So, you just graduated from university – or graduation is right around the corner – and you are preparing yourself for your grand entrance into professional life. You’ve done your due diligence by working learnerships, involving yourself in extracurriculars, and getting good grades over the course of your undergraduate career, and you’ve either got a job lined up or are still on the hunt.
Entering the workforce is not as easy as many think. You may be under the impression that it’ll be as simple as starting a new job, just like you did when you landed your first gig at the ice cream shop, or when you secured a learnership during that summer between your sophomore and junior years. However, there is a whole lot more to post-university work than everything that came before it. This is where all impressions matter, where your work ethic will be learned and communicated to future employers, and where your professional life truly begins.
Here are 10 things every college grad should know before entering the workforce:
1. Not everyone will have your best interest at heart
While you will encounter people who truly want to teach you and see you grow within the company, not all your coworkers will be “givers.” There will be people who don’t ever seem to give you the time of day, who misuse your time because you’re “the new one,” who are unwilling to take you under their wing, and who look at you as their competition. This is especially so at larger companies where multiple people seek the same growth track. Don’t take it to heart… run with it.
2. But those who do will want to help. Take it
Those who are “givers” do truly want to help. You will encounter many mentors in your life, and as you excel and grow in your industry, you will reflect back on who helped you get to where you are. Don’t mistake suggestions and constructive criticism as rude, “I know better than you” comments. If people try to help you, take it and appreciate it. At this phase in your career, you’ve got a lot to learn.
3. Age doesn’t matter – learn from all your peers
Your 23-year-old co-worker wouldn’t be in her position if the CEO and company hiring manager didn’t think she was qualified for the job. Forget about age and learn from every member of your team, not just the ones that are much older and presumably “better” at their jobs. Listen, observe, and figure out what each person brings to the table and how you can learn from them and work together to get the job done.
4. Your friends’ salaries don’t matter
Comparing yourself to others is a quick and surefire way to lose focus and fall behind. Entry-level salaries can fluctuate in a major way across industries and there is no changing that. You may be making half of what your former roomies are making, but that’s because you took different paths. You’re working this job because it’s the field that you studied to be in. Worry about your bank account, and your bank account only.
5. Empathy goes a long way
We are all human. We all are confronted with personal issues from time to time, and when you work 9 to 5, five days a week, you’re bound to find yourself dealing with said issues while on the job. It can be difficult to separate work from personal sometimes. Knowing that, give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt and a bit of empathy when they’re seeming “off.”
6. Water bubbler gossip looks bad
Gossip of any kind isn’t a good look but gossip in the workplace is a major no-no. You will naturally want to talk about what is going on at work with those you get close to, especially when you are mutually unhappy about something or someone, but keep it to a filtered minimum. Word travels fast, so don’t assume that the person you are gossiping with isn’t going to go to the next person and talk about whatever it was you just told him or her. Just because others are doing it doesn’t mean you need to participate.
7. Networking will go a long way
For all you know, the person sitting three desks over from you could be the person that helps get you a job at your dream company in ten years. Make connections right away. Retain them. Keep in contact. Use them when you need to. Your network is your most valuable professional asset.
8. Failing isn’t the end of the world
If you aren’t failing then you probably aren’t being innovative. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. Advancing your career involves a huge series of trial and error. It’s impossible to get everything done right the first time around. Trust me, you won’t be the only person in the office to do something incorrectly.
9. Entitlement won’t get you far
You went to an Ivy League school and graduated with honors. Your family spent a lot of money on your education. Congratulations. But acting like you are entitled to a certain salary, position or treatment will not go over well with your superiors and peers. Your growth starts on the day that you first sit at your new desk. You will earn what you deserve by putting in the time and work. You are not entitled to anything.
10. You don’t need to have it all figured out
Chances are your first job out of university will not be a long-lasting one. Young workers often take the first relevant job that they can out of fear that they will be unemployed post-graduation. You may not be 100% sure about what you want to do for work, or where you will be on your career-track in two years, let alone five, ten or twenty. This is OK. What matters is that you take what you do have by the reins, learn from it, get valuable experience and figure out whatever “it” is as you go.