Congratulations, you did it! After years of studying, you graduated from school, went out into the world with your shiny new diploma, and — perhaps after a stint as an intern — landed your first ‘real’ job.
This is no small feat — as I’m sure you’re well-aware. Now that you’ve made it through your first job interview and the hiring process, you’ve likely come to realize just how competitive the career landscape is.
And, on top of the competition, you had to overcome the classic First Job Catch 22: needing experience to get a job but needing a job to get experience. You’re probably all-too-familiar with the frustration of combing through ‘entry-level’ job postings that require 3+ years of experience.
But now, all that’s behind you. You’ve secured your first job offer and you’re ready to kick off your career with your best foot forward. But, as with any new transition, it’s natural to feel some uncertainty.
So, in this article, we’ll be discussing what to expect at your first job along with 7 tips to help steer you toward success. Let’s dive in!
What To Expect At Your First Job
Whether it’s your first job out of college, high school, or another scenario altogether, a first anything is inherently unfamiliar territory. And, as such, it’s normal to feel a bit uneasy, wondering what to expect.
Well, regardless of your industry, field, and job title, here are some fairly universal situations to prepare yourself for:
You’ll be ‘the new guy’ (or gal). Being a new employee at work can feel like being the new kid at school. Everyone else already knows each other, making you somewhat of a social outlier. This can be a bit isolating and uncomfortable, but don’t worry — it usually passes quickly. However, if it persists over a long period, that may be the first sign of a toxic work environment.
A steep learning curve. Starting a new job is a major life adjustment — especially when it’s your first job. In addition to recalibrating your daily routine, you’ll also need to absorb a ton of new information. No matter how prepared or qualified you are, it’ll still take a significant amount of time and effort to get fully up-to-speed in your role. Each employer has its own employee onboarding checklist to follow and that will make the transition into your new role easier.
You’ll need to earn your stripes. Continuing on the above, when you’re new on the job, you’ll most likely be given a low-expectation grace period while you’re learning and ramping up. But, eventually, the time will come for you to prove yourself. This may sound daunting, but it’s also exciting! Earning your stripes at work is a very rewarding feeling.
You’ll make mistakes (and that’s okay). Humans make mistakes — bottom line. But you’ll be even more prone to mistakes when you’re new and/or inexperienced. When a mistake inevitably occurs, acknowledge what you did wrong and learn from your error. That’s how we grow — and a good boss knows that.
And, with that in mind, let’s now turn the focus toward how to succeed in your first job (and beyond).
7 Tips For First Job Success
Now that we’ve reviewed some typical themes you can expect to encounter at your first job, let’s explore some tips to help you make a great impression!
To kick off this section, let’s start with a quick checklist for your very first day on the job, followed by more general tips as you settle into your role…
#1: First day on the job tips:
- Arrive early
- Dress sharp
- Prepare your ‘personal elevator pitch’
- Prepare a few questions to ask your boss
- Prepare a few small talk prompts
#2: A positive attitude goes a long way. There’s more to a job than simply getting the work done. You’ll be collaborating closely with other individuals and your collective success is intertwined. And, for that reason, an upbeat attitude and a team-oriented mindset can be two of your most valuable assets.
#3: Never stop learning. Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you're done learning. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After you’ve made it past the initial learning curve and grown comfortable with your job responsibilities, you should continue to seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge.
#4: Challenge yourself. Similar to the notion above, you should always be pushing yourself to learn, grow, and excel in new areas. A great way to do this is by asking your boss to take on additional responsibilities. That being said, don’t stretch yourself too thin — work burnout is a very real issue.
#5: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We touched on the importance of learning and challenging yourself. And both of those notions, when done correctly, should involve asking questions. Your boss and coworkers are a goldmine of expertise that you should be eagerly tapping into. Granted, you should still try to find the answers on your own first; self-reliance is an important quality too.
#6: Keep it professional. After the ‘new-kid syndrome’ wears off, you’ll (hopefully) start to feel more relaxed and casual at work. And that’s a good thing — but don’t get carried away. Even if you develop strong friendships with your coworkers, remember that you’re in a work setting. You should strive to maintain a level of professionalism regardless of how lax the office culture is. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and be yourself!
#7: Take pride in your work. In any job, even your first job, there are bound to be certain tasks and projects that you’re less-than-thrilled about. That’s part of what makes work, well…work. But, remember that every task you perform is a reflection of you. So, no matter how small or trivial the task may seem, do it to the best of your abilities. In the long-run, this type of work ethic won’t go unnoticed.
More Tips For Success At Work
Following the 7 tips above will help ensure that your first job is a positive, productive, enriching experience! And that’s just the beginning — there’s so much to be said on the topic of work/career success (it’s a subject that’s very near-and-dear to me). For more insights, be sure to check out the following resources:
- How To Be Productive When You’re Bored At Work
- How To Stay Motived At Work And Improve Productivity
- How To Create A 30-60-90 Day Plan That Will Keep You Motivated
- How The Pomodoro Technique Will Improve Your Time Management
And, finally, to learn my unconventional strategy for landing great jobs without applying online, check out my ultimate guides on Value Validation Projects and How To Get A Job Anywhere Without Applying Online!