When it’s your first job, you are in a constant state of doubt quite often. From your outfit at work to your behaviour, you end up constantly questioning and rethinking everything. You also feel this endless urge to please everyone and say yes to everything.
I know I did. For over a year. I took on way too many tasks, over-analyzed every small thing and took everything way too seriously. All because I put a lot of expectations on my first job.
I wish someone had come along and given me some advice.
That’s why I’ve put together the seven best things I learned from my first job that might really come in handy for you.
- It should never be about the money: This probably isn’t your fault. Most of us are raised this way – get a high-paying job at some company that’s considered to be a great place to work for, by your parents or some other relative. So, ever since the first job, the one consistent factor that motivates all of our career choices tends to be money. We base all of our job-related decisions on money. It should never be that way. Making a lot of money at your job might give your parents or relatives a great deal of satisfaction, but not you. You’d end up being miserable, bored, and physically as well as mentally exhausted, doing a job you’ve probably grown to resent. No amount of money is worth being bored or miserable.
Instead, base all your job-related decisions on your motivation. And don’t take it all too seriously, especially your first job. Live a little.
What you should do: You are only young once. Enjoy your life and keep an eye out for new opportunities. Try your hardest, but don’t make the pursuit of financial gain your only motivation.
2. There’s no such thing called perfect: There’s no such thing called perfect – I remember the countless hours I spent overthinking every aspect of my tasks before submitting them, all because I wanted everything to be perfect. Well, there’s no such thing called perfect and the sooner you realise it, the sooner you stop getting in your own way. Even the most perfect plans tend to not work out 100% as planned, and that’s okay. You learn from the experience and do better next time.
What you should do: Do your homework. Give your best. But that’s it. Don’t overthink every single aspect of your task. Just do it. There’s nothing wrong with things not going as planned. Learn from the experience and move on.
3. Be humble: There is nothing more irritating than an over-confident new recruit. It doesn’t matter if you are the most knowledgeable person on the planet. If you enter the workplace with a know-it-all attitude (what I like to call the ‘brilliant jerk’ syndrome), you’ll end up pissing off a lot of people. What’s more, companies don’t tolerate brilliant jerks as they get in the way of teams being productive.
What you should do: If you are someone who’s been doing this, then relax. Here’s a fix. First and foremost, observe others at work. Listen more and pay attention. Next, ask questions (people love sharing) to understand things that you don’t get. Yes, it’s okay to ask for help as you’re not expected to know everything, that’s what teams are for. Lastly, always do your research before opening your mouth.
4. Don’t try to be friends with all your colleagues from day one: I remember a new recruit at my previous company who’d made it his mission to be friendly with everyone at work. He’d ask about really personal stuff that has no place in a work environment. He didn’t realize that he was at work, and not still at his University surrounded by his ‘bros’.
People tend to keep their personal and professional lives separate (and that’s a good thing, you should do it too). So don’t go looking for friends on Day 1. As and when time passes by, people would eventually warm up to you.
What you should do: Don’t try too hard. Be nice, respectful and pleasant. Most important of all – be yourself.
5. You won’t figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life from your first job: It’s your first job in the real world, and that means it’s the first time you’re being exposed to tons of brand new scenarios, different experiences with all kinds of professionals, not to mention, a whole new set of challenges. Your goal at your first job is to try out as many new things as possible, to figure out which experiences you like, which kinds of people you like to work with, and which ones you don’t. Focus on expanding the ones you did like to get a better understanding of what’s perfect for you.
What you should do: Try a little bit of everything. Take up every new opportunity you get without thinking twice. It’s the only way you’ll be able to figure out what’s best for you.
6. Work-life balance matters: I wish someone had given me this advice when I first started working. I used to work crazy hours, wouldn’t spend much time with the people in my life, and lived a very unhealthy lifestyle. Why did I do that? Because being a workaholic and bragging about it was part of the work culture at my first workplace.
It took a personal tragedy for me to realise that work was just a part of my life and not everything. We all have limited time on this planet. There’s nothing remotely impressive about being a workaholic or bragging about being one. It’s far more important to focus on you – your health, your relationships, and your life outside of work.
What you should do: Exercise. Watch what you eat. Spend at least an hour with your family or close friends (or both).Take some time to travel and have new experiences. All this will make you happier and more productive at work.
7. Speak up and learn to say no (especially if you’re a woman): I don’t know how many times I’ve put up with locker room talk at work just because I was the only woman in the team. I’d also take on more work, as I didn’t know how to say no. So I’d complete their tasks, which they’d then pass off to their bosses as their own. And the locker room comments continued at almost all of our meetings.
This went on for a while and before I knew it, I was THE overworked, overstressed, and underpaid member of that team.
I don’t work at that place anymore.
But when a similar situation presented itself at my current workplace, I chose to stand up. Firstly, I told my colleagues in a very stern yet professional tone that locker room talk isn’t welcome anywhere, least of all in a professional environment. Secondly, I agreed to do only those tasks where I got full credit for my work.
Guess what? The locker room talks stopped. The requests for favours at work also stopped.
That gave me enough courage to stand up for myself more often. I’ve even started negotiating my salaries instead of meekly accepting what my superiors decided.
What you should do: Speak up instead of silently agreeing to everything. Say no every once a while, trust me, the world isn’t going to end if you say no. Most importantly, don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re the only woman in the team, you’re voice is important and your opinion matters. Remember, if you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will.
So there they are – 7 things I wish I’d known when I started my first job. I hope you find them useful in your life!