Tom joined Third Horizon’s graduate program in February 2018. He shares his insights on what he has learned during his first year at work.
While I had some corporate work experience prior to starting at Third Horizon, achieving a graduate position felt like I was in the starting blocks for my career.
I’d gained a theoretical view of the world through textbooks, lectures and tutorials at university but now I was putting theory into practice as a working, independent adult.
There were some lessons that weren’t covered at university, leaving me somewhat ill-equipped and awkward during my first days in the office. I admit to a couple of ‘reply all’ e-mail mistakes, wardrobe malfunctions and workplace etiquette blunders.
I am by no means an expert in this space, but I have listed below five key pieces of advice that you may find useful when entering the professional workforce for the first time.
1 It’s not about you and it’s not personal
Your work will be edited, refined or completely changed by senior staff. Don’t be disheartened. You aren’t always expected to have the same level of understanding or execution as people who have been in the game for a long period of time. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember that senior staff juggle many responsibilities other than you and expect you to be independent and self-sufficient with how you approach your work.
2 Contribute to company culture
Work social events are different to your social activities with mates, and they are an important aspect of work. These congenial events are far more conducive to showcasing your personality than is possible in day-to-day tasks. This can help you develop your own professional (and personal) brand and help establish useful working relationships. In addition, these occasions also help you value colleagues in a far broader sense and create positive collegiality. Keep in mind that you must behave appropriately – you’re not at a uni party!
3 Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Irrespective of previous roles you may have held or work you have done, you are guaranteed to be allocated work that you have not been exposed to before. Although this may be unsettling, embrace different challenges and know that these unfamiliar tasks are merely opportunities to learn – who knows when this knowledge may be leveraged throughout your career.
4 Ask for help
No one is an island. I often needed reassurance from my immediate peers, whether it was seeking task-related direction or general professional advice.
Graduates are fortunate as we are part of a cohort of people who are all experiencing similar concerns, challenges and feelings. Connect with your grad group, through formal company programs, informal catch ups or group chats. They are simple, yet extremely effective, ways of gaining clarification or asking questions that you wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable posing to more senior staff.
When you need help from senior staff – ask. That’s what your manager is there to do. Don’t let a problem or issue escalate. Make sure you try to think through potential solutions to problems beforehand.
5 Think like a manager
Try to show initiative and be proactive to develop confidence in your job. Adopting a mentality of a manager in terms of understanding what needs to be done has helped me identify opportunities to be helpful and effectively support the workload of more senior staff.
Above all else, just enjoy being a young professional. While general ‘do’s and don’ts’ of starting a new job or career can be helpful, they can equally detract from how exciting it is having responsibilities, finally being able to afford more than a student diet, meeting new people and being in a stimulating environment every day. With luck, you will be in the workplace for a long time, so starting each day with energy and positivity will serve you and everyone around you well.