The first step of a career is pivotal and it should be viewed individually and distinctly from the rest of the years of one’s career.
Shift from college campus to office floor is an important transition in life that needs to be handled effectively. You are consumed by a sense of excitement about forthcoming experiences at work place while also engulfed by a fear of what lies ahead, as there will be new challenges to face and huge obstacles to overcome when one starts climbing up in the career ladder. The first step of a career is pivotal and it should be viewed individually and distinctly from the rest of the years of one’s career. The initial challenges are myriad yet unavoidable and it can also be made an enjoyable journey if you put faith in yourself and lay expectations on self, rather than on other factors.
Corporate life is fundamentally different from Campus life. You walk out of your comfort zone of the campus and step into the practical world of the workplace with strangers as colleagues and without an established reputation and network to fall back on. You are the architect of your career life.
There is a brief honeymoon period of training at the workplace wherein not much is expected of you as you are learning. When the actual work begins you are filled with expectations. How do you combat the expectation you have from work and how to meet the expectation the work has from you?
Go step by step and here are a few strategies to follow.
Equate your new job with running a marathon. You have the qualification and credentials that got you selected for the job. Now get on to the track and start the race. You are likely to make mistakes through trials and errors in your learning curve but remember you have to keep on the track of the race at all times. The goal is to complete the race with the same energy you began with and not give up mid way, no matter the distance nor the terrain.
Your role may or may not be well defined in your job description but once the training is over request a meeting with your manager to align expectations and define measurable goals and timelines. Then get yourselves organized so as to use your time to maximum efficiency and avoid time wasters on the go.
While you are settling into your role and getting your job sorted out, start to reach out to your colleagues and make friends. Even if you are working in an IT firm you need interaction with human resources and support of colleagues. Begin with your team, especially with the new joiners. Use your coffee breaks to reach out to people at work and know them. This will also help you learn about their working pattern and their job attitudes which will eventually help you ease into the team.
As you broaden out your circle of colleagues it would be favourable to leverage the opportunity to gain knowledge from them as well. Often in a new space there is a hesitation to seek help or direction. On the contrary, existing colleagues expect you to ask for help and they are open to assisting you but you have to make sure the opportunity is apt and you don’t intrude on their work.
Have a control on your day by being organized and staying focused on work completion. Keep adding in buffer time for other nuances that come on the way. Understand the working styles of your team including your team leader. Know how decisions are made in your team, is it autocratic or democratic? Figure out how each person likes to be reached out to, one on one meeting or through an email? Importantly know how meetings work, is the attendance mandatory or is there a scope for rescheduling it?
Set your priorities straight from the beginning and be flexible according to the requirements of the work. Mental and physical health are absolute priorities in the office as well. This is a marathon and not a hundred meters dash, you have to go the whole length in the same energy level, you can’t be exhausted after the first lap. “To finish first, you must first finish”. Don’t desperately try to create a first impression by faking what you are not and who you are not. Make corporate behavior that is sustainable right through your career. You don’t want to be seen burnt out after your probation period.
Don’t be too cozy with people at work, your office is not your home. Having a friendly yet a professional relationship with colleagues is what is required. If you begin to be too comfortable with your colleagues take a pause, step back before you start slipping up on professional behaviour. Redefine your friendship and then move on. Otherwise you will start taking your colleagues for granted and treating your commitments and deadlines casually. Use office time only for office work; if you consider it as your home then you end up doing your personal work at that time.
Being a PPP, people pleasing person is a stress for you. Don’t attempt it as this is a transparent behaviour and your colleagues can see through you. Don’t over do things just to get into the good books of your leader or colleagues. Also don’t be the person who overly seeks approval from a leader before initiating any work or work related decisions. This would reflect avoiding responsibility which is like an insurance against failure. Take initiative, take ownership of your decision and try all possibilities well before deadlines before you seek inputs or approval from your leader.
Weekend Reviews: At the end of the week, review targets discussed with your leader and challenge yourself by setting personal stretch goals if you are not reaching there. This will help with maximizing your effectiveness. Understand what success means to you and in your role, strive towards delivering early wins.
Slowly your professional reputation at the workplace will start forming; most of it contributed by you and some by the perspective of the colleagues. You can choose how your reputation can be by your action and interaction. Be known for your reliability— someone who is on time for both delivery and discussions. Be known for dependability, someone who will be committed to the job given. Be known to take initiative, someone who will bring in independent solutions to problems or creative suggestions. Be known for dedication, someone who will complete the responsibility and take accountability.
At a workplace, how you handle failure is of prime importance. When you fail, reflect on your failure. Leave the bad experience and learn from the good experience and move on quickly to the next level of success. Feedback is a part of work culture that has to be compulsory, constant and continuous. If you don’t receive feedback, you can request it. Be open to criticism when you receive it. There is a tendency to be hyper-sensitive and feel insecure in a new work environment. Therefore, early criticism can seem very strong especially for a new entrant coming out of college life. Remember the criticism is for your work and not for you personally. There is a lot of scope of improvement with criticism otherwise you won’t know you are headed in the right direction. Listen with complete interest and take down notes to ensure you will follow through. Then sit and analyze the feedback and decide the changes you will make to your work.
You must choose to prioritize your jobs ahead of other parts of your lives during the office hours. Stress is part of every job. When you begin to work, pressure could be established in you and thus the coping mechanism should also be adapted alongside. Explore your stress and your stress measures. The work place has expectations from you and you have to reach that expectation by raising your own expectations. Navigate your stress. Many people manage the pressure to be fully devoted to work by simply giving in and conforming.
Finally, establish boundaries about what you won’t do or won’t accept. State it out in subtle terms and see where you can be flexible.
Be part of company companions and attend the social events of the company. These get-togethers helps you know people better, get acceptance into the team, achieving team respect, getting staffed on good projects and being considered for responsibilities.
Making the change from college to the workforce is a process, but you will succeed as you put forth the time and effort in enjoying your work.
The writer is a Psychologist with over 13 years of experience working with Industries in the capacity of an Industrial Psychologist. She has extensively worked with college and school students as a counseling psychologist. She has authored a short stories collection and has been writing for the past 15 years on subjects related to Industry and Relationships. She has done her research in Industrial Psychology.
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