Career Corner: Follow These Unspoken Rules to Get Ahead at Your First Job

Young Woman at her first job
Image via iStock

Getting hired is always exciting, and it’s a huge milestone when you are fresh out of school and getting your first job. It feels like you are building momentum, but then you may receive some culture shock when what worked for you in school is suddenly frowned upon at work.

In writing for Kiplinger, H. Dennis Beaver shares insight on the habits you may have developed during college that could now be mistakes costly enough to keep you from getting ahead or worse, to lose your job.

Don’t Treat Your Manager Like a Teacher

It’s normal to have an orientation period at your work where you learn everything you need to do. And it’s also expected that your boss will come to you to give you a new project from time to time.

But you shouldn’t need daily instructions to start your workday once you have been there a while. If you know there is other work to do, don’t wait to be told to do it like a student being assigned homework.

Don’t Procrastinate

If you turn in a late assignment in school, your professor will be a bit disappointed, but will likely still accept it with a grade penalty. You might have taken advantage of that when juggling multiple projects in college, but work doesn’t operate that way. You have real deadlines now, which means if you can’t meet them, they’ll find someone who can.

Don’t Treat Your Work Like It’s Only Your Responsibility

As much as nobody likes group projects in school, work is typically a giant group effort. You have other people in your department who likely rely on you. Don’t take everything on solo. Keep your coworkers informed of where you are at with a project.

Don’t Assume the Timeline for Your Rewards

At university the criteria for special recognition is simple: do well in your classes and maintain a high GPA and you will receive high grades and honors.

Careers aren’t as routine as that. Promotion opportunities might only occur when there is a specific need. You can’t put a firm timeline on your recognition at work.

Don’t Mistake Coworkers for Classmates

While you certainly can become friends with your coworkers, you are now representing this company in a way that you wouldn’t be expected to represent a university. Don’t get too casual in how you speak to anyone. While school is a melting pot of personalities, at work it falls on you to adapt to your job’s specific culture.

Your first job can be a rough transition, but provided you are willing to learn you should do fine. It’s usually only those who become obstinate that find a rude awakening in professional life.

To learn more about what unspoken rules you need to adhere to, read Kiplinger’s article on the subject here.


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