How To Survive Your First Year At Work
College grads say goodbye to ramen noodles and Netflix and hello to networking and working lunches. Welcome to your first year of work.
Your first year of work is hard. Things are about to change so you better prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. The transition from University to work is bold. It’s a u-turn. It’s that bit on the rollercoaster where you’re creeping up, up, up. You get to the top and think:
“Shit, I’m not ready for this.”
It’s a Rollercoaster
But the rollercoaster proceeds to throw you down the hurling rails. It’s thrilling but for a moment there, you did think you were going to die. That’s kind of like starting your first job out of University. You think you’re ready, or if you’re like me, you pretended you didn’t need to be ready. And then you rock up day one and think: Shit, I haven’t a clue about what I’m doing.
Knowing what to say, how to act, where to go. They are all things you need to work out and pretty quickly. Everyone says that first impressions count and now you’re in a big shiny new place where everyone is dressed as if they know what’s going on. You?
Well if you’re anything like I was, it’s a deer in the headlights sort of situation. Thinking back to my first day… I asked if I was allowed to ‘just go for coffee?’. I actually asked my boss if it was okay to get up and grab a coffee. She, slightly perplexed, said yes. Well, I cringe at the thought of it. Looking back now I think my boss, who I still chat to now, must have thought I was a right plonker. In fact I know she thought that because after my nine months was up in that placement she said:
“You’ve come a long way from asking if you were allowed to go for coffee”.
Queue total embarrassment.
Truth is, no matter how clued up you think you are. No matter how many societies you joined and how many clubs you were president of, nothing will prepare you for full-time, full-on, work.
Your First Year
It’s probably no surprise that the transition from University into work is a bit of a dramatic one. A lot is different. So with that in mind, and the lessons I have learnt, painstakingly so, I share with you how I got through it. Now this sounds quite dramatic. And so it should be. Young people entering the workplace are facing some serious mental health worries from all the pressures.
It’s not just me saying it, Deloitte did a whole piece mental wellness in the workplace and the results? Young people are the most vulnerable. So bad that businesses across the UK lose 8.3% of the salaries of those aged between 18–29 because of poor mental health. Young people new to the world of work are struggling. And is it any surprise? We’re new, ambitious, we have high expectations of ourselves. And then we sit down, day one, and think, oh my god what have I got myself in for.
We are most likely to use our leave to deal with mental health worries than to voice we’re struggling. The reason, so I think, is the expectations we put on ourselves and the lack of preparation we have for the world of work. I could go on and on about this subject, it’s something that is very close to my heart, I could write a book on how to prepare for the work place but for now, for this article we need practicality.
Some practical advise that will make the transition into the work place a little easier. So this article? It’s all about energy. No not ‘good vibes’, energy i.e. the ability to not fall asleep.
Energy will be the difference between having a good day and a miserable one. The way we go through our day it is obviously important, when trying to tackle the tasks of the day it’s fair to say we need a good amount of energy. Feel like shit? Well you probably won’t have much luck being productive. It’s just simple science. If you feel energised and ready to go, you’ll be more productive and have a better day. If not, the opposite will happen.
So with that in mind how do we become more energised? Well it’s not just about being more energised it’s about utilising that energy:
#1 The basics — eating.
Your first year of work is going to be heard so make sure you eat. Eat frequently and well. Don’t eat a load of shit because ‘you are what you eat’ and if you eat shit… well, you get the picture. You need to eat fairly decently if you want to get through the day. I remember back to when I first started, no breakfast, no lunch. How I managed to get through the day was a mystery. Work is hard work. It’s not going to be an easy ride. Ramen at 11pm as your caloric intake for the day isn’t going to cut it.
Get a decent, hearty breakfast something that will wake you up and give you enough calories to get to lunch. It’s not about overeating but it is about fuel. You need good fuel to get yourself through to lunch. Lunch should be something tasty and not too difficult to prep. I find rice and chicken is a good combo. Be careful not to have too much, you want to avoid the about lunch slump. Snacking is not always a bad thing, good snack can work well. Try not to stuff yourself full of chocolate throughout the day though, else you’ll end up the size of a house.
Decent meals, relatively healthy, that don’t break the bank are the way to go.
#2 The basics — drinking, no not alcohol
Say goodbye to tequila shots and hello to water. 2L a day, at least. It sounds silly. Silly that you would need to consume a good amount of water for the day to be productive but it’s true. The amount of water you drink is really important. Aside from keeping you alive, it has major effects on brain function and physical output. Losing as little as 2% of your body’s water will result in a significant reduction in physical ability.
That same reduction will result in decline in energy and mood leading to a steep reduction in memory and brain function. It’s science. We need water. How can we possibly begin to talk about presentation skills, character building, empathy, positioning, agendas, foresight, delivery of the message… all the good stuff, without getting the basics right. This is you MOT. You need to have the wheels on and the engine oiled. You won’t go anywhere otherwise.
And if you need another reason, it prevents hangovers. It’s important to get in good habits from day one. Your first year at work is going to be hard enough.
#3 Understand your levels
In your first year at work you need to stay on top of your energy levels. Track when you feel most energised. Spend the next seven days with a diary of times vs energy levels. Mark out of ten when you feel most energised and when you feel least. Do it over seven days so there is no anomalies skewing the data. Make sure it’s a fair test too. What I mean by that is don’t track your energy levels on a week where your running a marathon, unless you run marathons every week that is. Your week needs to be as normal as possible. Track away and review the results.
Where are you most energised? After breakfast, before lunch? At 2pm? Whenever it is, we need to know because we need to use it.
#4 Utilitise your energy levels
Now you’ve tracked your energy it’s time to use it to your full advantage. If you are most energised right after breakfast, schedule your hardest tasks for then. Got a phone call you are dreading? It’ll go better if you do it when you’ve got a fair amount of energy. When we have more energy we are more tolerant, creative and accepting. We all know what it’s like to be tired and groggy, that’s not the time for shitty phone calls with people you’d rather not talk to.
In summary? Work is hard. Your first year at work is even harder. There is a lot of adjusting to do. There are seven thousand and one ways to prepare for the trials and tribulations of the working world, particularly if you’ve just come out of University. Step one though? Get the basics right. Be mindful of your energy.