Growing up is such a big deal. You’re graduating (hurray!), you’ve landed your first job (hurray!) and now you’re well on your way to joining that Eligible for Marriage list (hurray?) that rishta aunties are always updating.
And while there will be plenty of people with celebratory smiles (and hopefully, cake) and words of praise, there are some facts you need to get straight before work life completely surprises you. This is a list of just some of the ones I’ve managed to figure out (thanks for the heads up, everyone in my life).
1. People at the office are not all the same age as you.
We’re used to environments where everyone around us is relatively the same age. School, internships, even extra curriculars – we are, essentially, always surrounded by our peers. When you start working though, there’s people from all walks of life and all age groups around you. That girl that looks 25 might just be 36 and married, with two babies. (Bravo for aging well!) That guy with the greying hair and darker skin may be from a small rural town, or of a different ethnicity, or even just a year older than you are. Remember to be mindful of this, especially if you grew up surrounded by people more or less like you. Not everyone has the same color, race, religious background, and financial status – of course you knew that, but it’s easy to let it slip so far back in your mind that you say something silly.
2. It’ll take a while before you can actually start calling it “the office”.
You won’t just belong right away. Having a fancy title and getting a handsome starting salary doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Being accepted in the workplace takes time and effort. Remember to represent yourself – as clearly as you can – don’t make promises you can’t keep, and just work hard. Everyone respects the ability to do your job well, and a friendly demeanor never hurt either. Respect those who have been there before you for that simple fact: they’ve been around longer than you have.
3. Prioritize: big presentation comes before seeing if the copy machine can scan your hand.
No, this is not the same as the lecture your parents give you about balancing friends and shopping with work and family time. This is about work – and how you need to make sure that out of all of your tasks for the day, the most pressed-for-time ones get done first. Often, we have a tendency to push big tasks towards the end of the day, doing smaller, easier things first. That’s fine if you know you’ll buckle down towards the big task at the end, but that’s a lot harder to do than say. So make sure the work that you’ll be evaluated on, that reflects directly on you, is done on time, and done well.
4. There is no monster under your office desk.
You will mess up. This will happen. Nobody will eat you. (Hopefully.) You may be chastised or even reprimanded, but don’t take it to heart. Learn from it and use it as a reminder to double check (perhaps before you email the wrong person, or when in a rush, put down the wrong statistic) yourself. Things happen and your job will go on – apologize when you’re wrong, and pick yourself up. This is only the start of your career, and you’re in this for the long run.
What did you learn at your first job?