College Life

What I wish my pre-first-job self would have known…

First Job

When you first enter the big, bad workforce, you’re probably prepared for the obvious: show up on time, look the part and be ready to work late. However, there’s some things no one warns you about. Here’s the advice you didn’t know you needed for your first job.

Prepare for the 8-5 grind.

If you’ve ever had a 90 minute class that felt like it drug on, that’s nothing compared to a full-time job. Picture yourself at 2 p.m. working on something tedious, your coffee buzz has worn off, and you still have 3 hours to go. To make matters worse, unlike a classroom, you can’t kill time on your phone or laptop.

Additionally, your holidays will never be as lax as they were in college. You’ll probably get one day off for Christmas, rather than an entire month, and there’s no such thing as a summer vacation unless you dip from your paid-time-off. Meanwhile, your college friends will snapchat you their entire week of spring break, which isn’t even a real holiday.

It can be hard getting used to the fact that this is your life now, for the next 45 years. Rest assured, you’ll eventually adjust to your new schedule and maybe even enjoy having a routine.

Know what’s expected of you.

Your first few weeks on the job are a grace period. Your co-workers will be patient with you asking as many questions as you want so get to know the company’s culture, office policies and your job duties. In fact, one of your top priorities should be absorbing as much as you can. Keep an open mind, ask questions and be eager to learn.

As you start to finish assignments and are ready for a bigger workload, take the initiative and ask for more projects. Being a self-starter builds rapport with your supervisor and demonstrates you do not need to be micromanaged to get things done.

Also, many people start their first job believing that knowing everything makes them incredibly valuable but in truth, most of the time, it makes you annoying. Instead, be adaptable and willing to clean the proverbial toilet for a while until you’re trusted with more responsibility.

Get organized.

Having a sloppy workspace or, worse, missing a deadline is a strike against any seasoned vet, let alone a rookie. Keep your area tidy, invest in a planner and find a system to stay on top of your tasks. This may seem like a small thing but showing you can uphold the company image goes a long way.

You should also get familiar with your benefits package. Health care insurance, stock options and a retirement fund all mean more cash in your pocket, just like salary, so make the most of them. Don’t wait until you’re married and someone else is counting on you.

Also, just because you have a job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your resume updated. As you learn new skills or programs, be sure to include it while the details are still fresh. Doing so ensures you’re ready for new opportunities, even within your current company.

Watch for burnout and handle it.

When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to get caught up in moving your career forward. The long hours and chronic stress may lead to burnout which takes a toll on your job performance and perspective. If you can relate, it’s critical to find a balance. Make the most of your free time by getting together with supportive friends, prioritizing your mental health and hitting the gym. After all, exercise gives you endorphins which make you feel good – you can’t argue with science.

Remember that stress is your perception of a situation and not the problem itself. In other words, if you view something as a stressor, then it’s a stressor. By changing the way you approach challenges, you can avoid the long-term health effects of stress.

In many ways, starting your first job is similar to your freshman year at college. You need to quickly adjust to an unfamiliar environment with new people, new rules and a lot of unknowns.  Just like in college, working hard and having the right mindset will start your career off strong.

 

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