You Got the Job! Now What?
Your first real job—the one that will mark the starting line of your working life—should hold the promise of teaching you something useful in business or being helpful to your career goals. Some of those lessons may come in the form of disappointment, embarrassment and even failure, which is life’s most effective teacher.
One way or the other, wherever you land your first real job, when your expectations meet reality there’s bound to be friction. You aren’t in college anymore, and the rules you lived by at home or at school no longer apply. The résumé writing, applying and interviewing were hard. Starting your first job is probably going to be harder.
Among my circle of college friends, I consider myself to have been the luckiest. I needed to work to pay expenses and was fortunate to have a secure part-time position as a dispatcher and guard for the campus police. I had a very specific dream that I thought was unique at the time but probably shared with tens of thousands of others. I would earn a degree in management science and get a job running a hotel on the beach somewhere, living rent free at the hotel, meals included, driving a Porsche.
When I went home over one winter break, I looked for something I could do to pick up some extra cash for the three week hiatus. I found work as a short-order cook at a local tavern. The hours left me enough spare time for a second job.
A pizza shop and a small ski resort had already offered me work when I spotted an ad for CUTCO. The pay was better than anywhere else so I applied, got excited by what I discovered during the interview, and was hired for my first real job.
When I went back to school, I decided to continue with CUTCO, but I was a little nervous about what my friends would say, especially after my father’s frowning skepticism. Being a security guard did have its benefits. It gave me a bit of macho status among the guys. Wearing the uniform also seemed to add a few points to my flirtability index. Now I was—what? Selling knives?
Back at school I ran into a fraternity brother who told me that over the winter break he got a job “as a sales rep for an international multimillion-dollar marketing firm.”
“No way!” I yelped. “So did I!”
He had used the secret code phrase CUTCO reps were taught to say—and still are—when asked where they work. It was true, and it sounded a lot sexier than “I sell knives.” Just saying it made me feel a half-inch taller. And my friends? “Marketing, huh? Whatever, man. Hey, where you gonna watch the game this Sunday?” No raised eyebrows, no knife jokes.
The Baby Chick Syndrome
Wherever you start out, think of it as a science lab where you’re going to go through some tests to see what you’re made of, good at, and compatible with. If you’re shy, it’s a chance to bust out of your shell. That happens a lot in my business because the work requires picking up the phone and talking to strangers, and then sitting in their living rooms and talking about the art and science of fine cutlery. We have amazed more than a few parents who came to us asking how we got their son or daughter to open up and acquire self-confidence.
If, on the other hand, your first job is driving a computer in an office that has more than a handful of employees, you’ll quickly discover that most of the people you’ll be working with will be older. All but those who started on the same day as you did will have some degree of seniority, even if it’s just a week. You will be the baby chick until another one gets hired. If you’ve ever lived on a farm you know what happens to the smallest chick in the brood—all the others gang up and peck it to death.
One of the many hard lessons worth learning early is to swallow your pride, stifle your opinions, smile politely, and change the subject when someone older than you starts a sentence with, “You kids...,” or snarls, “Didn’t they teach you that in college/high school/third grade/kindergarten (pick one)?”
If you go straight from college into your first real job, it may take some time for your brain to catch up. You may have been smart enough to get to classes late and still ace the exams, but it doesn’t work like that in business or the professions. College is you against the test. Business is almost always a team activity, your team against the world. If you aren’t lifting your share of the weight, someone else has to. Your slacking WILL be noticed.
1) Find ways to add value to others you work with.
2) Be early.
3) Be proactive.
4) Let yourself get into it.
5) Don't be a clock watcher.
6) Put in the extra effort...always.
7) Be loyal.
8) Find out what the team's goals are be supportive.
9) Have fun.
10) Be an energy booster as opposed to an energy vampire.
12) Treat everyone with respect. Remember, no job is beneath you. Lend a hand whenever you can.
13) Learn as much as possible. Be a "know-how" junkie.
14) Try harder to change your opinion of others than you try to change their opinion of you.
15) Grow. The more you work on you, the more you will have to offer others. This is the key to advancement.
In the mood for another quick read? Check out YOUNG EXECUTIVES IN THE MAKING_HOW TO BE THE BEST NEW MILLENNIAL_AND SH...STUFF LIKE THAT.
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by John Wasserman
Proceeds benefit Children's Dyslexia Centers