"Your first job is an extension of your education"
Fresh out of college. Loads of dreams. A whole new world waiting to be explored. And you are just waiting to put all those fat books you have spent the last few years studying into practice. Self-assured and confident yet anxious about the new world ahead. To make all those castles in the air real?with your very first job.
Like every other first experience, the first job is one experience which you wouldn't remember to forget. The experience could make lasting impressions in your mind.
In your first job, there are a few things that are helpful. Though they are not mandatory yet they are desirable in view of the long-term benefits they offer.
1. Postpone marriage.
2. Starting up with MNCs helps.
3. Start in line functions.
Accounting vs. Audit.
Sales vs. Marketing.
Production vs. Planning.
4. Start in the private sector.
5. Work outside your hometown.
First, understand that your first job is not a job. It is an extension of your education. The first job is the foundation of your job career.
By foundation of your job career I mean that the experiences you come across leave indelible impressions on your mind that are often lasting ones. It shapes your attitude and outlook towards lot of many things.
The first job is a stepping stone to higher levels in the corporate hierarchy. Don't start looking for new jobs when the going gets tough or when someone offers a few hundred bucks more. Stay on for a minimum period of 5 years. The experience provides you a solid base upon which you can build your career.
Be flexible and go mobile. Don't stick to one city/state and get your career grounded. Be prepared to shift anywhere. Travel widens your horizons.
Seven Steps to a strong foundation
1. Right Attitude
"There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes."
- William John Bennett
Have an open mind. Never judge anyone or anything immediately. Wait and watch before jumping into conclusions. Having the right attitude towards work and people is as important as the ability to work. Modern companies require their employees to sport the right attitude that is in full alignment with their goals and objectives. To start with you must be a law-abiding employee giving due respect to people, processes, practices, hierarchy and the organization.
Even clock-watching in the first or initial days of your first job is a pointer of your attitude. Don't clock-watch and flee the workplace as soon as the clock strikes six in the evening. People notice your activities intensely and they may form fixed impressions in their minds. So don't hesitate to stay put and finish your job if the situation warrants. Believe me, people would appreciate.
Again, attitude matters most since it measures your altitude. It can spell how far you can go on the organizational hierarchy. Right attitude is one where the mind looks at things with a positive outlook. You are open to ideas and there are no limiting factors to cloud your views and opinions about people and their ideas.
2. Get networked
Get to know people and be friendly with them. Your work may warrant, at times, getting in touch with different people. During such occasions their support and guidance will be very much valuable and useful. But irrespective of your work requirements it's always good to know people. Coffee and lunch breaks are times to mingle with people across the organization.
Come out of the shell. Don't restrict your circle with just among those in your department. Reach out to people from across functions.
3. Learning the ropes
Your first task is to secure yourself - to transform the slippery toehold you have gained into a firm foothold. For this to happen you must become technically competent
Technical competence comes when you learn the job thoroughly. Transform the theoretical knowledge gained in your years of study into practical and workable application to the job you do.Learn as much as possible - across functions. The more you learn the better. Most novices fail by trying to learn the tricks of the trade. Instead, learn the trade itself. Learn across functions and become multi-skilled. That looks great on your resume.
More than learning what's more important is the willingness to learn. Develop this desire to learn and there can be no stops for you. Many novices are shy of learning lest they would be branded ignorant. When you are struck somewhere don't blink; ask help. People will explain how. Don't live with ignorance. Dispel darkness with knowledge. And as the Danish proverb says, "Better to ask twice than to lose your way once."
Be ashamed to say, "I don't know". Learn and you will never have to say that again.
Invest your time, energy and resources in learning without expecting anything in return.
4. Take Initiatives
"Folks who never do more than they get paid for, never get paid for any more than they do."
- Elbert Hubbard
Without initiatives you are nowhere. You will not get noticed and counted. Initiatives prove your worth and serve as portraying you as pro-active, loyal and committed to the organization you work for. Higher-ups will start taking you seriously.
Initiative means exhibiting originality, doing a thing on your own volition without being told by someone.
What sets two trainees apart is this ability to take initiatives, to pitch in with ideas and suggestions in order to improve and simplify processes & procedures. "That's-not-my-job", "Why-should-I?" attitudes must go away for good in order to take initiatives. And taking initiatives is one way to get out of the pile and stand out distinctly.
Let me explain the value of taking initiatives with an example.
Three brothers, Jim, Mike and Bill were hired by a company on the same pay. Three years later, Jim was being paid $500 a month, Mike was receiving $1000 but Bill was making $1500.
Their father decided to visit the employer and questioned about the disparity of their income. He listened to the confused father and said, "I will let the boys explain themselves."
Jim was summoned to the supervisor's office and was told, "Jim, our company has just brought a large cargo ship loaded with Japanese electronic items. Will you please go over to the harbor and get a cargo inventory?"
A few minutes later, Jim returned to the office. "The cargo was one lakh units of Japanese stereos." Jim reported "I got the information over the phone from the Port Trust delivery office."
When Jim left, Mike, the $1000 a month brother, was called. "Mike," said the boss, "I wish you would go out to the harbor and get an inventory of the cargo ship which was just brought in by our company."
An hour later, Mike was back in the office with a list showing that the ship carried one lakh units of Japanese stereos, 75000 cameras and 100 camcorders. Then Bill, the $1500 a month brother, was given identical instructions. Working hours were over when he finally returned.
"The cargo ship carried one lakh units of Japanese stereos," he began. "It was on sale at $50 a piece, so I took a two-day option on the whole lot. I have wired a manufacturer in Iowa offering the stereos at seventy five dollars a piece. I expect to have the order tomorrow. I also found the 75000 cameras, which I sold over the telephone at a profit of $25 each. There were 100 camcorders of which nearly 40 were damaged during transit. So I sold the rest at a profit of $75 a piece."
When Bill left the office the boss smiled. "You probably noticed" he said, "that Jim doesn't do what he's told, Mike does only what he's told, but Bill does without being told."
The future is full of promise for one who shows initiative.
5. Be accountable
It is in the first job we always commit blunder and mistakes and we fear to tread confidently. We try to effectively use the loopholes and make good our escape from accountability. But beware! People always are watching but they just don't point out for whatever reasons.
Being accountable to the jobs we undertake is a sure sign of maturity, courage and confidence. The courage we display to own up mistakes and take responsibility for our actions will show us in the right picture.
When things go wrong, standing up and admitting the faults will only help us to see things in the right perspective and provide us an opportunity to learn from such aberrations. Though it is easy to pass the buck and thank our stars for not getting caught we learn very little except cunningness and tricks of the blame game which doesn't augur well for us.
6. Work on feedback
Feedbacks are a report on your performance. Be open to criticism and correction. Since it's only your very first job people may point out when you go wrong. Learn. Take feedbacks seriously and positively. They help us being focused by pointing out the anomalies and gaps between the expectations and our performance. Don't lose heart if you are not up to the mark. Every professional is at first an amateur. Give yourself a chance and think how best you get bridge this variance. Ask for guidance from your superior and he will be glad to do so.
Working upon the feedback is more important than merely attending the routine feedback sessions. Start by taking efforts on the areas of improvement. Improve constantly until you exceed expectations. And again improvement doesn't end there. You can just feel satisfied that you have met the standards but improving constantly is a never-ending mantra. The proof of the pudding is in the eating! Prove yourself with improved performance. That way you gain confidence of your superior.
7. Say no to gossip
The bane of new recruits is getting into the vortex of gossiping and politics. Steer clear from these as they pull you down to an abyss. They spoil and cloud your outlook, attitude and approach. Gossiping and lying go hand in hand.
Never talk ill of others particularly when they are not around. Such behavior is in poor taste. Don't harbor extreme views on persons and things. Those who value work and their time will not waste time in gossip.
Brace yourself to get a few shocks in your first job. After all, everything is not tailor-made for you. For instance, you may have visualized your office as a dream office just as you get to see in films and glossy magazines & brochures. Remember, the size of your office is not as important as the size of your paycheck.
First job experiences are worth remembering forever. Let self-consciousness give way to confidence and move ahead with firm steps. As with everything else, keep your eyes and ears open always. Tread with care since it could either leave indelible scars or make you a star. Do things that you would be proud about and you will cherish the experience forever. Let your foundation be strong and it starts with your first job!
Copyright © 2005 by G Ram Kumar. All rights reserved.
About the Author
G Ram Kumar works with Juno Online, one of the top Internet Service Provider in the US. Prior to this, he had a short stint with ICICI Bank, India's largest private sector bank. He is very passionate about his work and keen observer of people around him.
A voracious reader since his teens, Ram became interested in writing. It was just a case of taking hobby too seriously and the efforts culminated in Your First Job for everyone interested in career development. His keen sense of observation and interactions with many executives came handy in the concept and design of this book.
Ram's first book "FAQs in Interviews" published by Independentbook.com was well-received.
Ram is an MCA and also he is certified by Cisco Systems Inc, USA as Cisco Certified Network Associate.
Ram Kumar is one of the founder trustees of SKetch, a South India-based NGO involved in women education and empowerment initiatives and sits on the board of the Governing Council of Trustees of SKetch.
Coming it may as surprise to readers, the author of this book is just 25 yrs!