10 Strategies For a Successful First Year at Work

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In this article, I will show you some of the differences and similarities between your college experience and your first job. While many think college and work are completely different, there are more similarities than you think. It is important to identify the patterns to be ready to tackle any challenge during your first job.

Before we start, let’s unpack some myths and facts about your transition from college to your first job.

  • Every student is excited to leave college and enter the working world
  • Your employer expects you to know everything when you begin
  • To make a good impression during your first year, individuals should ask a few questions and shed the new employee's image immediately
  • It is only my first year on the job, how important can it really be
  • My first year on the job will determine the rest of my career

What did you think about those statements? Can you tell which ones are myths and which ones are facts? Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be able to easily tell what are the real facts about your first year at a job.

1. Adapt to your new environment

Starting a new job can be challenging when you are coming from an environment where you know a lot of people and had a flexible schedule. The important thing to note when starting your job is that you will need to adapt to a new culture as well as a different communication style.

As of 2022, I have changed jobs 3 times since graduating at the end of 2017 due to various circumstances. The number one thing I understood from day one was that I got hired because I fit their culture. At the end of the day, they want you to succeed in your career as well as at the company. By understanding your attitude towards problems and issues and how to manage company culture, you are almost guaranteed success from day one.

2. Be ready to show up every day

The path to trust is to be reliable every single day. No matter what, you need to practice communication and set expectations from the beginning. In the beginning, all eyes are on you so be ready to be dependable and show up every day.

Learn to manage your time and be ready to be present every day.

3. Be proactive

One of the best skills I have developed in my career came out of volunteering and jobs outside of engineering. They showed me the importance of taking initiative, seeking opportunities and being open to new ideas and tasks. No matter what, I think one of the best ways you can advance in your career is by showing these skills every day.

I believe that taking initiative, asking for opportunities, and being positive every day will guarantee success during your first year. In the beginning, you need to show up every day and become a dependable employee. Demonstrate that you are capable of fulfilling your duties as well as doing a great job.

4. Manage expectations

Another great skill to have is knowing your limitations. The first year at the job is not a competition about who can do the most. Learn to develop into someone that can handle any task and learns from mistakes. In the beginning, you are not expected to know everything so don’t try to pretend you do.

Additionally, it is important to take care of yourself. Part of managing expectations is to be ready to work and be emotionally engaged in what you are doing. If you are constantly pushing your limits by going to bed really late, not exercising, eating poorly, or engaging in bad habits you won’t be able to perform well at work. Instead, take the first year at work seriously as it will be challenging and full of new experiences.

5. Understand your work duties

You have probably heard that at some companies your first year at the job is full of menial tasks that may not be as exciting as you wished them to be. I cannot say that is 100% true but expect some simpler and not as exciting tasks. From my experience, things start to ramp up around the 6 – 12 month mark depending on your level of experience and commitment.

There are many ways you can make the most out of your job during that time that does not rely on the kind of work you have been given so lookout for opportunities to do some work shadowing, self-learning, and most importantly, keep a record of all your are learning during those first few months. While everything may be new and confusing, I cannot emphasize the importance of keeping good track of everything you are learning during the first year.

6. Develop your network

Networking is by far one of the best ways to advance in your career. This includes at and outside work. Connect with your coworkers, especially if you are a remote worker as it will require more effort than if you were at the office. Look out for opportunities to go out for lunch or connect during social events.

My personal advice is to be open to new ideas and connect with others in a genuine way. People want to know who you are so make sure your share personal stories as you see fit and always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. The most important thing to know is that networking will help you feel part of the company as well as allow you to improve other skills such as communication.

7. Become reliable

One of the best traits that you can develop is to become reliable. This does not mean you need to know 100% of the answers, instead, you should be able to communicate deadlines and expectations effectively. At the same time make sure you are working closely with your supervisor to understand their role in your career development.

As we progress in our careers, it becomes increasingly important to understand career milestones. This shows you are looking to improve yourself every day and shows them that they can rely on your to stay up to date on technical knowledge. At the end of the day, becoming reliable will open doors to more interesting and exciting projects in your career.

8. Be a high performer

Becoming a high-performer can mean a lot of different things. Some associate this will complete tasks and moving projects forward and others with leading within the organization. I think it is somewhere in between the two. As you get used to working at your new job, ask questions and always look to improve the way you are performing tasks. I have seen many people make the same mistake over and over again. For a supervisor this can be seen as a red flag, so keep track of your questions, mistakes, and anything that can help you progress effectively in your role.

Becoming a high-performer goes hand-in-hand with becoming reliable. People will start to trust you and rely on you as you increase your knowledge, perform tasks effectively, and maintain a detailed record for what you are working on. There are many productivity tools and methods, but I will leave that for a future article.

9. Learn about benefits

You will be surprised by how many people don’t understand their company's benefits before starting their job. As someone who came from another country, that was me at the beginning. These benefits are part of your compensation package and you should look at them closer. Get familiar with the basic benefits such as Paid Time Off (PTO), Retirement, and Insurance but don’t be afraid to ask about other benefits.

A lot of times all the benefits are not specifically stated in the offer letter of the company policy manual. Some of them may include support to attend conferences, time-off to attend volunteering events, donation matching, professional development resources, and more. Don’t be shy and talk to others to see where you can learn more about those benefits. And if there are benefits you think the company should have, talk to your supervisor and see what the options are.

10. Learn the basics of finance

I won’t say too much here as we wrote The Personal Finance Guide That Will Teach You How to Make, Manage, and Spend Money in 2022 and Beyond. Make sure you know where your money is going and that your spending is appropriate to your income level. A good way to think about it is in terms of percentages. I like to keep spending at 60%, Saving at 20%, and Investing at 20%. I really encourage you to take a look at the guide we wrote to learn more about personal finance, investing, retirement, and much more.

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