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Read These 9 Tips Before Starting Your First Job (Or Any New Job)

You’ve landed your first job! Now what?!

Graduating from college and starting your first job is no cakewalk. In fact, it’s absolutely exhausting. You’re plucked from an environment where classes are irregular and partying is very regular, and expected to dress appropriately, dedicate (at minimum) eight hours a day to your new employer. #GirlBoss?

If you’re anything like us, your college vision of your first job was something like the second half of The Devil Wears Prada (you know, the part where she finally found her dream job). But what you’re forgetting is that in the first half of the movie, Andy was broke, bad at her job and booking flights for Miranda Priestly during Friday night dinners with Dad. Not to mention, she didn’t even know the significance of cerulean. Embarrassing.

The point is, jobs are not all blazers and power moves–especially not one day one. Day one of your first job (or any job, for that matter) is actually a lot of HR presentations and enough smiling to warrant a visit to the orthodontist. Which by the way, you might want to hold off on until you look over your health insurance plan.
First Job - business women

9 Tips for Your First Job After College

Fortunately for you, we went through the rough college-to-job transition so (hopefully) you don’t have to! Now presenting: nine tried-and-true tips for your first job that will impress your boss and reduce colleague annoyance. 100% guarantee or your money back.

1. Take a boatload of notes.

The first week on any job is information overload. Now would be a great time to use that ‘Hustle, girl!’ notebook you impulse bought at HomeGoods… that is, after you peel off that cheugy logo.

Taking notes allows you to reference important information in the future and signals to others that you’re actively listening. Nothing makes a new colleague’s blood boil more than a new hire who doesn’t take notes.

Your colleagues don’t want to have to train you on something more than once. The fastest route to being the office outcast is to ask questions that could have been answered by referring to the notes you took during training. No one wants to be Toby Flenderson. Not even Toby Flenderson.
First Job - take notes

2. Act interested and eager, but don’t overdo it.

There’s nothing less impressive than a disinterested employee. The bored persona may have worked for you in college, but it certainly won’t in the professional world.

Show up to your first job with genuine curiosity and excitement to learn. People will have faith in your ability to succeed if you offer to take on tasks and learning opportunities at your job early on.

But also, don’t be overly eager. If you’re constantly pestering your new colleagues with your passion for the job, they’re going to regret hiring you… and develop migraines from how much they’re rolling their eyes. Tow the line carefully.
First Job - over eager

3. Ask smart questions.

You’ll probably hear your colleagues say, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions!” Translation: “Don’t be afraid to ask a few relevant questions!”

There’s something incredibly annoying about someone who constantly asks questions that could have been answered through their own research. Before you ping your coworker asking where a certain file is, try to find it yourself. If you still can’t find it, at least you can demonstrate that you tried.

For example, “Hey Rob, would you be able to point me in the direction of the expense reports? I did some digging in the shared drive and couldn’t locate them myself.” In most cases, Rob will appreciate that you tried and have no problem directing you.

Your goal should be to never ask a question more than once. This is where the aforementioned notebook comes in!
First Job - colleagues working

4. Be resourceful.

Being resourceful is an incredibly underrated skill, and it’s one that will get you far in your career. If you can Google something rather than hassle your colleagues, do it. If you can extract information from a shared folder or your company’s Intranet, dig for it. If you can watch a YouTube tutorial on ‘how to do a v-lookup’, watch it.

Oftentimes, your colleagues are too underwater to help you with everything, so taking the initiative can lead to very favorable performance reviews. Plus, you won’t get exposed for ’embellishing’ your resume with things you kinda sorta know how to do.
First Job - meeting between two women

5. Learn your colleagues’ preferred communication styles.

In some workplaces, it’s totally normal to pop by someone’s desk to ask a question. In others, it’s proper etiquette to “ping” someone first (i.e. send them a message) and ask permission to swing by their desk.

Getting a feel for your colleague’s preferred communication style will help you save face with your new coworkers and prevent complaints about how you’re always lurking behind peoples’ desks unannounced.
First Job - communication styles

6. Keep the chit-chat professional.

We’d be lying if we said all workplaces were professional environments with no talk of sex, partying, drugs or alcohol. However, under no circumstance should you indulge your new coworkers with the details of your bender-of-a-weekend. Unless really interested in getting to know Debbie at HR.

Most companies have sexual harassment policies that could get you fired at any reported mention of sex, so it’s in your best interest to always save those #NSFW conversations for brunches with the gals.

Once you’ve developed professional and personal relationships with your colleagues, you’ll get a feel for what topics within bounds. Usually it’s situational: you might be more open at a happy hour with a coworker your age than with a VP who dictates your salary. Feel out the vibe, and when in doubt, zip it.
First Job - colleagues laughing

7. Ask your manager what success looks like in your role.

Your manager will be totally blown away if you ask this early on when starting your first job. Don’t drop this question at the water cooler, though. Pick a good time, maybe when you’re having a check-in meeting after all of your training sessions.

At many companies, each role has clear success standards. And even if they don’t, you’ll get brownie points with your manager by asking the question. Not to mention, you’ll gain more clarity on what the path to a promotion looks like. Cha-ching!
First Job - meeting with manager

8. Be proactive.

Being proactive is one of the best qualities you can have as an employee—especially a new one. You won’t be able to be proactive until you get a better sense of your role at your first job, so don’t feel pressured to take on the world during the first few weeks. That can actually backfire and lead to you looking incompetent if you end up falling behind.

But, once you have a grip on your role, complete tasks without being asked and offer to take on extra projects you feel capable of handling. This will build your reputation internally as a trusted colleague and leader. If you want to get promoted quickly, you have to be proactive.
First Job - business woman

9. Accept feedback with grace (and be careful giving it).

Feedback is a key part of career advancement, and frankly, you’ll probably get a lot of it at your first job. The great thing about this early feedback? Everyone knows you’re still learning, so the bar is fairly low, and they expect to have to guide you.

Seek feedback from your colleagues and take action on it. Remember, if someone gives you feedback, it means they’re investing in you and trying to help you grow. Don’t take it personally.

When it comes to giving feedback, hold off for the first 3-6 months at a job unless prompted to do so earlier. Delivering feedback is so important in the workplace, but save it until you’ve built solid relationships with your colleagues and understand how the job is done. If you’re critiquing your coworkers shortly after meeting them, you will make enemies quickly.
First Job - feedback meeting

More Resources to Check Out Before You Start Your First Job

With these nine tips in hand, go off and crush that first job! For more first job tips, check out Adultescence Podcast #4: How to show up to your first job (and any new job).

By Jess Lohr

Jess is a Cambridge-based, Syracuse-born twenty-something who loves coffee, dogs and stalking Zillow for her future home. Her favorite ways to kill time include strolling through Boston’s cobblestone streets, socializing over a glass of wine, and reading finance books (if only 22-year-old Jess were like this).

She has spent the past 4+ years working in Consumer Insights, and when she’s not working on her 9-5, you can find her pursuing her most recent side hustle as a dog sitter. Jess is co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website with the mission of helping post-grads navigate adulthood.

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