First Job - Real Expectations

September 13, 2018

Throughout the past summer, I have had the opportunity to engage with a number of young professionals who recently started their first post-graduate job. All of them were excited about this next phase of their lives and the opportunities ahead. However, each of them also had a level of anxiety and uncertainty associated with their new jobs, struggling to understand and grasp the expectations of them from the company.

Starting a new job is never easy, regardless of age or experience level, but it’s even more difficult when it’s the first job after graduating from college. There is uncertainty about the workplace, the co-workers, and even the company. There are always more questions than answers about what to do, how to do it, who does what, and what’s expected. Maybe most frustrating is after 16 years of receiving immediate performance feedback through testing and grading while in school, realization sets in that performance feedback occurs much less frequently, if even at all, in the corporate environment.

The stress and anxiety of uncertainty can’t be fully eliminated; however, there are a few things to remember that will make this transition easier during the first few weeks or months of a new job.

1.    Don’t expect too much from yourself: It’s only natural to place high expectations on yourself, especially considering the last few years of education and hard work were all for the purpose of getting to this point -  no company will expect you to be a top contributor on day one. Employers may have hired you because of your degree and the traits you exhibited during your interview, but they most likely did not hire you because of your innate knowledge of their business. Good companies realize you will need to be trained and developed before you start making valuable contributions.

2.    Be a professional and make great first impressions: Be pleasant, work hard and give 100% at everything you are asked to do. This will set the tone and the manner in which others perceive you and will serve you well as you continue your career with the company.

3.    Have reasonable expectations of the company: Businesses are comprised of people, and every business has its own set of issues and challenges. You may experience a level of dysfunction and disorganization in some areas of the business, or even quickly identify areas that can be improved. You may also encounter a culture or workplace environment different than what was expected. Don’t be alarmed -simply allow the proper amount of time to really understand the company and the culture, warts and all, before making quick judgments.

4.    Realize the initial workload may be fluid: Companies typically take time to integrate and orient new college graduates, starting them off slowly to ensure they are comfortable in their new environment and allowing them time to adjust to the day-to-day rigors of a structured forty-hour work-week. They may also still be evaluating the specific work you will be given even months after your initial start date. Be patient, understanding heavy workloads and larger, more defined responsibilities will come over time.

The transition to a full-time career is exciting, but it’s also a stressful time. Remember and embrace the tips above, and turn this period of transition into a successful experience.

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