This article was first published on Youth Central, May 2014.
Scoring your first full-time job is an exciting time. You’ve finished your studies and soon you’ll be raking in a steady income.
However, starting your first full-time job can be a daunting prospect.
A New Beginning
Working full-time might be something new to you. As a student at school or university, you probably attended classes most days of the week, leaving little time for work. It might be that the only taste of the workforce you got while studying came from juggling an occasional part-time or casual job.
A full-time job comes with a lot of responsibility. Having one- or two-hour breaks between classes is common during your days as a student. In your typical full-time job, though, lengthy breaks are usually hard to come by. You’re expected to make use of your time at work wisely so that you can meet strict deadlines.
As a student you may have shown up late to classes or lectures and received a few stern words from your teacher or lecturer. Lateness is hardly ever tolerated in the workforce. You’re expected to turn up on time every day, ready to work for your boss and with your colleagues.
Dealing with these new expectations can be a bit stressful and require some adjustment. Here are a few tips to help you ease into it.
1. Plan Your Week
Planning your workload is a good way to get organised and be a productive employee.
When I started working full-time, I noted down due dates for tasks I had been assigned on a calendar. This helped me work out how much time I had to complete them, some of which had to be done within a day and others that were ongoing projects over a month.
It’s worth jotting down notes or reminders about any work meetings that you need to attend. That way you can set aside time to prepare any questions you want to bring up then.
2. Speak Up
If you’re unsure about how to do something, ask your manager or supervisor about it. If you ask questions, you’ll come across as a proactive employee who is eager to learn.
If your manager isn’t around to answer your questions, try asking your colleagues for help. After all, they’ve probably been around longer than you and should be able to help you out.
3. Get To Know Your Colleagues
Chances are you’ll meet and work with people of all ages and from all backgrounds in your first full-time job. This can take some time getting used to if you’ve always hung out with a particular group of friends at school or university.
You’ll be spending a lot of time each week with your colleagues. It makes sense to try to develop a good relationship with them.
If it’s possible, try having lunch with your workmates. Sharing lunchtime is an opportunity for everyone to get to know more about what you all do at work, and also to get to know each other on a personal level.
The more you talk with your colleagues, the more comfortable you’ll feel around them and the more you’ll feel a part of a team.
4. Be Accountable
In the first few weeks of your new job you might feel like a fish out of water. It’s unlikely, though, that you’ll be expected to know everything overnight. It takes time to learn how to do your job well, just as it probably took you countless of hours to grasp mathematical formulas or abstract theoretical concepts in school.
Be realistic about what you don’t know. If you make a mistake at work, own up to it. Being accountable for your actions shows that you’re honest. This can give your co-workers reasons to trust you.
5. Eat Healthy
Working full-time often means working a set number of hours – sometimes long hours – at a stretch. It’s important to eat well to make sure you have enough energy to get you through each day at work.
It’s a good idea to bring slow energy-releasing foods such as fresh fruit and nuts to work to satisfy your hunger pangs in between meals. Not eating enough, or hastily downing processed, sugar-filled treats like chocolate, can make you feel sluggish before a full workday is over.
6. Sleep Well
I cannot stress the need for sleep enough. When I first started my job, I thought if I got four hours of sleep the night before, I would be physically okay to work for eight hours the next day. In reality, I was half-asleep the whole day and kept asking my colleagues to repeat their questions. I was literally too tired to function.
A good night’s rest will ensure that you wake up fresh and ready to tackle any task at any time of the day at work.
Settling Into Your New Job
It’s perfectly okay to feel nervous when you start your first full-time job. Learning how to do your job well, getting to know new colleagues and adopting a healthy lifestyle all at the same time can be slightly overwhelming.
With careful planning and a determined attitude, though, you should be able to pick up what you need to know on the job and gain confidence in your new role.
Good luck on becoming a superstar employee that everyone can count on!