Advice for Your First Job

It seems like the only reason I use Facebook anymore is to interact with groups. I’m in a group for makers, a book launch group, and most recently, I joined a group started by a blogger I’ve consistently followed for almost seven years. The purpose of each group is different, but the conversations tend to turn into the same thing: asking for help or recommendations.

Last night, one person posted a question: “I’m 22 and just started my first big girl job. Does anyone have any tips or advice for someone just starting out?”

Admittedly, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Somewhere along the way, I selfishly thought I would be the only bright, young professional in the world until my children came along to blaze trails I never imagined. I kind of forgot that the world didn’t revolve around me and my story. However, it made me realize that things that seem like common sense to me now would be valuable for someone just starting out and might save them hours of crying on the phone to their mom. Let’s give a round of applause to the moms out there who listen.

Advice for Your First Job (or any job really)

  1. Write thank you notes
    The thing about thank you notes is that you can’t fake them. The recipient always knows if you rushed through it or if you’re being sincere. Take the time to truly figure out who you need to thank and why. Tell them how their gift or action impacted you. It may seem trivial, but I promise a good thank you note can take you a long way. Plus, it just helps you remember to be more thankful in the long run.
  2. You don’t have to like everybody, and they don’t have to like you
    Life is a bit easier if people like you, but they’re not required to do so. On the flip side, you don’t have to like them either. But you should treat people with respect, not gossip, and do the same caliber work with them as you would someone on your team you get along with. It’s easier said than done.
  3. Sweep the floor if it’s needed
    One day at my first job, someone extremely important was coming to campus to check out the facilities and donate a large sum of money to one of the academic programs in our college. I walked into the main atrium of the building and noticed dirt tracked through the foyer after the cleaning crew had left. No one asked me to sweep the floor. It wasn’t my job. But it was my job to make my boss look good, so I swept up the dirt and went about my day. They took a photo that ended up in a press release in that atrium. The little things make a big difference. 
  4. Contribute to your 401K
    I’m not sure if I began contributing to my retirement account because I was a rule follower or what, but it never occurred to me to not contribute to my 401K. I thought it was something you had to do. Looking back, I realize that some of my friends took that extra couple of hundred dollars home in their paychecks every month. Now, I’m thankful for my inner goody-two-shoes because I have at least a year’s salary saved up already. So squirrel that money away, try to contribute as much as your employer matches to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll thank me later.
  5. Life is not a series of checklists
    For me, it was easy to feel lost after graduating college. My entire life up until that point had been structured with a set of predetermined goals and milestones for me to meet and surpass. I had very little input to the roadmap, and I kind of liked it that way. It took me a long time to realize that everything after college didn’t necessarily have to fit a timeline or checklist. There are no time restraints on earning a degree, getting married or having a baby. I found I had to really examine why I felt I had to do those things so quickly in order to really embrace adulthood. I still wrestle with it, but I know there’s no right or wrong time to strive for your goals. No one really is paying attention to your self-imposed timeline anyway.

What’s your greatest tip for someone just starting a new job?

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