Congratulations! You made it out of the university and now you have your whole life ahead of you. The transition from student to employee can be very confusing. From walking to lectures with your friends, now you have to suddenly switch to struggling to board a vehicle to get to your office which is several miles away from you, before 8am.
With your alarm buzzing as early as 4 am and getting back from work after 10 pm on some days, this new routine can be very difficult to adjust to and if care is not taken, you can easily break down or call it quits.
Nevertheless, you first job after school can greatly impact the way your career turns out so it’s necessary you make the most out of it. If you’re favoured to get multiple offers, make a choice based on the career path you want to take and your purpose here on earth rather than the popularity of the company or the choice of your friends.
It will surprise you to know that smaller companies may offer a lot on hands-on experience in different things than in large companies where you are most likely to be restricted to only one aspect of the work.
But hey! Like I said, it all depends on what you want out of your time at the company you choose. Do you want just a job that’ll pay you large sums of money with limited learning opportunities or you want to learn to build your career? Always have the long-term goal in view and it’ll influence the choices you make.
Now you may have a good degree and even professional qualifications, but your attitude and work ethics will determine to a large extent whether your first job will provide a platform for a viable career. As Vinny Max Bani once said, “No virtue can serve you better on the success journey than character.”
So here are a few tips to integrate into your workdays to increase your success rate on the job.
Remember that first impressions count so prepare mentally to give a good first impression. According to a 2016 study by a staffing firm, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, more than 60 per cent of employers expect new hires to prove their worth in less than three months. To help you get off on the right foot, there a number of things you can do.
You can start by getting to work early and reviewing what needs to be done for the day. It is also important that you don’t act like you know everything. Ask for clarity on things you don’t understand and ask for help when you need it. Also be polite and try to get to know the other employees rather than just sitting in your corner. And of course, learn about the company and the industry so that you’re not completely clueless.
More than anything, you need to reset your expectations for your first entry-level position. A lot of graduates expect too much from their first jobs when all they have is a degree and little or no practical experience. You benefit greatly in an organization when you prove your worth and not just because you have a degree or professional qualification.
Know that you may not get the “fun tasks” because you’re at the lower end of the pay scale thus the lower-end tasks will come to you. It’s only when you excel at those that you will be rewarded with cooler and more challenging tasks. But if you just grumble and do them haphazardly just because you think you have a good degree and so you deserve more, you’re likely to be stuck down there for a long time.
You may find yourself doing things that seem trivial to you or which are totally unrelated to your field of study and I know how frustrating that can be but it’ll be in your own interest to embrace this variety. You never know, you may actually discover what you really like to do which may be different from the preconceived notion you came out of school with which is most likely based on nothing substantial but just what you feel society sees to be cool.
My dear graduate, never stop learning in and out of the office. It’s normal to feel burnt out after putting studies on break since you graduated but after settling into your new job, you need to reactivate that attitude of learning else you’ll lose your relevance at the workplace in no time.
Don’t for a minute think that your company will teach you all you need to know, it’s your career so own it and build it rather than delegating that responsibility to your company. If you get a good boss, fair enough but what if you don’t? Will you just sit and whine because your boss is not teaching you as he/she ought to, or you’ll figure out ways to learn on your own. I hope you choose the latter.
In the university, all you had to do was be in class, get your assignments done and ace your final exams. But the corporate world is an entirely different world. No matter how much of a loner you are, you need to know that in this new world, your actions impact others and other people’s actions will also affect you.
So it’s important that you learn the company culture and most importantly, the preferences and expectations of your immediate bosses else you’ll always feel underappreciated and jump from one messy situation into another no matter how hard you work.
No matter what your personal preferences are, you’re stuck with people and will need to stomach a lot of unpleasant things. But one day, you’ll also be at the top and at that level, you’ll be free to do things your way.
Invest in your professional network! I can’t overemphasize this because it’s so important that you do. If you don’t have a LinkedIn Profile, get one, constantly update it, join relevant groups and connect with people in your industry. LinkedIn is not only for job seekers.
Networking will help you build and sharpen your skills, stay on top of industry trends and even find a right mentor. There are also a lot of opportunities in the LinkedIn Community you can take advantage of. Make sure you put a good professional image of yourself out there.
Hopefully there will be a part two of this article but until then, I wish you the very best as you skillfully navigate the corporate world and build a career that truly impacts.
By Rosemary Asiamah
Internal Auditor & Business Consultant