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Work, work, work. I can’t believe I’ve been in full time work for 3 years now! That’s basically the entirety of my university experience which was definitely… different. What I can say is that work harder than uni. Not necessarily in terms of what you’re doing (I mean, I cried once thinking there was no way I’d be able to pass an exam), but work is more difficult for all the bits in between. The early starts, the unpredictable finishes, the new-joiner-hurdles, the deadlines, the really learning how to work in the team, lots of reflecting, lots of reviews – the real epitome of “hard work”. University is different, you do your thing and that determines whether you sink or swim. You don’t to do anything aside from take you exams and if that goes to sh*t, well you only have yourself to blame.
In university, I learned a lot about the type of person I wanted to be. I became more reflective, gained a lot of confidence, learned loads of lessons and had loads of fun. Since I’ve been working, I think I’ve more so learned how to put into practice the type of person I want to be. Working has made me super organised (I to be if I want to productively do anything else outside of work), it’s taught me a few more realities of the world, it’s made me harder working and I’ve learned a lot of skills that I honestly think are not only useful in the office, but outside too. How to be successful in an office environment is often not too dissimilar to how to be successful in many aspects of your day to do day life.
I wanted to share a few very practical, no bullsh*t tips for those heading to the workplace for the first time. We all know we should work hard and pay attention to detail – and this is very important, especially when you’re first starting out. But here are a few tips that are not so generic and that you won’t just find on wikihow. 😉 Disclaimer – I’m not here saying that I am the master of all these tips below, a lot of them I’m still figuring out and navigating myself. I feel that with work, at least 70% of the time, we all know what we should be doing, but sometimes getting from the knowing to the doing, is not always the straightest line.
Working hard is obviously important; by working hard you’re able to impress who is probably one of the most important groups to impress – your actual team (of course, working hard means little when your output isn’t so great…). But, what’s more important that working hard is working smart, because the truth is probably 90% of people at your firm are pretty hard workers – so how will you differentiate yourself? By “working smart” I mean knowing what projects are truly worth your time and what projects you may need to push back on (if you haven’t got the time); knowing how to work efficiently because you working until 12am every night is probably not really going to impress anyone (they’ll just feel bad for you). Essentially what I’m saying is that you should work more purposefully to ensure you really are working “smart”.
Have you ever heard someone explain something – either inside or outside of work – and because you know better than them you know full well that they’re chatting sh*t, but, because they’ve said it with such confidence, they’ve successfully convinced somebody else that they know what they’re talking about? Perception is everything – and most of the time, what you’re trying to portray is that . Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of asking questions when you don’t get something, actually asking questions still portrays confidence because you show that you do not feel any kind of way about not knowing something, you’d rather learn. But, what I generally mean, is that you should try to carry yourself with confidence in general, it’s pretty easy to convince a lot of people of this fact. Try to work one level above your pay grade (my tips to grads is never to say “ah – I’m a grad. Somebody else can do that”, always to question what value you can bring).
I have heard stories about people who either (i) don’t get any feedback from their bosses or (ii) are told they are perfect with nothing to improve. As much as this would decrease the stress in your life a whole lot… it doesn’t actually get you anywhere. Nobody is perfect. Even Beyonce misses a step / note and gets things wrong sometimes. If you know me, you know I’m all about self development and hence, I value feedback at work . Honestly, constructive feedback can be hard to swallow, boy I know. There’s times I’ve received constructive feedback that has had been looking out of a window for 40 minutes thinking “well, damn”. But – you really just have to dust yourself off, come up with a plan of action and keep it stepping. My tip is to actively seek feedback, at least every 6 months. Celebrate the good feedback, but also focus on constant growth.
My final tip is to basically work to really excel within your team – which seems like an obvious tip. Essentially, you want to be as valuable as you can so that people (hopefully) appreciate you being there; that when you go on holiday for example, it can be felt that you’ve left for a while. You don’t want to be quite simply – disposable. Personally, I don’t always buy into the notion of “key man risk”, I believe that in a generic workplace, most people are replaceable if you give it sometime. However, some people are more painful to lose than others. Some people go about being valuable by finding themselves some niches and learning in depth a few things that nobody else knows about, some spearhead a lot of the team’s output to bring value, some form really strong relationships with clients. Whatever it is, work on developing what will make you very well valued by your team.
So there we have it. I certainly could have come here and told you how important it is to network (this is very important), to check your work 100 times, to have a good attitude… but I wanted to touch on some things that are not so obvious, which you’ll find are super important when you start work! The great thing is, whilst these things will help you thrive in an office environment, my honest belief is that they’ll help you thrive more generally in such a breadth of different experiences.
Have a great week peeps!
Photography: Marianna Olaleye