Not Thinking Will Help You Survive Your First Six Months of Your Graduate Job
Getting a job after University and thinking about what that all means is quite scary. You’ve just spent the last three years enjoying yourself and now you have to enter the real world and be a boring adult. Eurgh.
We all start somewhere. We often don’t think about where we’ll be starting until the last year of University and then we have a huge panic that we need to finish our dissertation, study for our third year exams and find a graduate job all in the space of four months.
Breathe, just breathe. You find yourself talking to yourself more than ever about how it’s all going to be fine and if worse comes to worst you can just do a masters anyway and bide yourself a little bit more time. Deadlines swing around, evenings in the library turn into nights in the library and you find yourself spending more time in your 4ft by 4ft tiny room (or bed in a cupboard) then anywhere else on campus. You can’t remember the last time you had a square meal and it takes you five minutes to remember what course you’re doing.
Yep, third year. Those were the days.
It’s no surprise that thinking about a life after University often gets missed. When would you have the time? So when the first day of your new job comes round you are left thinking “when did this all happen?”
The first few days are a complete blur. You meet people in a series of different conversations, you figure out what the company is all about and what is expected of you and it’s all a little bit of a whirlwind. You find yourself spending most of your time catching up on sleep.
The work thing is hard. There are no two ways about it.
So how do you survive and get to the six month milestone? Well, here’s how I did it.
Month one — rolling onto your tummy. Spend your time getting to know people and getting to know the business. It’s a little bit like that saying “don’t run before you can walk”. Well don’t. We’re at the stage where we are just about to roll over onto our tummies. Can you imagine a cute little baby trying to run when they can’t even roll onto their tummies? No, me either. It’s impossible. Spend this time having zero expectations of yourself. Just spend the time talking to people, getting to know them and their stories. You will find that when you come to work with them in the future the interactions are much more pleasurable if you spend the time upfront getting to know them. I would also spend this time getting in a decent routine. Trust me, the transition from University to work is a big one. The time spent out of bed for instances is dramatically different. If you build good habits now you’ll find it easier in the long run to get up and maintain your energy levels. You might not fall asleep in every meeting for example.
Month two and three — from tummy to crawl. At this stage you’ll know your team and hopefully what your role is. I would spend sometime getting to know the wider business and what each department does but see this as something to dip into every week. The chances are your brain will be quite tired from all the new information anyway, so trying to learn every function of the business by month three is perhaps a little ambitious. But it is definitely worth dipping into. Having a look at different functions of the business now and then to stay in touch with what’s going on is a good idea. You’ll probably be given a light workload and asked to deliver a few bits and bobs. Remember, have no expectation of yourself. Try your best of course but be aware that this is a long whole slog this work thing and the more pleasant you can make it, the better. Spend your time building relationships and being curious. When you are new, you have a pass to ask as many questions as you want because you are learning. You need to ask questions so you can get up to speed. Use that to your advantage. Spend your time asking lots of questions, getting to know people and understanding you job role in the wider business.
Month four and five — crawl to standing. One thing you need to learn is work is not like University. You don’t have deadlines every fourth week and things don’t get graded as fairly as University. A lot of work is about the politics and understanding who is influential in which circles. It’s dead boring but it’s very true. You might as well accept it now else you’ll battle with the justice of it for the years to come. Keep busy by understanding the politics and using it to your advantage. If you know that one person is influenced by another, speak to that person to get them on side, the other people will follow.
Month six — the walk. At this point you’ve firstly made it to the six month point so well done. Secondly, you’ve started walking. It’s at this point you’ll hopefully feel a little bit more comfortable about what the business does and your role in it. You’ll also hopefully have a decent routine in place and not be falling asleep in meetings. Six months is a good time to reflect on how far you’ve come. Understanding a business, meeting some cool people and delivering a few bits is a good effort for the first six months. That’s something to be proud of.
So what’s next?
I would whole-heartedly spend the next two years trying stuff.
I think there is this idea that people start their first job, it’s exactly what they’ve always wanted to do, they love everything about it and that’s that. Smashed it. Life completed. Onto the next.
The reality is, you will be working, in some capacity for the next fifty odd years. All going well of course. That is a long time. It then is perhaps a really good idea to spend time early in your career testing things out to understand what you really like. I mean what you really like. Not what you think you should like or what sounds cool. You. What you totally love.
If you can get yourself into a fairly decent size company you have the added benefit of trying a number of different areas of a business. Don’t be scared to taste different things this is the time for that.
But whatever you do. Do not. I repeat, do not spend your first six months, thinking how this isn’t for you and how you need to be doing something else and this isn’t what life had in store for you. There is a disclaimer in there somewhere. If you totally hate it, that’s cool. Just leave. But if it’s 5/10 then you are on to a winner. I think very few people love the first thing they do. The rule is that people spend time figuring out themselves and what they love. Most people are the rule not the exception to the rule. Sadly, the rule probably is most people settle for something they think is 3/10 and stay there forever. Don’t follow that rule.
There is a fine balance between being passionate about finding what you love to do and being patient enough to not expect it to happen in the first six months.
Spend your first six months engulfing yourself in learning and trying, speaking to people and understanding the business you are in. Explore. It’s a little bit like traveling. You wouldn’t turn up to the first hostel, meet the dodgy receptionist and go upstairs, stick your bags in a locker and spend the next six months sat on your bed thinking ‘what am I doing, why am I here, I should be somewhere else’.
You go and explore.
Don’t overthink. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be hard. Explore, figure out who you are and what you like. Time spent overthinking, at this point, is time wasted.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 21, 2020.