The first job experience is sometimes the one we may not particularly love, but which teaches us a lot of things that become very helpful later as our career progresses. Working smart has a huge competitive multiplier associated with it: there are only so many hours in a day, and doing more per unit of time is a competitive advantage.
So, here are some of the best things you can learn from your first job experience:
- Wear many hats. When there aren’t many people to do the job, it is unreasonable to expect specialized functions for everything.
- Learn to work independently. as far as possible, figure out how to get somethingdone by yourself rather than wait for someone to come along and tell you what to do. One good indicator of doing something right is if you are already doing something by the time your boss comes to you and tells you it needs to do.
- Learn to work collaboratively. Sometimes talking to the right person about something specific can expedite things greatly, far more so than you trying to figure it out on your own, but don’t make them do something that you could have figured out. This does not conflict with the principle of working independently – you just need to develop good judgement about when to tap someone else for something else. In general conserve your bullets so that when you are tapping someone, they recognize that you’ve already done a lot of your homework before you ever talk to them so that they feel that any time they invest on you is put to good use.
- Develop relationships with your peers. Unless you made a completely terrible choice in picking your company, odds are you will work within two degrees of people that you met at your first company for a good chunk of your career. Be professional and personable enough that they want to work with you again.
- Learn how to communicate well. Good communication can be a great time saver, time that you can devote to do your job instead of getting into a long email thread or an amusing though ultimately time sink offtopic corridor conversation.
- If you don’t tell your coworkers or boss what you want, they have no way of knowing. By just accepting all status quo, you are implicitly saying you are ok with the way things are. But be respectful and thoughtful when you do it, not entitled or greedy.
- Learn to be fearless. There are times when you think, “I have no idea how I’m going to solve this problem.” Confront that self-doubt, become familiar with it, and learn to feed off of it. Become comfortable with the unknown and don’t be demoralized by roadblocks. There will be many hard problems you have to tackle in your career. Stick to your guns and think about something in the background while you work on more tangible lower hanging fruit while you figure them out.
- Early on, attitude matters as much or more than actual output. No one likes working with an unpleasant new colleague, even if they are good. Sure if you are extraordinary you can get away with it, but most of us aren’t that good at any one thing.
Until you are the CEO, regardless of your job title or job description, your actual job is to make your boss/supervisor’s life easier.
- Attention to detail matters a lot, so learn to be detail oriented, even if that’s not your normal mode of operation. Because in groups of humans, it’s all about building trust. Having checked everything twice, and being really on top of your game is the easiest way to build that trust over time with people you don’t know that well.
- Be a net adder of energy to a room, not a net remover of energy. It almost always pays to be positive, even when disagreeing.
- Culture fit/match is a big deal, you can be fit in one setting and totally not in another, even while acting exactly the same. Be honest with yourself in looking for a culture in which you would enjoy working – For those of you that are very anti doing thing’s anyone else’s way, start something yourself!
- You won’t figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life from your first job experience (some people do, but it’s rare). Instead, focus on A/B testing in your own life – try to absorb all the things you experience and figure out what you enjoy, what you don’t enjoy, what type of people you like working with, etc. Use the first job to get exposed to as many variations as possible, so you can make better choices going forward.
- Learn when it is time to quit. This is particularly hard for someone at their first job experience, especially if you liked your job when you started it because if it ever becomes less enjoyable, you have residual emotional feelings of the good times. However, realize that over time, both you or your job can change. It’s very common and somewhat natural for people to overstay at their first job experience, and while some part is a life lesson, some part of it is particularly hard — try to make sure you don’t go overboard and stay where you are because it is just where you are comfortable. Continuously evaluate the predicates that brought you to your current job, and it is important that these predicates always evaluate to be true for the perspective of both personal satisfaction and career health. If you would like to find your first – or your new job – check all the open positions here!