own boundaries and triggers will help you to be a more effective team player.  This way, you can communicate more effectively and also understand where and how you fit within the culture of your new workplace.

5. Take breaks.  My first job was in a closet “office” in a sketchy basement miles from the city center.  Seriously. It was hard to get away when I needed a break.  Also, I was so determined to work hard that I was completely skipping any breaks, lunches, etc.  It wasn’t good.  You need time to clear your head.  Find a quiet place to sit and read a book or a place to take a walk and commit to taking at least one break during your workday.  It will make you more able to think clearly and make you a better employee!

What tips have you learned from your first job?


This entry was posted in CAREER, JULIAD. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Surviving Your First Job

  1. Anonymous says:

    So glad you posted this article. It helped me more realistic about my first real job.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was confused about the mentor thing. And if it's your first real job, I don't think you should expect to have a 'mentor.' Most places don't coddle recent grades. Mentors can be found mostly at internships.

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