Your First Job Out of College: YIKES
Tips to cope with your first 9-5
Jobs. We all need them. While the job market is difficult and scary, finally landing that new job can be just as frightening. What do I do? What if I don’t like it? I have to wake up early? The list of fears can stretch for miles. It did for me, and I’ve been out of college doing job applications forever. I finally got a full time office position after months of retail, and oh boy was I terrified. It’s a temp job, so what if they don’t take me on at the end of it? What do I do? What if I don’t get along with my coworkers? I can’t list all my fears here, because then you’d be reading a list the size of the Bible. However, I’ve been there about two weeks, and you know what?
It’s rad. It’s super cool. My coworkers are friendly and personable, I like what I do, and it’s been going super well. That’s not to say it’s all going to be smooth sailing 24/7. I’ve had some growing pains, and I’m sure I’ll continue to have them at every job I have in the future. It’s alright to be unsure and a little nervous. That being said, I have a few words of advice to help out if you’re one of the many out there about to take the first 9-5 job you’ve ever had.
Comfort and Fashion
Listen, you probably have to dress a little professionally, but even then, companies have been getting a bit laid back about this. I can wear jeans at my job; many places implement this now. Whatever you have to wear, I urge you to dress in something you’re comfortable in. I’ve tried wearing those new slacks and shoes to an interview to be as impressive as possible. All I end up with is blisters and constantly shifting to make myself feel more relaxed. Have something to wear that will bring you some degree of comfort. For me, it’s a nice pair of socks or a bracelet my mom gave me. Maybe you have a tie that looks killer or has a special meaning to you. Wear it. Something to make you feel better makes your mood better. You’ll appear calmer and confident. So don’t just think about what looks the best. Marry that with what makes you feel the best.
Probably the most worrisome thing about a new job is the fear that you don’t know everything right away. You’re clueless walking into the place. I know this very well. My ID badge didn’t work the first three days and I still push on the door instead of pulling. My point is, there’s always a lot to learn. The good thing is, your employers know that. They know that you won’t be an expert when you walk in the door. Most likely, they’ll want you to ask questions. If you directly ask them, you’ll learn quicker. It’s also good practice because it gets you talking to your coworkers more. Being the new person on the job is never fun. Isolating yourself for a bit can seem like the easy thing to do, but don’t do it. Even a minute or two of interaction with one of your new coworkers can open up the door to more conversation. I ran into my coworker walking into work, and we walked to our cubicles together for about thirty seconds, and I found myself more comfortable asking him more questions about what I should do in a certain situation today. He was receptive every time.
It’s tempting to think that you asking questions is annoying to everyone else who already knows what they’re doing. Don’t let that fear stop you. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions; sometimes it’s better than making a mistake and potentially creating a bigger mess. That being said…
Not 100% sure? Fine. Be 90%
We all have to walk on our own two feet at one point. Let’s say you have a task. For me, it’s entering orders into a computer system. I’m lucky enough to have the option to save an order before submitting it to our warehouse. Basically, I can try and do it myself, and if I have questions or want someone to check my work, I can do that. You can always do something first to see if you know how to do it yourself. I’m not saying you just blaze ahead without taking any directions, but you should maybe fill out a form you’re unfamiliar with. Poke around a new website or spreadsheet you have to familiarize yourself with. A few button clicks won’t kill anyone. That’s the bottom line. In the corporate world, sure, the jobs are important. But no one is going to die or get hurt if once in a blue moon I send them the wrong edition of a book. It may be a small issue, but then they do a return and I send them a replacement. If the people at your job get upset at you for making a mistake, then that’s their problem, not yours. A good job would appreciate you trying to do your best and take on your responsibilities faster for you to do the job.
It’s Not That Serious
This one is important to remember. I fell into the trap for a long time both in retail and in looking at job descriptions of thinking that I had to be fully in love with your job. That’s not to say that you have to hate it. It’s just saying that you don’t have to be one million percent committed to the point where you stress yourself unnecessarily.
What I say to myself is “It’s not that serious.” This phrase makes me remember that I’m placing textbook orders. I’m not performing brain surgery. Office jobs are important, but what’s the worst that happens if you screw something up? Maybe a customer yells at me over the phone. Maybe I have to redo something because I didn’t do it well the first time. Big deal. No one’s going to die from a bad form or phone all. You dust it off and keep going. At the end of the day your job is to make money to enjoy the other things in your life. Of course you never want to be miserable, but never think that your life has to revolve around your job if you don’t want it to. Commit yourself to what you want to commit yourself to.
I’m not the biggest breakfast person. Every morning my stomach is pretty soupy and not up for a big breakfast. In my case, breakfast is making sure I put some form of bread/starch/carbs in me. Something that can get in my stomach and hold me over until lunchtime. Crackers are my best friend, and now I even keep them in one of my drawers. I’ll eat some fruit, maybe blueberries, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, etc. Pretzels are also good. This is my breakfast.
For you, breakfast might be actual breakfast. Even if you have to wake up a little early, do it in order to eat or get your caffeine fix. Nothing feels worse than trying to focus on an empty stomach. It’s painful and your stomach will start making all those embarrassing growling noises. You don’t want that to happen. Eat something. Nibble on some apple slices on your commute in, or prepare a sandwich bag of Cheerios to bring on the go in the morning. Your body will thank you for it.
It’s your cubicle, so you have to spice it up. The second day I started I brought in little rocks that I painted with my little cousins to put by my computers. I’m going to be ordering some photos of my dog, my family/friends, etc. I set up a card signed from my previous coworkers and put it by my desk.
Like what I’ve discussed so far, this has to do with your comfort. You have to feel like you want to be there and feel like you’re in the zone when you walk in every morning. That can be a process. I’m still in the process of “moving in” as I’m calling it. Soon you’ll have designated drawers for things, cute notes and organization methods for things. Bring a nice pen you like from home and keep it in your desk. I have a blue floral pen that I keep out on my desk at all times. Keep little bits of personality out there. It can provide talking points with coworkers and be grounding things to come back to if you’re feeling not so great at work.
Most Importantly: Have A Little Fun
I like to spin in my chair. When I have to talk to my coworker across our little hallway, I wheel myself on over. I spin around to face the coworker who sits behind me when I have to ask questions. When I’m on the phone with customers, sometimes I pivot my chair side to side and bob my head. It’s really stupid and simple, but it makes me feel like I’m owning my space. I’m not just sitting stoic at my seat. It’s a really fluid, spinny chair! I have to take advantage!
Another thing? When I’m on the phone with customers, I’ll make exaggerated facial expressions if the customer is funny or annoying. You have to find ways to get through the day. Make a game out of it. I want to see how many post-its I can stick on my laptop. We also have a crazy busy inbox. I try to set a quota for getting the inbox below 50 emails every day, even if it only lasts for two minutes. I also have a headset to take calls, so I kind of adjust the mic in front of my face and picture myself as air traffic control, or a singer. Those are just some things at my job, and the email one is probably most relatable. Either way, you have to find small games and tricks to entertain yourself while you work. It’ll make you look forward to going the next day, and the day after that.
Work is work, and sometimes it sucks. The big thing is: congrats on your job! You put yourself out there, you did a scary interview, and someone liked you enough to hire you. That’s a great achievement and you should be proud of yourself. It can be rocky at first, but soon you’ll get used to your new routine and environment and be walking into the break room saying hello to people like you’ve been there forever.