Career success

The First Job Survival Guide

How to move from 'newbie' to 'old hand' with as less pain as possible. Everyone does it. Everyone has been doing it, getting used to the first job, ever since people started working, including the kid who bunked school and joined Alexander's army marching east.


Most common mistakes made by new employees:

Misunderstood corporate culture 17 %

Didn't ask enough questions 16 %

Lacked integrity 6%

Didn't follow the rules 6%

Lacked attention to detail 5%

Made job-related errors 5%

Communicated poorly 4%

Misinterpreted the job description 4%

Other 14 %


(Source: 'Diversity: Career Opportunities and Insights', 2000) (Yes, this is an old survey, but do you honestly think things have changed today?)


Beware of 'assistant to' titles. Watch go-fers.

- From a college handout for college graduates


1. Know your job quickly

Go to the boss, ask people, before they have to come to you and tell you your job. In those first days, learn from how people are doing their jobs.

Hit the ground running as soon as you can. And be punctual (this is very important).


2. Know the right attitudes

A college education means nothing once you in. You are the 'rookie', just as you were on the first day of college, high school etc. Some things never change. But you will find more helpful people in this new phase, the real life. Be humble. Be willing to learn. Ask what you don't know (and ask as soon as possible, before things get worse). Be open minded and you will go far. Respect your co-workers. Everyone started the same as you. Think long-term (you will be learning some useful skills and go one level up, there is no other alternative). Have a strong work ethic- Go the 'extra mile'. Be realistic (this is not boring work, this work is paying the bills and is teaching you new things. Be practical- they will listen to your ideas if they are relevant and valuable to the job at hand (do you really think you have something to add they don't know?)


3. Know the company/team culture quickly

Don't miss any opportunity to practice the 'learning by mingling' method- Lunch hour, water cooler talk, the helpful veteran...there will be opportunities. Things to know about the company culture include: Mission of the organization, behavioral expectations (e.g. what time does everyone arrive, what do people wear, etc.), what gets rewarded, communication preferences and rules, attitude of employees, 'special' beliefs, and all the company events in a calendar year.


4. Know the people quickly

Start by remembering names (this is very important). Make a good impression. Have some effective working relationships (you don't have to be friends, just being to communicate ideas and important information constantly will do). Network. Some people will be 'difficult', but know that most people can be 'won-over' (e.g. give-and-take) in time. Find a senior who can guide you as a mentor. Take the lead of your boss, to be a good leader one day you have to be a good follower today.


5. Know how an organization works

In any organization, lots of people work together, negotiating through egos, preferences, personal goals, and there is a lot of give and take and they will do everything to have their way. This is called 'politics'.


There will be a lot of 'procedures', official and unofficial. Accept all this is necessary evil, without getting too 'involved'. Just try to know the 'back door channels' and the 'way arounds', and you will need 'work friends' for all this. generally, a rookie doesn't come off as nice if seen too much involved in politics from the start. And stay away from cliques. Remember this.


6. Know that it takes time

Changing from free-wheeling pre-work days to '9-to-5' days will take time. College graduates, take note: Business world is much different from college world. Adjusting to the daily work grind, to the new people (boss, team, people during the commute) will take time. Just know this: Everyone, from the boss downwards, is just winging it, giving it the shot. No one became expert straight out of kindergarten. And, after all this, you don't like the work, move on. Don't drag things. Choose another playground. Build a track record first. In time, you will move up from 'rookie' level. Even if you have world changing ideas (most of us have some when young), know that you cannot change the system from outside, but from inside. Gandhi didn't unite Indians from a distance, doing remote work from South Africa.


7. Know your successful look

Well groomed appearance and clean clothes matter, folks. Successful people are also very organized people. They keep their documents in order. They have to-do lists. They prioritize tasks. Successful people are mostly easy to talk to and be around. So, stop that frown, and smile.


8. Finally, know your job fully well (and then some): The more work you will do, the better you will become. You should also improve the 'soft skills' (the people skills)- negotiating, better communication skills (small talk, speeches, active listening, writing skills- letters, emails, reports, memos). Volunteer for new learning opportunities via courses or special projects Be patient for rewards but go after challenges. Let the bosses you are very interested in becoming more valuable as a professional.


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.