You've graduated from college or high school, and now you're about to embark on a life-altering experience. You will start your first job. At least it's your first real one since you may have worked part-time while you were a student. After spending approximately the last 17 years sitting in a classroom absorbing knowledge, getting tested periodically to see how well you remembered it, and occasionally being asked to write a research paper, you will soon discover that things are quite different out here.
Thrust Into the Real World
Remember when you were in school and your teacher or professor assigned a paper? He or she told you about it at the beginning of the semester, but it wasn't due until the end of it. You had plenty of time (unless of course, you procrastinated until the due date was close). When you start your first job, you will find things are very different. Your deadlines won't be months away anymore. If you procrastinate, you will likely miss them.
There's good news about those exams you stressed over. Your employer won't give any. The bad news is that you will still be tested—every day. The results will not come in report cards, but instead in performance reviews. Your boss will be observing how you perform your job and will also keep an eye on how you act. Don't let him or her catch you engaged in bad behavior at work. Why is your employer watching you? You may think it's a money thing. That is, of course, true; but it isn't the only reason. Your performance in the classroom impacted you alone, not your school, or even your professor or teacher. Your performance at work will affect the organization as a whole, your bosses, and even your coworkers.
Tips to Help You Succeed
Here are some simple things you can do that will help you succeed in your first job.
Always Arrive at Work on Time
Consider arriving a little early. Stick to your lunch hour and if you are particularly busy, eat at your desk.
Look around you to see what others are wearing, especially those who are further along on the same career path you want to be on. For example, if you work in an advertising agency and aspire to be an account executive, don't dress like the art director whose job allows a more casual style.
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN... and Observe
Spend your first few weeks on your first job, or on any job, listening to and watching what is going on around you. You will learn a lot if you do this.
Don't Spread Gossip and Try Your Best to Avoid Becoming the Subject of It
That's not to say you shouldn't keep an ear to the grapevine because you might pick up some valuable information. Learn how to separate truth from fiction.
Mind Your Manners
Don't forget what you learned as a child. Please and thank you should still be the magic words. Always knock before you enter. Although barging into your friend's dorm room may have been okay with him, barging into your supervisor's office is not okay. If you are invited to join your colleagues for lunch, be aware there are certain things you should never do at a business lunch.
Learn Proper Telephone Etiquette
Sure you've been using a phone your entire life, but probably not for work. You should know how to politely make and receive calls.
Find a Mentor
Look for someone on your career path that is willing to take you under her wing. Your supervisor may not be a good idea, but someone else who works under his supervision may make a good mentor.
Don't Pretend to Know Things You Don't
Instead, do your homework to gather all the information you need.
When You Don't Know How to Do Something, Ask Questions
You may feel silly revealing gaps in your knowledge, but everyone knows you are just starting out. It is much better than delaying a project because you did it incorrectly.
Learn How to Manage Your Time
It will help you meet all your deadlines. It is a must unless your boss tells you there is some flexibility with the due date.
Finally, Pay Close Attention to Corporate Culture
Learn how things are done within your organization. Are relationships formal or friendly? Does everyone arrive early and stay late? Are lunch hours short or non-existent?
Give yourself a break if you don't always do as well as you would hope. It is your first job, and you will continue to improve.