First New Job? – What to Expect and Not

New Job training in 1945

So you just got your first new job? Congratulations. Welcome to the workforce. You’ve probably read things or heard from friends about what it’s like out there. Let me go over a few things that you may have misconceptions about, just by way of friendly advice so that you’re not set up for surprise or disappointment.

1) Its your job AND your are also part of a team.

Personal responsibility dictates that an employee shows up for work, preferably on time or early, does what they say they will do and in a timely manner. That does not prevent you from asking for help, or working with others who have skills that you do not. In fact, one of the best ways to “fit in” is to get on a project with a team and get to know who knows what, and what you can offer.

2) The project might not be as hard as you think.

The most common waste of time comes from the beginning of a project… some people, self-starters in particular, may make their own interpretation of what’s needed. If this is the first project of your first job, slow down. It’s always better to define all the parameters before you begin. If you don’t know where to start ask “who? What? When? Where? Why? And How much?” You are not expected to know everything. It is good practice to clarify everything BEFORE beginning.

3) Most people have lives outside of work; others don’t.

In high school, trade school, and college, it’s common to hang out with your classmates before, during, and after classes. It creates a great community and network and there’s always someone around to do things with. The workplace is different, in that many people work to live, not live to work. So, when the clock strikes three, four or five PM, they leave; quickly, quietly and will be back to put in their time tomorrow, but are off to the rest of their lives. On the other end of the spectrum are those who never stop working and won’t go out with coworkers because they “have to get this done.” So it can leave you feeling a little stranded – chin up! Go find your own life.

4) Know the history and try to glimpse the future.

I agree these days it’s more common than in previous eras to find a start-up tech firm to latch onto and ride into the new horizon. However, most people will likely end up working for a company that has been around for years, decades or even longer. Get to know your new company’s roots, and recent history. The value in your first new job is the ability to study context of the internal politics and the pathways that led to how things are currently run / managed. You get to do this sort of  on the “down low” as no one expects much from you yet. Construct a probable trajectory, and try to get a sense of where the company is headed – maybe you’ll want to stick around.

Good Luck!

What other advice would you give a new hire?

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