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My First Job: Lessons That Will See You Through Your Entire Career

Fresh out of college, you doff your graduation hat and ready the outfit you’re going to wear on your first day at work. Starting a new job is akin to the first day at school – there’s bound to be anxiety and excitement in equal measures. It’s your first step into the grown-up world and you tend to think that the journey from college to career will be picture perfect.

Most new graduates often take up their first job for a variety of reasons – to get experience for their resume, to widen their network or for the money. But a first job can be surprisingly like a first date – first impressions count, there’s bound to be some awkwardness, and you never know what it can lead to. According to the My First Job survey by Monster.com, more than half of the young talent (66%) in India is ill prepared for their first job, citing being underprepared for work life, and lack of industry knowledge and experience, as the primary reasons. This is despite 53% of fresh graduates believing their first ever job is highly important to pave the way for their future careers.

Every entry-level debutant needs to remember that your first job is the equivalent of elementary school. We list down the lessons you’ll learn that will last through your career:

1. Company culture is linked to workplace happiness
As freshmen, most of us hanker for cool jobs at seriously cool workplaces such as Google, Adobe and Intuit. A few months into your first job and you’ll realise that a friendly company culture is more important than a cool workspace or a fun boss. For, in the end, the workplace atmosphere and management can make all the difference in the world.

2. You are not as important as you think – yes, really!
You may have believed that you and your skills sets are special, but turns out there are plenty like you on the job market. Your first job often brings you face-to-face with a sobering realisation: You are expendable. Once you become aware that a company never collapses when a single employee leaves, you’ll realise that it’s important to work hard and make yourself as indispensable as possible, going forward.

3. People skills are as important as your certificates
Technology may be the interface through which business is conducted in most workplaces, but interpersonal skills will never go out of the reckoning. At every stage of your career, you’re always going to be part of a team, so you need to find a way to get along with others. You don’t need to be best friends, but learn to treat people with respect in order to get the job done. People skills are the foundation of building relationships; your first job will show you that practice can help better your interpersonal skill set – be it communication, empathy, positivity or etiquette.

4. Learning to work in diverse teams is mandatory
You may think of yourself as a lone wolf, but even the lonest of wolves must collaborate with others at the workplace. Your first job is sure to put you on a variety of projects where you can learn about the many facets of teamwork: emotional intelligence, active listening, adaptability, collaboration, conflict resolution and compromise.

5. There can be no substitute for hard work – ever
Florida State University psychology Professor K Anders Ericsson analyses expert performance in every field, be it academics, sports or art. His research has revealed that, “ordinary people with extraordinary motivation can achieve remarkable performance through a pattern of arduous work and study called deliberate practice”.

As part of the #MyFirstJob Campaign, we spoke to Rajan Anandan (former VP, India & South East Asia, Google) and here’s what he had to say when asked about his mantra

6. Company culture is linked to workplace happiness

As freshmen, most of us hanker for cool jobs at seriously cool workplaces such as Google, Adobe and Intuit. A few months into your first job and you’ll realise that a friendly company culture is more important than a cool workspace or a fun boss. For, in the end, the workplace atmosphere and management can make all the difference in the world.

7. It’s important to pay attention to the small things
The fast-paced work environment and flurry of complex tasks makes it a challenge to focus on the small things. However, overlooking details can be detrimental to your work as well as the company’s interest. If you’re not naturally detail-oriented, you learn that planning in advance and creating a detailed work plan can work wonders.

8. Showing initiative is sure to take you places
As you plod away at projects, you’re sure to learn that the easiest way to showcase your value to employers is to always do more than what’s asked of you. Enthusiasm is key. Getting to work early, staying late and asking for more responsibilities shows that you don’t want to plateau in your position – making you stand out from the other employees.

9. Dress not for the job you have, but the one you want
Just because you’re out of college is no reason to hit the workplace in sloppy sneakers. It’s essential to scope out the landscape – checking what people wear – before you decide on your work outfits. Doesn’t speak very well of you if you show up for a meeting in a bomber jacket when the rest of the team is sharp in a suit.

Whether you #LoveWhatYouDo or are hoping to #FindBetter the next time around, your first job will teach you plenty of lessons that will help you build a solid career.

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