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26 Things I’ve Learned Since Entering The Working World

26 Things I’ve Learned Since Entering The Working World

This list would’ve been extremely helpful for me when I first entered the workforce fresh out of university. There’s just so much I didn’t know, and how could I have? That’s why I created this list. So you will know what I was painfully unaware of.

1. It’s OK to get up and go to the toilet

On my first day of working in an office, I had no idea of the culture or etiquette or anything like that. It was a mystery. This was my first ever “real job”. I was so damn nervous that I’d barely slept the night before. Anyway, I thought I had to ask to go to the toilet. Like I was in school. HOW COULD I HAVE POSSIBLY THOUGHT THAT?! It baffles me now, and breaks my heart a little bit too. In the end I just went for it (that sounds so dramatic) and, of course, no one said anything. In conclusion, yes, you are allowed to go to the toilet. Who’da thought?

2. Think twice before you press “Reply All”

Ah, ‘Reply All’. A handy and deadly function. The amount of times I’ve seen an e-mail that was absolutely not meant for me is ridiculous. Check twice before you press it, because you definitely don’t want to send an email that was meant for your friend to your boss…

3. If you want something, make it happen

About three weeks after I joined the company, I went on a training course called “Personal Effectiveness”. While I was listening to the trainer, I couldn’t help but admire the her. She was confident, knowledgeable, and funny. I realized that I wanted to do what she was doing, run training courses. Now, moving jobs three weeks after I’d joined the company probably wasn’t going to happen, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t plant a seed. I told her I wanted to join her team. She said to keep in touch, so I did. We met up a few times over the coming months, and after about nine months she said she was going to have a vacancy in her team. Because we knew each other, and because she knew I was more than a bit interested, it was a much easier decision than it would’ve been otherwise. As I said, if you want something, you have to make it happen.

4. If you want to talk to an executive, do it

I was due to video one of our executives for an announcement she had to make. We had 30 minutes booked, but it took just 10. I then realized the opportunity I had to sit down with one of our executives and just talk. So I asked and she said yes. We sat down. We talked. And, without it being my intention, she helped me to get a new job. Most people couldn’t believe it when I told this story. Couldn’t believe I had the “balls”. All I could really say to them was “but she’s a person too, right?” If you do this, it will separate you. It will make you “different”. Trust me.

5. If you want to talk to the CEO, do it

Our former CEO was to answer some questions on Yammer, our internal social network. They told us to use a particular hashtag and he’d read them that way. I did that, but there’s also a way, like on Facebook and Twitter, to tag someone so they get a notification. Knowing a huge amount of people would be asking him questions and he wouldn’t see all of them, that’s what I did. I asked four questions, and he answered them all, and even had a bit of banter with me. People said “you actually tagged him?” in hushed tones. Yes, I actually did. As I said before, HE IS A PERSON. LIKE YOU AND ME.

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6. Things change

In three years of work, I’ve had seven managers and four jobs. So, yeah, things change. Roll with it.

7. You can make and have friends at work

I have a few genuine friends that I’ve met at work. Don’t rule it out.

8. There are some incredible people to learn from

I’ve always been more interested in being a leader than a follower. And I think, on occasion, this led to me become somewhat arrogant. Just because you look up to someone and want to learn from them, doesn’t mean you’re a “follower” or that you’ll just do whatever they do. But you can learn something from everyone, whether it be a good or bad lesson. There’s been plenty of people at work who I’ve learned both from.

9. There is a massive amount of incompetency

At least, there’s a lot more than you’d think. And in this lies a huge opportunity for you to stand out. I hope no one from work reads this. But, it is true.

10. Getting promoted is about both performance and who you know

It’s not all about who you know. But, if you had no idea who someone was, would you vouch for them? Would you put yourself on the line for them? Would you hire them?

11. Culture change isn’t for everyone

It seems to be an omnipresent force, but you can’t force people to change. And we shouldn’t.

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12. People complain (and do nothing about it)

Count how many times this happens in just one day and it’ll probably reach double figures. There’s no need to be this person. If you find yourself complaining, do something about it. Eventually, no one cares about the person who doesn’t bother even trying to help themselves.

13. You might not love every single part of your job

This is the case with many people undoubtedly. But the question you have to ask yourself is, “is it worth it?”

14. Enjoying what you do is the most important thing about a job

Your boss is very important. Whoever is in your team is important. Your commute is important. Your salary is important. However, none of these things will matter if you don’t like what you’re doing, because day in and day out, that’s what you actually do.

15. Say “hi” to the cleaners

Again, they’re people. Just like you and me. Most people ignore them, and I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Are we really too busy to say hello? Or is there a deeper, more sinister reason we ignore them? I hope not.

16. You’re not going to be friends with everybody

But it is nice to be able to get along with everyone you work with, even if you’re very different.

17. Don’t be friends with your boss on Facebook

Do you really want your boss to see what you do on a Friday or Saturday night? I’ve never made this mistake, but I know friends who have and I know they’ve regretted it for whatever reason. Always.

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18. Your parents will ALWAYS ask you about your day if you live at home

It’s true. This has happened more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s nice and I’d want to talk about my day. Sometimes, I just wanted to chill out and not talk to anyone. It can be the most annoying thing in the world. However…if you take just one minute to tell them about your day, it’ll make life easier and better for everyone, rather than telling them to, essentially, shut up. Or, just do what I eventually did and move out.

19. Bring a packed lunch

It’s healthier and saves you money. No brainer.

20. Be proud when you do something well

You’ll achieve a lot more, at least task-wise, when you start work compared to any other time in your life. Day in and day out you’ll complete small and big tasks, and it’s really important to acknowledge that. When I first started, I didn’t acknowledge this at all, and it’s still something I could be better at. I’d only focus on what I’d done “wrong” or where I could improve. Now, I strike a much better balance between being proud of what I’ve done and still focusing on where I could be better. As a result, I’m more productive and I’m happier.

21. Don’t say “yes” to everything

I made this mistake. What did it lead to? Well, it lead to me doing a poor job and having difficult conversations with my manager. Neither of these were pleasant. The reason I said yes to a lot (everything) was because I wanted to do a great job and I wanted to impress people. So, my intentions were good. The results were not. Saying ‘no’ a lot more often is tough at first, but you soon realize that you can then work on just a few things and do a great job with those few things, rather than do an average job on loads of things. I’m sure if you asked someone to do something for you, and they were honest with you and told you they couldn’t do it, that you’d prefer that over them saying they could, and then not delivering.

22. Go to the gym during the day

During the daytime hours, it’s really quiet. If you go at five, be prepared to wait for everything. Or, buy some weights and lift at home. Like I did.

23. Practice public speaking whenever you can

There’s often a lot of opportunity to do some public speaking, even if it’s just in your team meeting. You’ve got to start somewhere. It’s an impressive skill to have, because most people are too scared to do it. And, at some point, you’ll probably have to present a piece of work you’ve been doing, so it’s better to have had some practice. When I first started work, I was uncomfortable speaking in my team meeting which involved about 10 people. Recently, I spoke to an audience of 350 people for 10 minutes. How? Practice and self-esteem. Am I ‘good enough’ to speak to an audience that size? You’re damn right I am. And I know that now. What is it about public speaking that you’re scared of? Are you, too, worried that you’re not ‘good enough’?

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24. Pick up the phone / go speak to someone

Sending an e-mail is the easy way out. Everyone does it. Some people actually send e-mails for urgent issues, too, and I can’t even believe that. If it’s that urgent, surely you’d actually talk to someone or pick up the phone.

Picking up the phone or going to talk to someone face to face will separate you from the crowd. It’s something I’m working on doing more for that exact reason. Also, you just get stuff done quicker. If you send an “urgent” e-mail at 9 a.m., you might not get a reply until that afternoon. Or, at the end of the day. Or, the next day, even. It’s your e-mail that you’ve sent because you want something done. It’s your to-do list, not their’s, so there’s no obligation for them to drop everything they’re doing to help you immediately.

25. Sit with good posture

I didn’t sit with good posture for the first two-and-a-half years of my working life. Well, 90 % of the time I didn’t. That led to back and shoulder problems, neither of which were serious, but they were inconvenient. I sat out of a lot of basketball games and I always felt like I had to stretch in weird positions. It was, more than anything else, really annoying. I went to an osteopath (who was brilliant) and it turned out it was an easy fix: I had to be more conscious with my posture. When I was at my desk I wasn’t sitting up straight, I was leaning forwards, and my computer positioning was rubbish. Altering my posture and my computer positioning, and being conscious of both of these things, has massively improved my posture and I now have much less back and shoulder problems.

26. Be you

When I started doing this, I was more productive, laughed more, had more fun, and was happy. It’s a no brainer, really, trust me. Plus, your company doesn’t need a group of clones. That’s the easy choice and the safer choice and the boring choice. If they say they do, even in a roundabout way, then leave. And, if you don’t really, truly,  know who you are then isn’t it time you found out?

Featured photo credit: Florian Klauer via ununsplash.imgix.net

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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