As you graduate from college, you’ll enter a totally new phase. Not only will you have to adapt to working full-time, you’ll also have to adapt to new environments outside of work.
Whether you’re straight out of college or starting a new career path, that first job can be scary. You might think you know the ropes, but it’s a lot more than just getting your work done. You’ll probably need to start at the bottom of the totem pole even if you’re an experienced worker, and integrating yourself into the company culture is a lot harder than you think. Keeping your expectations in check is a good place to start.
Here are a few tips I wish someone gave me before I took my first job:
- Stay Organized and Never miss a Deadline
Your job is nothing like school or college. Being on time, getting your work done, and keeping it all together is incredibly important at a new job.
In a lot of careers, your boss isn’t really going to notice you at first unless you’re doing something terribly wrong. Being on time every day, keeping your desk clean, and doing your job will ensure that you won’t be singled out right away as being unproductive. You can worry about standing out later. At first you just need to get your work done as efficiently as possible.
Keeping a track of your activities on a daily basis, and formulating a weekly planner is extremely beneficial in the long run. It might seem like a minor thing, but showing you can reliably get things done goes a long way.
- Accept Your Newbie Status and the Work that Comes with It
When you’re just out of college, it’s easy to get a “big head” about what you can do in the workplace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out the way you thought it would. This means you need to show off your work ethic even if you’re stuck doing tasks you don’t like.
- Ask Questions
One thing you likely learned in school that carries over to the real world: asking questions is important. Your boss and your coworkers want nothing more than for you to do your job correctly the first time, and the best way to do that is to ask questions when you’re starting out. Be sure you actively listen to the answers, and ask follow-up questions to avoid miscommunication. If you’re still not entirely certain you’re doing a project right, give your boss simple progress reports that outline where you’re at. That way, your boss can steer you back on track if you get lost.
You want to ask questions when you need to, but don’t overdo it. Wanting to learn is an excellent quality. If you understand the basics and what’s expected of you, don’t be afraid to find your own shortcuts to get the job done, and don’t pester your boss for help with every small decision.
- Keep challenging yourself
If you find yourself bored or unchallenged at work, talk to your leaders about taking on additional assignments, getting involved in professional development activities or other ways to expand your involvement with your organization. One of the most effective ways to grow as a professional is to take on projects you haven’t done before or those that ensure your growth.
- Be aware and respectful of generational differences
The company you’re working for may have a lot of young employees, but this doesn’t necessarily mean your office will be just like your college campus. Be conscious of the negative stigmas associated with “millennials” (lazy, entitled, poor communication skills, social media crazed), and break away from them. Not everyone you work with cares about social media, or even has social media profiles. To build rapport with co-workers from other generations, take interest in things that are important to them rather than talking about who you’re following on Twitter or what happened on the latest Bollywood award show.
- Stay true to your values and motivators
A job and a stable career growth, is always appreciated by people. But, your morals and values will remain with you at every age and with every job. You must know your motivating factors too, that ensures consistent performance at whatever you do.
- Create and stick to a personal budget
For most new professionals who are used to living on a student budget, seeing that huge amount on their first salaried paycheck seems like an invitation to do all the things they couldn’t afford in school —take expensive trips, purchase designer clothes, etc. If you’re out on your own for the first time, it’s important to create a budget to figure out how much disposable income you’ll really have each month after all the bills are paid. If you’re paying off student-loan debt, be careful before taking on a new debt.
- Don’t think you’ll get promoted right away
Of course it can and does happen, but there are many variables that contribute to getting promoted: company size, structure and upward mobility, others leaving, financial health of the company, open opportunities, etc. In some careers, it may be typical to be promoted every couple of years, but in other industries, it may take five years or longer to earn your first promotion. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your career won’t be either.
You will eventually learn to establish a fine balance between maintaining consistent work ethics, being reliable, and still giving yourself the time off you need to survive. Your first job is not only about showing that you can get the job done; it’s also about forming connections and learning as many tricks of the trade as possible. This won’t be your last job, and the more you take away from it the better.