first jobThe world of work is quite different from that of school, or even university. If you go into work with the same habits that got you through life as a student, you’re likely to be in for a shock. Your first job, and every job that comes after it, will come with different expectations, rules, risks, rewards and ways of working that you need to get your head around.

Oddly, almost nobody tells you what you really need to know. You’re expected to pick it up as you go along – but if you can go in on day one and start getting it right straight away, you can save a lot of wasted time and effort on your path to success.

You’re not just working for yourself. In school, you could make a mistake and you were the only one who lost out. In the workplace, getting it wrong or turning in work that’s not good enough can affect many more people: colleagues now need to put it right and clients may be waiting on work that needs to be re-done. You also need to demonstrate to management that you’re worth keeping for the job. You’re not only accountable to yourself.

There is a positive side to this however, as succeeding in a role means you make a lot of other people’s lives easier, and people are genuinely thankful for the good work you do.

Work won’t always be handed to you. University graduates will know how important it is to do your own research and direct your own workflow. For those just coming from school however, you should know that work isn’t just a matter of completing whatever projects are given to you. You’re generally expected to take initiative and find more tasks to add to your already packed schedule.

If you find yourself with nothing to do, don’t just log on to Facebook – ask your colleagues if there’s anything you can help them with. Your efforts will be noticed!

Your attitude matters. You could be doing great work, but if you come across as bored, rude, or unenthusiastic, you will end up alienating your colleagues. Not only that, but you stand less chance of getting promotions or raises – so being polite and cheerful, even to people you don’t like, is essential if you want to get ahead.

It’s harder to get work-life balance. There’s a good chance you won’t have worked 40 hours per week before your first job; it’s common to work quite a bit longer than this in many workplaces. To some extent it’s unavoidable that your work life will impact your home life, but it’s important to find a balance between the two.

If you don’t get adept at leaving your work behind when you leave in the evenings, you’re likely to just get stressed and find it hard to enjoy your leisure time. Burnout and fatigue are worryingly common in working life, and can be prevented by taking short breaks during the working day as well.

Do you have any questions about the transition into work? What do you wish you’d been told before starting your first job? Leave a comment below…

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