10 Ways to Succeed in your first job

Graduation season is fast approaching. Graduating students are often busy at this time studying for the final-final exams of their college life, late night cramming for the last round of editing theses and practicum reports, and planning how to celebrate graduation and the summer vacation after that. But after the relief of finally getting that hard-earned awards and diplomas...

You need to find a job. You’ll be busy preparing perfect resumes, writing application letters, and practicing for job interviews. After waiting and deciding, you finally take an attractive job offer which looks suitable for your skills. Congratulations!

But for those working for the first time, reality may hit you. You realize that the world of work is different from school. I consider myself a pretty good student, but after a few weeks into my first job in Manila I learned that the skills I had as a student aren’t the same skills and attitude necessary to succeed at work. We learn important things in school that we can apply to our jobs, like goal-setting and time management, but at being a new employee in an organization your adaptability and attitude in your first few days count more.

In our first weeks on the job, we should focus on having a good attitude, learn to get along with our colleagues, and know about the organization as much as we can. Earning acceptance, respect, and credibility is as important as being productive. I can’t call myself a model employee the first time I worked, I made a lot of mistakes, and I was a little nervous about the new place and all the new people. But I learned and I am still learning.

Before I left for Manila, I researched in the library (like I always do when I need to learn) for helpful books with advice on how to start my job without looking like an idiot. Books can be an enormous help but the actual experience (and making mistakes along the way) can help us learn more. I just opened my work notebook from two years ago and found the ideas relevant and can be helpful to you, reader, who may be nervous about your first time in a job after graduation.

1. Adopt the right attitudes and adjust your expectations. It's your first time as a new employee. Remember to be open and seize every opportunity to learn about your job and the organization. Be humble, as you’re the new one! Don’t be late, find opportunities to volunteer, and be flexible and adaptive. Don’t join in with those who talk about negative things about the organization or the people there. As you’re the newbie, your best step is to respect the organization and learn about the way they deal with things.

2. Learn how to fit in. Since you’re new, you can be seen as an ‘outsider’ until you prove yourself. It's not advisable to immediately criticize their methods and impose your own, as some don’t want the newcomers to make changes until they understand and respect the present system.

3. Manage the impressions you make. ‘First impressions last,’ as they say. It's even more crucial in your first job. I’ve seen that most people are more forgiving of the mistakes of a new employee as they are still adjusting to the work. It's important to keep a good attitude, how people see you now may affect you in the future.

4. Build effective relationships. If it's your first time in a job, you must know the people around. Don’t decline if you are invited to coffee or lunch, as this is also an opportunity to get to know people and introduce yourself. You might meet great mentors and friends.

5. Become a good follower. As a beginner, you need to listen carefully and be teachable.

6. Understand the organizational culture. As each human being is unique, every organization is unique as well. Pay attention to their mission, vision, guiding principles, beliefs, and norms. Try to observe the expected behaviors and work ethics.

7. Adapt to the organizational system. Once you learn and understand their culture, you must also learn to adapt to them and learn the way they work together and do business. As you are a newbie, it's best not to get involved in conflicts and politics, though they are an unavoidable part of every organization. Keep in mind that no person or organization is perfect! For more Human Resources training, information, advice, and consultation, visit the HR Lady.

8. Understand the new hire role. As a new hire, the organization has expectations that you should understand. When you accept that you are new and when you are willing to learn, soon you will blend in and will be ‘one of them’ and not just a newbie. The more you understand and accept being new, the quicker you can leave the ‘new employee’ stage behind. 

9. Develop ‘work smarts’ and master the tasks assigned to you. Learn and use the methods that work best for you and the work. 

10. Acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities you need. You are no longer in school, so you must now take the initiative and responsibility for your own development. Research and take opportunities for training and learning. Read books and know new trends. Attend seminars and workshops and be updated with other people in your profession. 

Best of luck on your first job!

Note: most of these tips are from How to succeed in your first job : tips for new college students by Elwood F. Holton III and Sharon S. Naquin (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, ©2001).