Be it your first internship, job, or volunteer opportunity in your professional field, you’re sure to encounter a lot of skepticism as you walk through those big glass doors the first time.
The first day may seem daunting. Although you may see similar concepts taught in school, you’ll often encounter a pool of different protocols and tasks that is required of you at your workplace.
Unfortunately, your numerous questions and young face will put you at the bottom of the food chain. This not only means that you’ll be given the work that nobody else wants, but also that your opinions will be overlooked, and some of your hard work’s credit will be unfairly accredited to seniors.
While some of this is inevitable, you have to look after yourself. Here, I suggest a few simple, but often overlooked tips to help you get through that first tough month at your new professional work setting.
1. Ask Questions
You might have a lot of questions to ask your colleagues, so I highly advise you to do so! They’ve been around for a while and know the in’s and out’s of the company – they are sure to divulge as much information as your questions can encourage. If you’re ever unsure, ask. This is the perfect time for you to ask questions. In fact, people expect smart and hard workers to ask a lot of questions. Just make sure that after you ask a question, you don’t zone out while it’s being answered. Pay close attention, and write down any crucial information for future reference.
2. Join Social Activities
Join any outings your co-workers may have! This may be tough, especially for introverts, at the end of a long day of work. But it makes a big difference to socialize early on and, within the first two weeks, establish a good circle of friends in the workplace. Although some may say that having friends in the workplace is not professional, my personal experiences have led me to believe that you can make some of the best friendships at work. You just have to find that perfect balance and understand that your workplace duties are the number 1 priority. Think about it – you’re going to be with these people 40 hours. You might as well make it enjoyable!
3. Document Everything
Keep an updated journal or word document where you can record your work-related issues. This doesn’t mean the same tiny dollar store notebook you use at your meetings to jot down things-to-do or doodle that cute co-worker that sits across from you. Have a separate journal for daily self-reflection on how you could improve, what you did well, things you learned that day, and also any tricky circumstances you dealt with. It’s important to have this document to revisit when you forget something, but also to protect yourself if something goes wrong. Mistakes will happen and quite often, the blame will fall on the fresh meat. That’s when you pull out your trusty journal to cover your back.
4. Take a Break
When you get home, give yourself a break! It may be tempting to replay every minute at work and review all the tasks you need to get done. But your brain has been focused on work alone for the past 8 hours. A break will help you view things from a different perspective and allow your brain to store the material you learned in a safe place so you can flip back to it the next workday.
5. Believe in Yourself
The first month will be tough. You’ll constantly ask questions and probably be denigrated by your co-workers for your unfamiliarity. It’s easy to feel discouraged and lose faith in yourself. Remember that this isn’t the same as your first job experience at McDonald’s or Dairy Queen — the tasks and responsibilities asked of you are a lot higher. But remember the rigorous job application and interview you passed in order to get this job! You went through years of schooling to get into the professional field that you’ve been dreaming of since Grade School. Don’t lose faith in yourself and greet every day at work with the assurance that you have improved and will one day become the top employee here. You’ll get the hang of things soon enough!
Finally, remember to smile and enjoy the experience!
I wish you the best of luck!