First Job, First Year: What I've Learned

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A friend texted me the other day, "It's been a hot minute since you made a blog post. Can your fans be expecting one soon?" First of all, fans? What a flattering way to describe the likely small handful of people who read this. But it HAS been a hot minute, hasn't it?

I'm chalking it up to busy days at work again, which is actually exactly what I want to talk about. I started my job two weeks after graduating college and have somehow already been here for an entire year. Over that time, I've learned a thing or two, and I hope sharing them will help some of the newbies out there.

Talk to people.
It sounds obvious, but I think it's easy to picture yourself automatically becoming friends with your coworkers simply based on the fact that you spend eight hours a day together every day. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. I struggled with this at the beginning because I'm not really the type of person to randomly start talking to people, so befriending coworkers was difficult. It can be intimidating, but it's important to be social. Go out for lunch with people. Go to work events. Put yourself out there.

Don't be afraid to ask questions.
When I first started, a lot of abbreviations and acronyms were thrown around, and I felt like I was supposed to know what it all meant. I was hesitant to ask questions because I didn't want to sound stupid. Now I realize that questions don't make you stupid. At all. Everyone asks questions, even people who have been working at a company for more than 20 years.

You will make mistakes.
There will be instances where you mess up – sometimes in a stupid way. It's normal. It's okay.

Don't take your first performance review to heart.
My first review was humbling. Certain areas were highlighted as "needing improvement," which was surprising to me. I suddenly felt like I wasn't good enough. Looking back, of course I didn't get five-star ratings across the board. Why would I? It'd be telling a fresh college grad only six months in that she was a perfect employee. Be prepared to feel a bit inadequate at the beginning, but take that opportunity to learn and grow.

Don't get too stuck in a routine.
Don't let the 9-5 life isolate you too much. Make plans on the weekdays, even if you're tired. Skip the gym for spur-the-moment plans. It'll feel like work is going to kill your social life, but it can survive if you put some effort in.

This is not permanent. 
I mean this in two ways. First, you don't have to be at this job forever. If it's good experience but not quite what you want to spend your whole life doing, that's fine. It's experience. Keep at it until you're not learning any more and then move on. Second, you can get fired. When I had jobs in college, I worked hard but also knew that if I messed up, it wasn't that big of a deal. It's a whole different ballgame now. Be professional.

Your coworkers are coworkers first, friends second.
The bottom line is that work has to get done, and sometimes that means butting heads with friends you work with. Don't take things too personally. Everyone is just trying to do their job as best they can.

Believe that you can do it.
Despite making mistakes and feeling inadequate, remember that you got hired for a reason. You earned that position. You are perfectly capable of getting the job done. If you are confident about something, fight for it. Don't doubt yourself. 

What did you learn from your first year at a job?

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  1. Such an awesome post - I agree with all of these points, especially being social and the scariness of a first review. It helped me to think that it would be boring if I was 100% perfect at my job straight away and had no space to improve!

    Hazel xx

    1. Thank you so much! And that's very true – not having any opportunity to grow or learn would be boring, I agree!