When I first started full time work, it was tough. When I think back to those first few months, I can honestly say I wasn’t myself. I would get really teary eyed during the day, then have a proper cry when I got home. I stopped socialising on the weekend and even reaching out to friends, preferring to be on my own. It had nothing to do with the actual job or the people I worked with (I have the most amazing work colleagues) I was just struggling to adjust. I was used to studying, things coming relatively easy to me, achieving high grades, receiving constant praise and awards; and it felt like a slap in the face transitioning into the work environment.
This swarm of information comes at you that you’re expected to quickly absorb and people talk at you all day using unfamiliar acronyms, like you know what they mean. Training, especially if it’s on the job, is relatively stop and start. I remember every time I made a mistake, even though it would be politely highlighted to me, I would really take it to heart, feeling like the most unintelligent person in the world.
No matter how much I told myself “Stop being silly Rene, they chose you, you deserve to be here”, I was feeling broken. I remember asking myself why I was messing up such a great opportunity. I was mentally punishing myself and now I can look back and see it was unnecessary, so I have provided the below tips to help anyone going through something similar in the first few months of their graduate job:
Don’t be scared to make mistakes
Especially in an environment that’s new to us, we get so obsessed with proving ourselves, making a good first impression, wanting to seem like we have it all together that we become a little scared to make mistakes. I definitely felt that way, mainly because I didn’t know what the consequences would be. Would I get sacked? Is there a strike system and I’m on strike one? Would the whole team be informed and then from that moment on, I would be forever monitored? On reflection, I was sooo silly for thinking these things, because actually it’s ok to make mistakes. That’s how we learn; by doing something wrong, this being pointed out to us, learning how to do it right, then not doing it wrong again. This fear of making mistakes will hold you back significantly because you’ll end up doing nothing at all and that is never a good thing.
It’s ok to ask lots of question
Although in school, teachers would encourage you to ask questions if you felt unsure about something, let’s be honest, we always felt this stigma admitting we didn’t know something, scared our classmates would judge us or think we were ‘dumb’. But actually, in the work environment, it’s one of the best ways to learn. No one expects you to know how to do your job when you first start, so take advantage of your newbie status and ask away. It’s best to ask now, rather than pretend to know what’s going on, and get caught out later when you’ve been doing your job for a while. This also looks really good to your managers and fellow colleagues because it will show that you’re keen and interested. What I would say however, is not to keep asking the same question over and over again, otherwise it will come across like you wasn’t listening the first time.
Be open and honest (with managers, team members)
As a new joiner in your team, your manager will probably put time in your calendar for weekly / fortnightly catch-ups to discuss your progress and find out how you are generally feeling. BE HONEST!!! If there is something in particular you are struggling with or you don’t feel you are getting the right support / training, let your manager know because they are in a position to help change that. I can admit feeling the pressure to keep up this bubbly, enthusiastic persona even when I was feeling like crap, and that shouldn’t be the case. You’re human and some days are going to be better than others, especially when you’re still trying to find your feet and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit that.
Reach out to people who not long ago were in your shoes
They’ll be people in your organisation who two / three years ago were in your shoes and can definitely relate to your experience. I would definitely advise reaching out to them because they can probably provide you with advice and guidance during those first few months.
At work, especially as a new joiner, there will be a variety of roundtables, talks and presentations organised by HR and others in the firm, where you get to learn about the firms culture, the career paths of senior members, how to acquire certain skills, diversity etc. I remember getting lots of calendar invites to these events and something I regret is not attending many of them. I was soooo scared of looking like I was forever skiving off the desk, trying to avoid doing work and actually I was holding myself back.
These were great opportunities not just to learn, but also network with others in the firm and I was totally throwing it away because I was scared of this non-existent perception. In the first few months of your job, you won’t have a full workload yet, so instead of just sitting as your desk waiting to be given something, attend these events, get out and network. Make sure you give your manager and colleagues notice and ensure that it doesn’t prevent you from completing any of your tasks.
Work on the things you know you struggle with
If you step into a role that requires you for example to use excel quite a bit, then brush up on those excel skills by watching a YouTube video on certain excel shortcuts, or put time in the diary with someone in your team who you’ve noticed is an excel pro. My point here is that it’s important to not dwell on your struggles, but actually take action to help yourself.
Don’t give up. You worked hard to get that graduate job; you did that, so big up yourself!! Like everything that seemed hard at first, it gets easier, you get better. But it will take time, patience and perseverance. Young Kings and Queens, tomorrow’s leaders, you’ve got this: D
WRITTEN by Rene