10 things you’ll learn after getting your first real job

Graduating college is exciting, but even more so when you’re going to be starting a new career soon.

Image: WOC in tech chat 

Image: WOC in tech chat 

 

It seem that we always get warned about the next level of our lives but nothing really prepares us for it. In high school, teachers warned us about fending for yourself in college, and in college they taught us just how we wouldn’t be coddled in a real job either. But neither of those teachers or professors, give a taste of what we were truly in for.


These days, much more is expected from college graduates when you get hired at your first real job. Your boss will expect that either your classes or an internship prepared you for what’s to come. According to a study done by Harris Poll, 78% of executives know whether or not a candidate is going to be successful in their role, in less than three months. 

Here are 10 things you need to remember after landing your first post-grad position: 

Respond to emails quickly. Not everyone will tell you how important it is to be responsive. Everyone works differently but everyone also has their own boss they need to answer to. Don't ever leave someone hanging for long periods of time without a response. Not only does it look bad, but it could jeopardize someone else's projects. The next time someone emails you and asks you to do something, respond to let them you know got it and then get to it, instead of doing the task and letting them wonder. 

Speak up in meetings. You may be young and inexperienced, but your input still counts. It's your job to solve problems within your position and make suggestions for the company. Being silent in meetings isn't going to get you a promotion. Show them they made the right decision by hiring you and create value for the company. 

Hold yourself accountable. You’re no longer an intern and no one is going to hold your hand anymore. Now that you're a full-time employee, you have to be a self-starter and produce results. When you don't come through, you also have to own that. You no longer have someone who can pick up your slack or take the blame when you mess up. Everyone has their own job to do, so the more independent you can be while still asking smart questions, the better you'll look. 

 

Related: Eight things to consider before applying to grad school 

 

Don’t always turn down lunch. Never turn down the chance to go to lunch or happy hour with coworkers. Now, you won't always be available, but if you are it can't hurt. These fun moments out of the office is when relationships and trust is built. You should always be networking as well, so don't waste an opportunity by keeping to yourself all the time. Open up and get to know people. 

Keep track of every win. Now that you own all of your work, you also have to note all of your wins. If your boss isn't a micromanager, they probably aren't always checking in and see how things are going. When you have you're one on one with your boss, be very vocal about the projects that are doing well and what role you played in it. This is important for getting recommendations, finding your next opportunity and getting a promotion. 

Figure out work-life balance fast. Sorry to break it to you, but the idea of a lunch hour is a myth. While it's important to eat and take breaks when you need it, you won't always be able to eat away from your desk or leave right at 5 pm. Figure a schedule in which you get keep up with all of your work and have time do whats important to you. 

Get serious about retirement. Retirement may seem like light years away, but time flies. The last thing you want is to be stuck without a plan because you were being greedy at age 22 when you didn't even have a mortgage or children. If your job matches a certain percentage, go for it. Take out as much as you can live without to make sure when you retire, you don't have to solely depend on the government. Be grateful that you have benefits like a 401k and take full advantage. 

Use PTO wisely. I don't need to tell you how bad it looks to get hired and then try to take time off immediately. Give it at least two months before taking a vacation/personal day. Also, once you are ready to take that vacation, don't use all of your days in one half of the year. Most companies only give two weeks vacation, so plan your time off accordingly. 

Attitude is everything. Things are going to be hard, stressful and challenging but what's going to get you noticed by upper management is your attitude through it all. Don't underestimate how much it means to be a pleasure to work with. 

Learn quickly.  It takes at least six months to really understand how to do your job right, but that doesn't mean take your time training. Nothing stops because you just got hired, so knowing how to jump right into a project is going to be helpful. Ask all the questions you can but try to pick up on things quickly. Also, you will be required to juggle multiple projects at once. Having many things on your plate is no longer an excuse to slip on another project. 

 

What do you wish you knew after starting your first job?