How You Can Thrive in Your First Job After Graduation

CareerSeptember 03, 2021 11:09

By Clare Chong

When Jared Alex Tan just graduated from university, his key criteria was salary. Despite searching for employment on various platforms, he failed to secure any full-time jobs. 

After rethinking his priorities, he managed to clinch his very first job as a content creator. There was an ideal work-life balance and he got along well with his colleagues. His thoughts on how the first job experience could help in future employment?

“Getting your first job is the hardest, but it only gets easier from there.”

If you have just accepted your very first job offer, there would be mixed feelings of excitement, relief, anxiety as well as uncertainty about what to expect. Not to worry as we’ve got you covered with some tips on how to survive and thrive in your new job as a fresh graduate.

1. Before reporting to work
On the day before you start work, it would be good to double-check with HR on the appropriate dress code and search for routes to commute to work while factoring in time for peak hour traffic. Get your outfit ready the night before and set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes earlier so you will not be flustered in the event of traffic jams or public transport breakdowns. Most importantly, get a good sleep to brace yourself for the first day of reporting!

Do be well-groomed and take note of your personal hygiene in order to leave a good first impression on your colleagues. You can listen to your favourite tunes and enjoy a hearty breakfast to keep your spirits and energy up. Aim to arrive at the office 10 minutes earlier and calm your nerves with deep breathing techniques. Focus on opportunities rather than uncertainties. 

2. First week on the job
Doing self-introductions to new people can be intimidating, but there are ways to overcome the butterflies in your stomach. You can start by preparing a mini opening of yourself that you can repeat to your colleagues as you meet them.

Try your best to remember your co-workers' names by repeating their names out loud and jotting down quick notes about them after the initial introductions. If you forget their names (don’t worry, it happens!), you can simply say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I’ve been taking in a lot of new information. Could you remind me of your name?”

Listen and pay close observation of the surroundings and note the context as well as people’s reactions. Try not to interrupt an ongoing meeting or speak too loudly in shared spaces as you may unknowingly disturb colleagues who are working on something. If your co-workers seem receptive to your self-introduction, you may take that as a sign to know them better. However, if they are busy or distracted, do keep your self-introduction crisp.

Asking questions can also be a great way to make your colleagues feel heard. Consider the things you want to enquire about and rank them according to urgency and importance. Write them down so you can raise questions later with a one on one meeting with your reporting manager. Set up a meeting invite to carve out a common time slot that is convenient for everyone if you have any questions.

After you have done the initial introductions and know who you are likely to be working closely with, invite one or two colleagues for lunch. Seeking out someone you can relate to will provide you with some stability and comfort as you navigate through the new workplace.

3. Within the first month
As you settle into your new role, do try your best to take part in conversations and contribute your own ideas. Just because you are new to the job does not mean that you should be a doormat with no opinions.

Stay approachable with an enthusiastic demeanour and be flexible. Do continue to actively reach out to your co-workers to make new connections and be mindful of how the team works and gain understanding about the organisation culture.

Check-in and touch base with your direct supervisor on a regular basis. These conversations should revolve around setting expectations on how to work together effectively, getting the resources you need and knowing how your work performance would be evaluated. Do try to put yourself in the shoes of your supervisor to see areas of compromise if expectations are not aligned. Do make good use of these meetings to find out what your manager priorities are and work on tasks that appeal to their priorities. Steer your regular check-ins according to your objective; that is, whether you are clarifying information or seeking advice.

Then, organise your work schedule and relook at your to-do lists to see if there are better ways to manage your time or improve your current practices.

4. 90 Days Review
Most companies would have a three to six months probationary period. You may ask your reporting manager for an informal review first to see if there are any areas of concern regarding your performance. Additionally, you can update your manager on the goals and milestones you have managed to hit in these three months and do some forward planning on what he/she expects of your performance in the upcoming year.

Next, you can set goals for yourself and strive towards those goals by aiming to reach higher each time. You may not always achieve these targets but the process of continuous improvement would help you in your professional development. Finally, you need to be honest with yourself about the tasks you have undertaken in the first three months. Are there any areas where you felt over-stretched or uncomfortable with taking on?

You may have been overly obliging so as to make others like or accept you in a new environment. Being a newcomer doesn’t mean you should allow others to walk all over you. Learn to recognise and set boundaries to enable you to perform your best for the role you have signed up for. While you should be a team player, it is also important for you to stay focused and learn time management while saying no to things that would distract you from doing your best.

You may make mistakes along the way as you are adapting to a new environment. Take it in your stride as you learn from your mistakes. Adopting a growth mindset and focusing on doing the best you can is the way to go. 

Even if things really do not work out after the probationary period, you can always take this experience to aid you in your next career. There are plenty of job opportunities over at with friendly career advisors to help you along in your job search. 

What is your experience like for your first job? What did you learn that helped you with surviving and succeeding in your first career?

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