10 Things About Work I Wish I Had Been Told

It always amazes me the stories I hear about people who are new to the world of work.

The guys with jeans around the back of their thighs, the girls not dressed much better, headphones plugged in while they eat breakfast and gulp down an entire can of energy drink to get over their heavy night. “Waddup?!” Well I guess at least this demonstrates that they can multi-task! Now, I’m reliably informed that this greeting is actually a concern for how my morning is going. But it doesn’t quite have the same empathy as “Morning, Jim. How’s your day going?”

One manager told me she cannot believe the amount of time the young people in her team spend surfing the web and sending text messages. She was also shocked by how young people in her team empower themselves to take breaks whenever they feel like it, which often involves standing discussing their conquests from the night before. We both concluded that had they behaved like this 30 years ago, then they wouldn’t have a job.

Am I being harsh? Well, yes I guess I am, to an extent. Firstly, not everyone new to work is like this and there are people who have been in the workplace for years who also act like this. This said the world is evolving and along with it the acceptability of certain behaviours in the workplace; and we’ve all been there to some degree or another, entering a new job and needing to adjust in some way to make it work. This got me thinking about what I wish I knew before I entered the workplace, and if I were writing a letter to the then me from the now me, what advice would I give myself?

1. Start thinking about work earlier

It’s no good leaving it until the last minute when you’re 15/16 years old. The last six years of your school/college career will shape the kind of role you will get when you leave. Consider your options, look at your growing strengths and think about the kind of jobs you would like to do.

Play the Plotr game to find a career that will play to your strengths and that you will love.

2. Research and get advice

Not every job is described well in a formal job description/by its title. You need to consider the skills and experience that the role requires and then find ways of obtaining them. Go out and talk to people in different roles – speak to employers, recruitment specialists and career advisors. Use your friends and family and look at websites like Plotr to gather as much knowledge on the working world as you can.

3. Get work experience

Use your summer and winter holidays, weekends or evenings to look for a basic job, or do some voluntary work to help develop your skills. When you obtain a role, look for the bits you like and that play to your strengths – focus on these. Develop the areas you want to develop, but chase the development – it won’t fall on your lap. Experience pays.

4. Good pay does not always = a great job

Few entry-level jobs pay good money, and the meaning a role holds to you is more important when you start out. The more you put in the more you will get out over time.

5. University isn’t the only way to get a job

Remember, university isn’t the only route in to a decent job. Consider apprenticeships and similar schemes; again, the starting money may not be great, but you’re gaining skills and building a platform.

6. Attitude and commitment

It’s all about attitude and commitment — the more commitment you put in at the start the better your career will be and it will make selling yourself much easier.

7. Research the company you’re applying for

One question you’re bound to get asked is: “Why do you want to work for us?” If you have researched the company properly and you have a clear answer as to why you want to work for them above anyone else, then it will impress. There’s nothing worse than not having a proper answer to this question or “What do you know about our business?” If you can’t answer these questions, it doesn’t demonstrate any commitment to them.

Also, check the company matches up to your expectations. Look for them in the news, check to see whether they have won any people related awards and see what other people have to say about working for them – glass door is always a good reference point to find out what other employees think.

8. Have fun

It’s important to have fun and enjoy work. Look for a job that will tap into your strengths – not all of us will necessarily end up in our dream job, but we all have the power to find enjoyment in what we do.

9. Stand out

No job is a dead cert, and as time passes there are more and more people out there fighting for the same job you are. Be unique, stand out, but above all else present yourself well and show you are aware of work ethics like how to act, dress and behave in work.

10. Learn to sell

This brings me nicely on to my final point – selling yourself. Learn to tell a story; learn to be able to build a picture in someone’s mind because this is vital when it comes to most entry-level job interviews. You have to sell yourself, and in such a way you stand out over the others that are going for the same role.

photo credit: William Brawley via photopin cc

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