Fresh out of college? Then you’re just like me – you’ve spent the last 22 years in a classroom soaking up information. You had papers that were due in 2 months, and tests scheduled 3 weeks in advance. Sometimes you sat together in groups to make cardboard presentations about how you would save the world by recycling, but then you all got to leave at 3:00 pm, even if your work wasn’t done, and they called it homework.
Suddenly it’s the big test, time to put the wings and flying lessons to use and leave the nest – enter the real world, because everybody has to start somewhere. There are no extensions; your deadline is today, or by the latest, tomorrow. Every day is a test, and while it won’t be written and graded, everything you do, down to the way you wear your hair, will be under scrutiny.
When I set out to conquer the world, I was lucky enough to score a great gig here at C&B. That meant clients, meetings, and of course the best part – new clothes (you’ll see why in a bit). Starting a new job can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first, but don’t freak out because I’m here to help you with a mix of my personal experience and some conventional wisdom.
Here are some things I have learned from my first crack at a career.
Ok, now that I’m here…what will I do? You should have your job description readily available so that you are clear about your duties and responsibilities. While you will need to be flexible about taking on more work or possibly doing things that don’t fall within your role, it is important that it is clear to you – and to others, what you will be doing. You don’t want to be hired as a Marketing Exec, doing the job of an Assistant and bringing them coffee. Your job description is also important for the managers; are you doing the job you were hired for? Or, should you be fired? While it’s not that cold in the real world, my point is that you’re here to play a role, so do it, and do it to the best of your ability.
Dress to impress
Dress for the position you want. Never underestimate the power of looking good; you never know when you might be called in for a meeting with your manager or a client. While a lot of companies will give you a casual day, please don’t take that as a free pass to wear flip-flops and torn jeans. If you do have a prescheduled meeting, just say no to the jeans altogether. Because seriously, you’re not going to die if you miss one week, instead, you’ll stand out from all of those other casual jeans wearing fools – and in a good way.
This might sound stupid, but…
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because it would be weird if you didn’t. Find out how the company operates, what others have done in your position in the past, and then roll with it. But beware of never taking your own initiative. If you always ask, ‘Am I doing this right?’ then you might be doing something wrong.
T E A M spirit
Always remember that you work in a team. (Why do you think they grouped you with your colleagues in university for projects?) A good team player is a must in most jobs especially in the PR industry. If the team fails, you fail and if it succeeds, well, it’s your success, too. Make sure you work well with others, by being helpful and constructive, and not by being all huffy, puffy and grumpy when somebody asks you to do something. Your teammates depend on you for your part, so play a starring role.
I’m a star
At the beginning you will be given the basic, and the sometimes boring, but bear with it; this is how you and your superiors will assess how well you can handle various tasks. Don’t mindlessly go through the motions – try to learn, because remember the multiplication table in the 2nd grade? (You never thought you’d need it, but you do). If you don’t have anything to do, make sure to ask your manager for more assignments (because there’s always more work), or try to find new ways to make yourself useful (and who knows, you might get recognised for your initiative). Finally, keep a record of your accomplishments because no one will be as enthusiastic about you, as you, and it will help the next time you ask for a promotion or a raise.
The early bird catches the worm
The last thing you want to do is come in to work late, especially on your first day. Understandably,there will be the occasional emergencies, which are fine, but don’t make it a habit to stroll in late. Once you establish yourself, you may be able leave a bit earlier, come in later or work from home on certain days, but do not abuse the privilege. If you don’t use finger print access at work that doesn’t mean no one is keeping track of your attendance record –your future appraisals will be associated with your attendance to a certain extent, so please, set your alarm five minutes earlier.
Taking that first step into the workforce and being the newest person in the room can be intimidating, exciting and challenging. There’s so much you can be, and so much you can do, because this is just the beginning.You might have missed your chance at making a good first impression on the first day (by spilling coffee all over your desk), but everything can be redeemed through passion and performance. Focus on what you can do to make yourself an asset to you peers and not a burden.
What has been your experience starting a new job? How do you get into the swing of things and become a valuable member of the team?