How did you all feel when you landed your first job? Excited? Elated? It is a great feeling, a feeling of joy and pride mixed together. Your friends must have congratulated you, your parents would have given you a pat on the back – Actually if you are an Indian, most likely you would have received blessings from your parents with a little dose of do’s and don’ts thrown in. I am sure you can relate to it, even if you haven’t got your first job offer yet. But don’t worry, I hope you will get one, soon enough.
What happens after that? After you have stepped into the work life and spent some time (say a few days) – the initial euphoria would subside and as you learn more about the complexity of the job or the implications of what you are required to do, often a feeling of anxiety sets in. Questions crop up inside your head – Will I be able to do this? What if I goof up? What would happen if I fail to do this? What would my peers think if I can’t do this? Will I lose my job? What would my family think?
Trust me, this happens to everyone. No matter how good you are and how high is your self-esteem, you will still feel the anxiety and the questions will raise their ugly heads. It’s perfectly natural. But some of us are able to cope up with this quickly while some others take a long time. In some cases, people are just not able to cope up at all and give up.
A lot depends on how the employee is made to feel by the supervisor or even by the peers. At this critical juncture you are looking for someone to guide you, someone to re-assure you that things are not all that difficult as they appear to be. Positive words, thoughts, affirmations can go a long way in making the new employee feel comfortable and settle into the job. The one thing you are not prepared for at this stage is being judged. You yearn for a true friend who could help you out of the maze you are in, show you the steps and let you know how it’s done. But how many of us are lucky enough to get that?
I think, above everything else we all want to feel accepted, a part of the team. We want to believe that we are valued, our thoughts and opinions matter, even though when we are new and lack experience many of our ideas are probably naive.
My first job was in a school. I was appointed as a teacher of Mathematics and I was supposed to teach students of 11th standard. I was awaiting the results of the final exam of my Post Graduation course and I was very young and totally inexperienced. All the other teachers in that school were females and were fairly experienced than me. I was a little introvert at that time and found it awkward to build a good professional relationship with them. The school used to start from 7.30 am and I used to reach by 6.30 or 6.45 in the morning. One day, one of my colleagues asked “Why do you come so early?” I said “I stay quite far from here, so I leave quite early. I board the first bus available and since the road is devoid of traffic early in the morning, I reach well before time”. I was hoping she would appreciate my diligence and punctuality. As it turned out, it was quite the opposite. “Well, please don’t sign the register at 6.45 am even if you reach by that time. Sign it after 7.15 am”, she said. She even made some remark about me trying to show off. I felt terrible. There were many other instances which made me feel absolutely unwelcome in my very first job. It was much later that I realized why my colleague had a problem if I reached office and signed the register well ahead of time. It made her look bad as she hardly came before 7.30 am and her other companions also followed in her footsteps. So, I was really the odd man out, quite literally.
I also made the mistake of thinking that just because I knew the subject well and I was a reasonably good student, I would be able teach Maths easily. I was very confident about that. It took me a lot of time to understand that knowing the subject very well does not guarantee that you will be a good teacher. Teaching is a skill and it has to be acquired so that you can really excel and win the hearts of your students. The Principal of the school, my boss, wasn’t very helpful either. I will talk more about him later, may be on another post. I really wish there was someone to guide through these things at that time, then I would not have had to learn the lessons the hard way.
I did get some good friends and mentors at a later stage, which turned out to be very helpful and I am grateful to them and will always be. But the experiences I had in the very first job left an indelible scar in my mind.
That is why I am writing this post – so that you are equipped with the tools that I did not have and so that your life is a little easier at your first job.
Below are the 5 things that you need to do to have a smooth and peaceful transition into your first job.
Observe the culture – You will need to observe the culture at the work place. Observe how people talk to each other and how they behave with each other, how they respond to different work situations. You will anyways be doing it without realizing it, but paying attention will help. Try to blend into that culture, but by no means compromise on your identity.
Values – It is extremely important to look for values of the organization and those of its people. Most organizations will have a well-documented value statement. But what is more important is what values do people actually live by. Do those values align with your own set of values? If the answer is no, then you will never be fulfilled working in a place like that.
Learn the trade – This is critical for your survival and for your growth. Learn about the job as much as you can. You will probably find a few naysayers along the way. Never mind them. Keep at it. If your employers are smart enough, they will soon know that you are becoming an asset for them.
Build Relationships – I never found this to be easy. Some people are naturally gifted at this. I am not talking about a deep personal relationships here, but meaningful professional relationships. This is also a skill that can be learnt and developed with practice. I had to learn this and it took me a lot of practice and I am still not perfect, in fact far from it. But I know that I can survive and that is what is needed. Here are a few tips for people who are like me –
- Smile and be friendly. Greet everyone when you meet them. Just basic courtesy.
- Be presentable with your appearance. You don’t have to look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, although it won’t be bad if you do.
- Listen attentively. I somehow developed this skill very quickly. I make a conscious effort to listen to people and pay attention to what they are saying. People feel valued when you listen to them. Practice it.
- Seek help without feeling ashamed. There is no shame in asking for help. You don’t lose anything. In fact, people will feel good that you approached them for help. They will like you for that. As long as you don’t behave like a jerk and help others when they need your help, you will be doing fine.
Respect – If you respect people for who they are, they will respect you. Everyone is different. Everyone you go to work with are different, they had a different upbringing in their childhood, different values that they hold dear. You don’t have to necessarily agree to everything that everyone has to say, then, you would lose your individuality. But, the least we all can do is respect them and their thoughts.
Do all these 5 things and you will find yourself easing into that first job. The feeling of anxiety will be quelled and the questions in your head will be bearable. Above all else, spend time with your friends’ and family – people you trust, people who love you.
What are your thoughts about your first job? Did this article resonate with your feelings? Or was it very different from this? What other actions do you think one should take to make the first job a more memorable experience? Feel free to share the post with others and ask them to share their feelings as well.