The jump from the classroom to the office can be a terrifying experience: the boost of self-esteem that comes from getting your fist job is usually attached to a sense of increased responsibility and equally high expectations. Therefore, it’s important to prepare yourself for the challenges of the first “real” job.
Of course, there are painfully obvious mistakes that newly-graduates make, like being late, not being polite enough or having a bad attitude, whether it is derived from inexperience, emotional immaturity, or plain conceitedness, for which just taking a step back, reflecting, and working on them are a recommended path to follow.
However, there are less obvious mistakes that can also influence the success of the first job experience:
1. Too much self-reliance: Mainly due to fear of seeming ignorant or slow, or because of an early developed sense of achievement and accomplishment, in this early stage of your career the pressure to be perfect can be overwhelming. You don’t want to seem lazy or dumb, so not asking questions, refusing to ask for help, or pretending to understand everything can be tempting attitudes. However, it is important to recognize that these traits are not necessarily what characterizes highly efficient individuals: the ability to ask without shame and to keep a genuine sense of curiosity are a vital part of the job. Usually, when starting a new job, it is crucial to identify a senior figure with experience in the position, and then a cup of coffee and an open and friendly attitude create the perfect framework to exchange impressions, ask questions, and overall inquire about doubts, fears, and expectations. Don’t rely on yourself to give a false and trivial impression of savviness, use other people’s knowledge and experience to your advantage without shame. They will likely be happy to help you.
2. Undermining grunt work: You were a competent student, an even more capable intern, and now you are pushed to a tiny cubicle to perform tasks on which you know that your full potential is not being exploited. Filling reports, arranging documents, or performing any other type of grunt work can go from boring to feeling as a punishment. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to understand the company’s processes and to improve your skill-set. Use this time to learn about the job, understand why your tasks are necessary, and even create ways to make it easier and/or faster. Showing a creative and open mindset will also give a good impression of yourself to your superiors.
3. Setting your expectations too high: As it turns out, a salary raise and a promotion do not come after three, six, or twelve months in the job. It might not depend on time, but performance. Perhaps the economy is having a difficult moment, and the company can’t afford those rewards. Either way, you have been working hard and you don’t see yourself developing any further, so your immediate reaction is to obliterate the workplace for under-valuing you and look for a new place. Hold that thought. Yes, time in a company and hard-work should come with an increase of benefits and rewards, but it is necessary to adjust your expectations. Many jobs are about just being patient and proving yourself, the rewards will come down the line.
Mistakes are part of the process of getting used to the professional world. No matter how careful you are, you will make some. Nevertheless, the process of analysis, anticipation and preparation, can ensure that at least you will use them to help you better understand the new workplace, as well as to develop your own work ethics. Having a positive attitude, accepting new tasks or projects with enthusiasm, giving it all you’ve got, and showing interest, demonstrate your potential and create a work environment that is useful for your professional development. Use this early stage of your career to watch, learn, and improve. Success will come on its own.