10 February 2022 13:55:45 IST

Finding your edge in your first job out of college

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We have all heard the saying — “Well begun is half done.” What does this mean in the context of your first job? As more and more young minds join the workforce today — fresh out of campuses and noses finally out of books —there is much to learn about the unfamiliar workings of the industry.

Learning, planning and building positive relationships would perhaps be the top three aspects that you, as Gen Z, could keep in mind before entering this market in which you would continue to reside for the next few decades. Consider you’ve bagged a job offer. What comes next? Let me break it down for you.

Bring yourself up to speed

You have received an offer and are undoubtedly excited and full of enthusiasm to begin this new journey. However, this time period after accepting the job and joining the company is the best time to start preparing yourself for the career journey. Apart from making sure you are having enough fun, try to read up on the industry, the company, and the job role. Absorb different aspects of the industry you would work in.

Ask yourself how much you know about this company that has hired you. What would your role entail? What do you bring to the table? What more do you need to understand about your area of work? There is endless content available online and certainly some that would delve into the industry in question for you. In short, build a perspective and spend time preparing yourself well, but also differently from the past several years of being a student.

The first 90 days

Overinvest in the first 90 days of your new job. This certainly paves the way for the rest of the time that you spend at the organisation and is the key period to dip your feet as deep as they can go. It is helpful to have a conversation with your leaders about what success means in these first three months as a fresher. Many a time recruits indulge in many activities without truly understanding what they are striving towards.

Learning during this timeline is paramount and is very important to make good first impressions and set oneself up for success in the long run. Usually, team members and leaders are open to answering questions, letting you make mistakes, and taking the time out to teach you. This period is short-lived and hence you must make the best use of it.

Find your productivity hack

It is a given that every individual functions differently. What motivates you may not motivate your friend or colleague, and pinpointing activities or tools that make you feel productive will go a long way in impacting your performance and attitude at work. This is as an aspect often overlooked but I assure you its of extreme importance.

Exploring tools and applications, taking enough breaks, having a dedicated workspace — it is crucial to have your own personalised means to efficiently manage tasks and projects while improving the speed at which you work. These may not fall under job requirements — especially tools and applications — but if you invest in such productivity hacks, it will help you be better at your job and put you ahead of your peer group.

Connect, connect and connect

You must understand that joining an organisation is like joining a family. It’s fundamental to know the people in your company, even in a seemingly challenging virtual environment. Familiarising yourself with the culture, vision, and motivations of the organisation is critical.

Make an effort to build connections in a non-hierarchical manner, starting with your peers who have joined alongside you. Take advantage of informal opportunities offered to you and build bridges to soft-land yourself because that is what matters in the long term — the quality of relationships you build.

Scheduling is key

As a fresher, the move from being a student to becoming a professional is a huge change in your life. The distribution of your day will change drastically, and it becomes crucial to proactively plan and execute tasks within the set timeline.

In the absence of a schedule, tasks can feel all-consuming and lead to fatigue and overt pressure due to lack of prioritisation. Your routine should accommodate the learning of new tasks and processes give you enough breaks while also allowing you to have fun.

Keep the learning mode on

Inculcate the habit of upskilling as a continuous need. Remember this — your first job is not your destination but the beginning of your professional journey. Do not leave the basics of learning behind with you finding a job. Now more than ever before, the requirement to continue learning is a lot more on-the-job than in an academic setup.

Have the orientation that learning must be continuous and do away with the idea that the knowledge you hold is sufficient. This will give you more confidence in your job and drive away pressure and anxieties. Self-skilling is your responsibility, and it is necessary to take ownership of your skilling requirements and career progression.

Your first job is of great significance in your learning cycle and it is always advisable to spend adequate time to complete the cycle of learning. Spend at least two to three years at your first job because this will truly accelerate your learning curve. Switching jobs very early or frequently can lead to missing out on learning experiences.

Multigenerational workplace

As a fresher in the industry, you are likely to hold several advantages, qualities, and even shortcomings over the previous generation, and the same holds true the other way around. As Gen Z, you have grown up in the era of applications, with emerging technology, social media, and analytics at the forefront.

Therefore, showing up at your job with unique qualities and strengths will significantly add value to your contributions. Early wins are everything as you start your journey and being confident in your strengths is a good way to make these accomplishments.

Mental wellness

Joining the workforce can be an overwhelming aspect, and it is important to understand that it is okay to feel vulnerable through this process. Have trusted people around you with whom you can openly share your vulnerabilities. Most organisations have the basic support and infrastructure built in for stress management and mental health resources.

Remember that it is courageous to identify and accept how you feel during difficult times, and your employers are there to help and not judge you through the process. Dealing with feelings of stress, and pressure can be tricky, especially in a new and unfamiliar space. I encourage you to seek help and address your concerns rather than keep them bottled up and impact you in the longer run.

It is important to have a broader perspective on the relevant industries and be updated on the external landscape. It helps identify the right industries or organisations which are poised for growth as employment in such places will accelerate the career faster. Also, try to benchmark yourself with your peer group every six months or so. This will ensure you set the right pace for yourself in terms of learning, career growth and compensation proactively.

(The writer is CEO, talent platform Monster.com.)