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How to Survive Your New Job

This post was first featured on The Next Great Generation. Check it out…it has articles by much better writers than me.

Five months ago, I started a real job. One with an office and coworkers and everything else that makes a job a “job.” No more sitting on Twitter and Facebook all day and no more working remotely from home or the nearest coffee shop.

But I survived week one… and two, and three. Nearly a year after graduating, I finally feel like I’m successfully leaping over that giant chasm between college and professional life. The first months of a new job are filled with terror, excitement, confusion, and promise. You can either enter the fetal position and shake until it’s over, or, you can face it head on and try to learn something from it. Here are some tips for surviving and thriving in your new job.

Embrace Confusion

There is no way you can get through the first week of something new when you’re constantly worrying about all the things you don’t know. Accept a certain amount of disorientation (physically and mentally) when you enter something new. You’re going to get lost, turned around, confused, and uncomfortable. You might as well embrace it. Knowledge will come.

Ask Questions and ALWAYS Ask For Help

The only way to stop being lost is to get directions. Ask for help when you’ve lost your way, ask for clarification when you’re confused, ask someone to repeat something when you didn’t catch the message. You’ll appear enthusiastic and others will know that you’re interested and excited about this new experience. At first, this wasn’t easy for me. I’m the type of person who wants to figure things out for myself and seldom asks for help, but I realized that I had to ask for help when I needed it. Missing deadlines because you’re too stubborn or proud to ask for assistance is just plain stupid.

Get to Know Your Coworkers

Go ahead and tell stories about your glory days in college, tell NSFW jokes, and let your coworkers get to know the “real” you… after a while. When you start out, keep it clean, keep it safe, and keep it professional. Get acclimated to the job and the people you work with before you bust out the keg-stand stories and salty language. This isn’t to say you can’t show off your true personality, just understand that work-land is different from the dorm room and act accordingly.

Remember That Everyone Is In the Same Boat

Everyone else who is new is feeling the exact same way you are. They’re going to need just as much help as you. And if you’re the only new person, just remember that you’re not the first one. What you’re feeling isn’t strange, it’s just a byproduct of entering a new environment: Everyone’s running around trying to figure out what their place is, how they fit into the big picture, and if they’re going to make any friends. Just like you. And you know what? They made it. You will too.

Fake It Till You Make It

Above all, just jump in the deep end. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’ll quickly learn that the waters will keep rising; it’s either sink or swim, and it’s much preferable to tread water for a little bit than sink straight to Davey Jones’ Locker. Take on responsibilities you aren’t sure you can handle. It’s the only way you’ll grow as a professional and as a human being. As the quote from Mad Men goes, “This is America…Pick a job and then become the person that does it.”

Eventually, things will make sense. You’ll either be happy at your job or you’ll be miserable and get another job. It’s really that easy. With these five tips, you should be able to survive the murky waters of a first “real-world” job with flying colors.


Categories: Gen Y, Jobs
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