I’ve had three new jobs in the past year. They’ve all been student jobs, and all been temporary, so it’s not like I’m getting fired from them; my term usually ends after three or four months and I move onto the next thing.
Luckily, I managed to land a real job (my first, besides retail management) for after my third student job ends, but I have learned a ton.
The first job I had was a position in the private sector. The company had a ton of fun corporate culture, a lot of great people, and very little work/life balance. That can be the way of the private sector, especially in economic times such as these.
The second job was in the municipal government. I loved it, although it’s not for everyone. It was a lot more project based than my previous position, and I had a lot of fun researching and finding new ways to do things.
The third job I started in the past year is the one I’m currently in. I work in a massive (seriously, massive) organization with too many departments to count in a publicly funded field. I love this one too, even with the complexity.
So, clearly, I’ve had a diverse range of sectors to start my career in.
I’m also starting a new position in my current organization at the end of April. That will be four new jobs started in 13 months, and dozens of lessons learned.
The purpose of this post is to build upon the last point; my lesson’s learned. I am a “learn by watching other people’s mistakes” kinda girl, so I wish I had read something like this before I had started my first job back in March 2011. If I had, it would have saved me a lot of grief. But here we go:
You won’t work well with everyone
I was lucky in my jobs previous to my first student job; I’m a very amiable person and I get along great with most of my coworkers, so I just assumed that internship #1 would be the same. I was so, so wrong.
SIPJ came along and challenged me to cope in ways I didn’t know I was capable of. I found myself in the supplies closet crying more than once, and if I can save anyone the same walk-of-shame out of some obscure place in the office with a runny nose and blotchy face, I’ll be happy.
Some people have different working styles than you do. Some people won’t like you. Some people will be jealous, or competitive, or feel threatened. And some people will write you off as the newbie and take that as an opportunity to be as holier-than-thou as humanly possible.
And some people just suck. If I could sit down with myself, a year ago, I’d shake that girl sobbing on the phone to her mom about how much she hates her coworker. I’d tell her it’s not about her and that it happens to everyone. And I’d convince her to buck up and be the bigger person.
Proof read emails. And then proof read them again. And then run them by somebody.
Especially as the newbie in the office, you don’t want to be sending out messages that are less than, well, perfect.
My first mega indiscretion during my first internship was sending out a mass email to executives, managers,
and supervisors without having somebody else look at it. I had proofread it several times, but having a second set of eyes for extremely important emails is infinitely helpful. I didn’t confirm a date, and while that may seem minor, SIPJ was a stickler for the details and made me email out a massive apology letter for not having proofread my email. It was embarrassing, and to this day I still try to get somebody to proof my emails if I am sending them to more than just my normal work group.
Write things down
I have a pretty good memory, and don’t usually need a pen and paper to remember a file path or a fact. But having a pen and paper and writing everything down is expected of you when you first start in an organization, and there are so many people that will think you’re incompetent if you don’t do this. So, even if you don’t feel like you need to write every fact down, do.
I was training a new member of our team when I was leaving my first internship and SIPJ came to sit in on one of the training sessions. The training I’d set up for the new member was very easy and hands on, so she got it right away.
She wasn’t writing anything down, which I was okay with because it wasn’t that difficult, but when the training was over SIPJ told me we had to “watch her” because she didn’t take notes while I was training her.
She did everything I trained her to do a few weeks later, flawlessly, without having to write it down, but to SIPJ, writing it down was the key to her success.
I’ve also had a few people demand I write things down and seem a little annoyed when I didn’t. I learned quickly to always bring a pen and pad of paper with me.
Ask for feedback
If you’re not performing the way your new manager expects you to perform, usually they’ll just stew in it for a little while. If you ask for feedback, they’ll be more willing to give it to you and you can build upon your performance from there.
It also shows that you care about your job and that you want to improve your performance. Book a half-hour meeting with your supervisor and ask what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, and be sure to ask how they think you can improve.
This shows initiative and also is extremely helpful to you.
Go for lunch with the team
In my first internship, I made excuses to get out of going for lunch with my department. They’d sometimes eat their lunches together in the boardroom, and I’d avoid that too. I felt like I didn’t know anyone and thought it would make me uncomfortable to have to eat with them.
The thing I didn’t really realize is that I wouldn’t get to know anyone if I didn’t make the effort, and I couldn’t very well be socializing on the job, so lunch time is the perfect opportunity.
It will definitely be a little uncomfortable for you at first, but after a couple of days you should be able to contribute to the conversation.
Would you add anything to this list? How would you start off on the right foot if you were new in your job?