Admittedly when I first graduated I had no expectation or a clue of what I should expect from my first graduate job. I’ve been working since I was 14 years old and never had a problem finding some kind of job, I was never fussy and would go for anything, in fact the thought of doing something completely different excited me. I was once a dinner lady, I worked as a meal time assistant, I’ve worked in a call center, I’ve been a research analyst, and more, all before I had even graduated from University.
I didn’t really know what I wanted from a job but I never realized how different a student job was compared to a ‘real life’ job. I never understood why it was important to build a reputation within a work environment and how being in a job for a long period of time was more important than having many different jobs in the same space of time. It’s safe to say that because I was so lost in where I wanted my life to go, I had no idea what career path I actually wanted to go down.
When I finally got one of those elusive adult jobs people talk about, I found myself starting a career so far from what I had been thinking about but I thought hey, why not, it was something to do, a way of earning money and I was told it was better to look for a job whilst in a job so I couldn’t really loose…could I?
Being completely new to the adult world of careers, working and barely any time to do anything fun, I found myself discovering a new side of myself, a working girl, and actually, not that I was a lazy worker before, but I found myself working hard for my money. I also learnt a lot about what was important in a job, the organization you work for and what kind of expectations you should have.
Here are 10 things off of the top of my head that I learnt from my first job after graduation (I’m sure this list is only part 1 and there will be lots more soon)
- Look more thoughtfully at your salary expectation!
When looking for a job, figuring out what salary you’re happy with is so important! That doesn’t mean to say that you should expect £100k straight away, but it does mean you should research what other organizations pay for the particular job you’re looking at and see how salaries varies across the board, think about the kinds of responsibilities will be expected of you (hint: usually the job spec will be give you a good idea of what you’ll be doing) if you’re happy working as a receptionist for £20k a year full time, then go for it! If you’re equally happy working in a library for £16k a year full time then that may also be a good option. A way of figuring out what salary you’ll be happy starting with is to figure out your rough budget every month, if you’re living way above your means then what can you get rid of or cut down on? I will tell you that high paying jobs for less experienced workers are difficult to find, unless your specialty is equally rare then lucky you! The competition is tough so be prepared to take home a small pay cheque to start with, remember that we’ve all got to start somewhere and work your socks off to get to the salary you strive for and deserve!
- Location is important!
I’m a great example for someone who took a job despite the distance away from my own home and not thinking long term about how feasible a long commute really is. If you’re a regular on my blog you’ll know I spend a grand total of 4 hours travelling to and from work (that doesn’t include when I go to meetings, interviews or events). Back when I was a spritely and excited new employee I didn’t think twice about the 5:30am wake up calls, or getting home past 8:00pm every day, then a year on and I hit this barrier like all of a sudden my energy was drained and getting up for work was a drag, I would lay in bed in the mornings and ask myself how badly I actually needed a job, as much as I desperately wanted to quit my job just because I wanted just another 5 minutes of sleep, my need for money to pay for my ridiculously expensive lipstick addiction was more important than catching up on my much needed rest. So, a sleep deprived zombie, I would force myself out of bed and dread the 2 hour commute I was about to endure. Whilst it’s not always easy to find a job close by or even in a convenient location, it’s also important to remember that a short commute (I would say anything under an hour) is bearable and actually gives you a nice opportunity to prepare yourself for the day, a short commute is okay but a long one could work against you later on, even if you’re crazy and love packed tubes, cramped trains and having someone stand on your feet for the duration of your travel, which you must do if you live in London.
- Working overtime will show your dedication but remember to not make a habit of it.
When I took on my new role as a manager at work, I found myself (still doing this now FYI) working at all hours of the day and weekends too. I barely had time for myself, or even for my partner, we spent our anniversary with me glued to my computer frantically returning emails and calls until 10:30pm, if you have a partner who is as understanding as mine then great, but it isn’t healthy. It’s even reached a point where my boss tells me to stop working past office hours (but when you’re a middleman, office hours is not enough to get everything everyone wants you to complete done and stay on top of things!) Whilst I haven’t necessarily taken this lesson on board, I want you, as my friend to remember that it isn’t healthy to be all about work, you need to remember to look after yourself. If you’re so dedicated to your work then remember you need to take time out every once in a while in order to refresh, you can’t give your 100% if you’re always on the grind and eventually you may burn out, get ill and be unable to perform your duties. Make yourself number 1, remember that whilst it’s good to be active and enthusiastic, it’s also healthy to relax. Spend the day doing nothing, I dare you, binge watch something on Netflix and have no regrets because everyone needs a little lazy every once in a while (I bet your work won’t go into chaos if you take one day to step away).
- Don’t get involved in office politics.
It took me a while to realize why my office looked so familiar until I saw it.
Work is like a highschool playground with different cliques and a hierarchy. Sure people like to play nice but you know deep down there are a lot of competitions, envy, and anger. A colleague once told me he enjoyed being a freelance because it meant he wasn’t anywhere long enough to be involved in office politics. I didn’t really get it, but after some experiences, I totally do. In an office or workplace, there’s bound to be gossip, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes juicy, sometimes shocking, my only advice is to try and avoid it as hard as you can. At the very least be a listener rather than a spreader, you just never know how quickly you opening your mouth (even with an innocent intention) can turn around and slap you in the face. Just avoid any potential confrontation that is not going to add value to your work; the last thing you want is to tarnish your hard work because of silly office gossip. Similarly, all work places have certain ‘politics’ that if you don’t conform to may mean you become out casted, and this may mean you don’t get far, so learn who the important people are, learn QUICKLY, how they like things done, make friends, keep them close, don’t make enemies but if you must keep it a secret and just treat your work place as a stepping stone to where you ultimately want to go.
- Never settle for unfair treatment just because you’re ‘just a graduate’.
This is a particularly tough lesson to learn because you don’t realize how different and alienating the word ‘graduate’ is until you get your first adult job. Now if you work in a place that employs a lot of graduates, this may not apply to you, but if you find yourself being the only graduate, well read on. You may find that you get the run around jobs no-one else wants, the expectation of you may be a lot lower but the job load may be more, it’s hard to get a balance but make sure you give it your all, be enthusiastic, be happy and outgoing, always be willing but also remember to know your limits. I think it is expected when you’re new, as a sort of initiation to do a bit of running around when you first start, if you’re doing odd jobs for people it may be a good way to get to know some people, but keep in mind whilst you’re doing ‘favours’ for people you also have jobs you need to do yourself. Be open and honest if a task seems difficult, if you need help, guidance or if you simply don’t have time to take on more than you already have. Be open to solutions from other people but remember, you may ‘just be a graduate’ but you earned your right to be there just as much as all the other employees.
- The benefits your work offers you should be taken note of.
Some jobs nowadays offer private health care, gym memberships; travel expenses paid, pension schemes, bonuses etc. Most work places offer similar things but it is important to take note of what your work place offers and make sure you use it to your full advantage. It may seem silly thinking about pension schemes particularly if you’re in your early 20’s and in a job you don’t like, it’s never too early to think about retirement (just don’t count down the years to it, stop wishing your life away!) but if you LOVE your job, you may be in it for the rest of your career so it may be something worth looking into. Also there are some great benefits with certain jobs that may save you money later on so it’s always handy to know what you’re entitled to!
- Use your downtime wisely!
Whilst it’s easy to get home from work, get naked and just completely chill after a hard day at work, it’s also the quickest way for you to loose time doing other productive and fun things. I found it hard to balance work and my outside work life until I blinked and I’d been an employee for 1 year and barely had anything to show for it in terms of my social life and what I had wanted to accomplish. One thing that would be important to think about is to plan your holidays in the best way possible, think about putting your holiday together when you’ve got days off together to make your time off longer and will give you the most time for your days off. My partner gets a 3 day weekend once a month so when he plans his holidays he puts it together with those weekends which means he gets a long stretch of time to go on adventures or to spend a week in bed but it also means he uses less holiday. But it’s not just holidays you need to plan carefully, it’s your lunch times too, you should do something that is productive to you, my colleague and I decided we were tired of complaining and gossiping during lunch times and wasting our hour off doing nothing so we joined the gym. Someone even started an unofficial walking club during their lunch break, anything to get you up and moving and away from your place of work, even for just an hour.
- Involve yourself in work socials.
I know I said don’t involve yourself in office politics but at the same time you don’t want to alienate yourself from all of your colleagues. You should consider attending a few socials, or occasionally going to a party you’ve been invited to as a way of making friends, and getting to know your colleagues a little more even if it’s just on a professional level.
- Be confident.
Stop using the ‘I’m new to this’ excuse and start believing in your abilities, remember that you may have a limited amount of experience but you would not have been hired to do this job if your boss didn’t think you could do it, now if a stranger who has had a pick of a list of other people, chose you and has confidence in you, then why don’t you have it for yourself? Remember you’re still learning, still improving and the best way to be better at your job is by being confident, trusting your instincts and taking risks.
- Doing homework in your own time will put you at an advantage. Always look to improve yourself.
Utilising the training they offer you at work is key to your self-development. Your work place is always looking for ways to make you flexible and more ‘educated’ in various parts of work, so whether that’s training you in first aid, borrowing your transferrable skills to work in another area of work, etc. every opportunity you’re given to learn is a good thing for your self development, so accept any investment your work is willing to put on you, you never know how important those new skills are for another potential opportunity at an even better work place.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday, and you proud everyday!
Peace and Love,