Today, I have officially survived 2 months in the work world—and I only have approximately 500 left until retirement. (No, I haven’t started an official countdown … yet.)
The transition from 18 years of education to the “real world” has been smooth. However, there has been one unexpected thing: just how much I still have to learn. In these past 2 months, I have learned more than I did during my 5 years of college and grad school!
Arguably, these soft skills are as important, if not more important, than hard skills, like learning how to balance assets and liabilities (that’s accounting talk to you). When you start your first job, or even if you’re already working, definitely keep these three life lessons in mind.
1. Talk To As Many People As Possible
I work in an office with people of all levels, from first-year associates (like me) to managers, directors, and partners. Every day, I meet someone new. I used to be terrified that I would say the wrong thing or be awkward in these situations. But now, I actually try to talk to someone new every day.
Networking is a skill; the more you practice it, the better you get. Plus, you don’t have to go to conferences to find opportunities to interact with people and get outside your comfort zone. For example, if someone is in the kitchen when I get coffee, I strike up a conversation—even if they’re a partner. (I always write down their names after, just in case I work with them in the future.)
Instead of being scared of such interactions, realize that people want to get to know you just as much as you want to make a good impression on them. Do that, and you may open up more opportunities during your career.
2. Ask Questions
If I run into an issue, I always try to figure it out before asking my supervisor. While this might be a good way to ensure I really need help, it also slows me down. And, in a fast-moving business, it’s better to ask questions than to do the wrong thing—especially if you do it over and over.
The more questions you ask, the more efficient you will be. However, you want to make sure you don’t repeatedly ask the same questions. Avoid this by taking notes every time you meet with a supervisor. I do this so I can reference my notes the next time I run into an issue. As an added bonus, taking notes also makes you look more professional and thorough!
3. Relive Freshman Year (But Not The Crazy Stuff)
There are few opportunities in life where so many people are in the exact same situation as you. At my job, I am one of 40 new hires who started in October. I knew only some of them from my previous internship, but I was pretty sure we were all nervous.
To feel more comfortable, take advantage of opportunities to bond and develop relationships with coworkers in the same situation as you. For example, if I have a question and know another new hire has seen it before, I can ask them to explain it to me— rather than tracking down a manager or senior associate.
Bonding with other new hires can help you settle into office life. After all, these are the people that you’ll see every day. Might as well feel comfortable with them!
Too Many To Count
These are just a few little lessons. I could go on and on about everything that I have learned. If I have learned this much in just 2 months, I cannot wait to see what the next 500 have in store for me!
Are you new to the working world? Let us know what you’ve learned so far.
(Photo: Colin Kinner)