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7 Important Things Our First Job Taught Us

7 Important Things Our First Job Taught Us

Entering the workforce for the first time is going to be as instructive as it will be potentially terrifying. Most of us get jobs when we’re fairly young, and the realization that we will spend most of our lives answering directly to somebody other than ourselves isn’t an easy thing to shake.

The thing is, our first jobs, no matter how ridiculous, are going to stay with us; they’re going to teach us things we would never learn elsewhere, and to a certain extent, shape the person we’ll become later in our professional lives. Here are seven important lessons you’ll learn from your first job.

people skills

    1. People Skills are 90 Percent of Any Job.

    The other 10 percent consists of the actual skills you learned at college or otherwise acquired along the way. The problem is, we don’t exist in a bubble; we’ll have to deal with other people pretty regularly.

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    Knowing how to communicate effectively, as well as being personable, is going to be (for some of us) the hardest part of the job. Even if you work from home as an independent contractor, you still answer to (and will have to interact with) real people.

    2. You Need to Stay Two Steps Ahead.

    Our success at our jobs – no matter the job – is less about any given moment, day or project, and more about the next. Anticipation is a thing we’ll learn early, whether it’s anticipating what a customer will want before they know how to ask for it, or anticipating the next demand our boss will make.

    If our first jobs teach us anything, it’s that one of the quickest ways to distinguish ourselves in the workplace is to take initiative. Don’t wait around to be told what to do; don’t make any assumptions, either, but if you’re given a chance to jump on the next thing that needs doing, without being instructed to do so, you’ll probably be rewarded.

    3. Don’t be (Too) Afraid to Make Mistakes.

    Conventional wisdom tells us that human beings learn from our mistakes. Science tells us that we may learn better from our triumphs. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

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    When it comes to tackling a job, you’re almost guaranteed to slip up once in a while. That’s what the “learning curve” is all about; it’s an understanding between you and your boss that you’re still getting used to how things work. The thing is, learning is a lifelong process. You’re going to make mistakes. Dreading them, or walking on eggshells all day to avoid them is no way to live.

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      4. Get Used to Monotony.

      With very few exceptions, most jobs out there are almost painfully dull. There may be slight variations along the way, but for the most part, our jobs will largely consist of the same activities and tasks on a daily basis.

      Learning to make the most of a predictable life is important; you’ll have to find your own ways to change things up from time to time and inject a little bit of variety into your working hours.

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      5. You’re Going to Work With People You Don’t Like.

      This might be the most important takeaway from our first jobs. It’s tempting to think that after you accept a job, you’ll find yourself among like-minded individuals who have everything in common with you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, on occasion, you may end up feeling like you should take some animal repellant to work with you.

      I got my first job when I was 11 years old, at a local rental company. They rented chairs, tents, power equipment and dozens of other things I couldn’t name. It seemed like almost every other employee who worked there was some kind of ex-convict, swore like a sailor and chain-smoked. Needless to say, there weren’t any employee picnics, and if there were, I’d have come up with a great excuse not to go.

      job security

        6. Accepting Any Job Can be Risky.

        Getting hired is, for most of us, a cause for celebration, and for good reason. It’s a culmination of a potentially months-long process of drawn-out interviews and waiting and worrying. Unfortunately, what comes next is anything but certain.

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        Unless you’re the CEO’s daughter, your continued employment is far from assured. Neither is your financial stability. Learning not to take anything for granted is one of the most important life lessons you’ll ever learn.

        7. Getting Hired is Only the Beginning.

        So you’ve successfully landed a job. That’s great, but you’re still far from knowing everything you need to know about performing the job and, more importantly, immersing yourself in the culture of your new workplace.

        There are peoples’ names to learn and organizational procedures to memorize. Just because you work there now doesn’t mean you’re on even footing with your new co-workers; it’s going to take time and effort to make yourself a truly valuable piece of the puzzle. Find your strengths in the workplace and what kind of skills you offer that others can’t to make yourself truly valuable.

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        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

        How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

        How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

        Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

        You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

        Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

        “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

        It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

        Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

        As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

        As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

        Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

        Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

        1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

        When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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        Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

        2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

        Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

        But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

        If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

        Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

        3. Go to All Office Networking Events

        Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

        If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

        Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

        Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

        The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

        Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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        4. Show Initiative

        Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

        Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

        Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

        5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

        Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

        Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

        6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

        A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

        Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

        Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

        A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

        Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

        Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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        These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

        Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

        7. Find a Mentor

        With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

        Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

        Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

        Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

        8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

        After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

        What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

        Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

        Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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        You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

        9. Set Your Professional Bar High

        Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

        Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

        Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

        Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

        The Bottom Line

        Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

        “Half of life is showing up.”

        The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

        Remember, your career is your business!

        More About Continuous Growth

        Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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