Getting that first job out of college or university can be a daunting task. When you do land, be it part time or full time, here are six considerations to follow to help you get the most of the position and the experience.
1. Admit what you know and ask questions about what you don’t. You are not expected to be the go to person the first month on the job. It is easiest to learn and grow quickly in your position when you ask questions, look for opinions, get the histrionics and find out who is the go to person for each aspect of your job. No one likes a smarty pants or a know it all so rather than faking it till you make it, study, research and listen to educate yourself.
2. Build up a database of people who know what you don’t so you can access answers and talent quickly and expertly. Eat and socialize in the lunchroom while asking your colleagues who is who. Get someone to explain the office politics to you as early in your tenure as possible so as not to step on the wrong toes or usurp the wrong person’s authority.
3. Think strategically. Learn to look at the big picture. If you know Joe does a weekly report every Thursday and Joe is going on vacation for two weeks, ask if you might be able to handle the report for him while he is away. Lift your head up once or twice an hour, take a look around and see what is going on around you. Some people make statements about what needs doing, others ask for help out right. Listen for the implications; take time to read between the lines. As Wayne Gretsky said, “look for where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
4. Set your boundaries early on. No one knows work life balance like the millennial. In the workplace when you are the new kid on the block, you might be taken advantage of and asked to work more overtime than others or than is your expectation. Certainly you can’t say no to your boss and you don’t want to appear like you aren’t a team player, but you do need to assert yourself to prevent ill health and burn out or rust out too early in your career (unless you are a lawyer or a hospital intern). Set your priorities each day and week, plan ahead, build in breaks for yourself throughout the day and year to ensure you are working as close to your optimal performance as possible.
5. Seek out ways to help your colleagues. When your day is quieter than usual, step out from behind your desk and ask how you can help your colleagues. If you see someone working on something that would add to your skill set, volunteer to get involved. Bring an attitude of service to your job, author Jim Coleman suggests, by focusing on others. Think up new ways you can make a difference by providing better customer service, more efficient processes and services that will endear you to the company and your colleagues.
6. Be respectful of work ethics. Having a job is not an entitlement, it is a privilege. Whatever your motivating factor is for taking this job or for working period, you might as well do it right – work hard and show up on time. Sounds simple, and if your reputation and pride is important to you then it is simple. You want to start building bridges with colleagues as soon as you start your job. One way to build valued relationships is to be a person of your word, respect and adhere to company rules and carry your load.
Decide to love what you do and make work a worthwhile experience for yourself. Follow these suggestions and it will help prevent undue stress and help you build powerful relationships with colleagues in a supportive work environment.