The transition from university to work can be daunting. Excitement can be mixed with a healthy dose of anxiety and confusion over what exactly may be expected of you. In order to make sure you start off on the right foot and ensure success, there are a few things to look out for.
Listen and learn. You may have been an ‘A’ student, but the last thing your colleagues want is a young, smart ‘know it all’ around the office. Watch carefully how people do things and make sure you understand why things are working the way they are before you start suggesting or making changes. People will be much more open to your ideas if you come from a point of understanding the history behind the work.
Ask questions! If you are not quite sure about something that is being asked of you, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. No one expects you to know everything right from day one. In fact, they would be worried if you didn’t ask enough questions! Make sure that you listen carefully to the answers and write things down! (Never go into a meeting without a pad and pen or device in hand.) There is a fine balance between asking enough questions and using your initiative. You don’t need to ask about every single little thing; your employer will expect you to make some decisions on your own.
Office culture. Getting on well with your colleagues is critical not only to your success but to your enjoyment of the job. Simple things, like understanding protocol in the kitchen, will show that your respect them. Who makes the coffee or tea? Do people take turns washing up or does everyone do their own? Do people have their own special mugs/cups? It’s amazing how irritated someone can get if you take their cup! Better to ask right from the beginning so you know what to expect. Learn what people’s preferences are and bring in some morning tea from time to time.
Dress code. Take note of how people dress and act accordingly. It’s always better to slightly overdress than underdress, especially when meeting clients. If the office has casual Fridays, this will still mean you need to dress smartly. The office is no place for torn, worn out jeans.
Mistakes. You will make mistakes! No one is perfect and you won’t always get it right. The trick is to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them twice. Own up to your mistakes and ask for advice on how to do it better the next time. Success often comes at the risk of failure and in order to move ahead we sometimes need to try things that might not work out. Great initiatives can come out of learning from these experiences.
Teamwork. Look out for your teammates and contribute whenever you can. Anticipate when they might need assistance and offer to help before you are asked to do so.
Breaks. Use these to network, network, network and learn more about the organisation. Whether you are meeting someone for coffee or lunch, use the opportunity to keep learning. Find out what is happening in other departments and how you might be able to work together. This will help you to understand how the work you do fits in with the overall organisation and will prepare you to think strategically. Find a mentor who can offer advice and guidance.
Finally, there is work ethic. This is the attribute rated most highly by the majority of employers. Always do the very best you possibly can and you will be noticed. Become the person others can rely on to follow through a job to completion.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a successful career. Good luck!