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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 smart >
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”.
Perception is everything
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).
Feedback is so important
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.
Making yourself valuable
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
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We are almost three quarters through through the year, and I’ve got 9 good reads down my belt so far. Whilst this may not seem like tons (depending on whether you’re an avid reader, or struggle to get much reading done aside from on the beach during the summer), I otherwise struggled to rediscover my love for reading over these past few years. I used to be able to read a book in two days during my school days, but uni took over and I was more concerned with turning up …also getting a job, than curling into bed for a good page turn. This year, I set myself the goal of reading at least one book a month, and whilst it felt like “challenge” at first, it’s now feeling like the most effortless task.
Anyways – let’s get into it. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
Natives is a book with takes a close look at race and class in the context of British history. I was scrolling through Audible when this one popped up on my recommendations – and already being a big fan of Akala, I was surprised I had never heard of it before. If you don’t know, Akala was once upon a time a rapper, but these days is more known for his insights into race and history. He is so amazing at articulating his views, shutting people (/racists) down and sharing tons of insightful history; he’s clearly a very well read man.
I learned quite a lot in this book about how race relations in Britain were back in the 80s and 90s. Learned more about what things were like when the Caribbeans first came over to the UK (windrush), the Africans that would eventually follow a few years down the line (my parents and aunties and uncles), and how these groups interacted with each other.
It also got me thinking a lot about the things I experienced growing up, and what has really changed over these past 40+ years. As a little antidote – Akala had to fight for his teachers to take his gift of the brains into serious consideration. A similar thing happened to my brother – growing in in the 2000s. When he started school, he was put in the “bottom table” and asked to complete 50% of the homework, whilst the “top table” were told to do the full piece. One day my mum found out, gave the school a good talking to, and then she and my dad became our personal teachers and kept a good eye on all of it. Needless to say we all ended up in the “top set/top table” thereafter, subsequently at top unis and in good jobs. But if my parents hadn’t been willing and able to step – who knows what would have happened?
Without a doubt this was an amazing read – and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about black British culture!
I decided to pick this book out next and it was listed on Audible as one of the most popular picks from their readers. This is Going to Hurt is essentially a book full of diary entries Adam Kay, once a jr doctor, wrote during his time at the NHS. I picked this book up hoping to learn more about the realities of the NHS, the working conditions, I also heard it was pretty funny too.
I definitely took a lot away from this – partly a bunch of very amusing stories about life on the ward but also some deeper thoughts about what it is like to be a doctor. Including potential lawsuits, pressure, things going wrong (as wrong as a death), the long hours and how, at the crux of it all, the decision to become a doctor is often made by a 16 year old picking out their A Level subjects of triple science and maths. If you’re African, your parents probably told you to do it. It’s a pretty serious decision to be making that young in your life!
It did take me a while to get used to the diary entry form of it all, rather than it just being a book of the progression through Adam Kay’s life as a jr doctor, there were really just random diary entries, sometimes with no connection to eachother, dotted all over the book. I know that’s what the book says it is, but I didn’t quite register that that was really what it is. In any case – I’d still recommend reading!
Outliers – “the story of success” – sounds like your typical self-help book. Self-help books get a mixed reception… to some, it may just seen like every Tom, Dick and Harry suddenly feels qualified to write a bunch of fluff about believing in yourself and staying motivated, stamping “self-help” in the genre. For some, self-help books can often just be a good source of inspiration when you’re lacking it. I’d say I sit somewhere in the middle, I think a good self help book can genuinely lead you to make major life changes, but most are just a bunch of fluff.
Despite what the title may make you believe, this book isn’t a self-help book. It is a book which talks about the live of successful people, that’s in the title, but it says more than just “Bill Gates was one in a million – an absolute genius, the hardest working person on the planet!” A little bit more “Bill Gates was indeed extremely smart, but he also had full-time daily access to a computer as a child, something the majority, if any, of his peers didn’t have.” It speaks about how circumstantial success is – for example, what if you hit your 20s just as the recession hits, and aren’t as successful as you could have been, does that mean you’re not smart and hard working? What if you were born into a family that could reward you with luxuries that other children didn’t get? It also delves into the fact that not all successful people are also the smartest and most talented in the room, often times, they’re just the ones that put in the most time with respect to achieving their goals, and the ones that had the best opportunity to do so.
It’s definitely an interesting one, something I’d encourage everyone to read; however, it did drag a bit at the end, I had to truly push myself to finish reading it.
After reading three more “serious” books, I wanted to dial things back with a fun fiction book that doesn’t take up too much brain power. If I’m being honest, a good fiction read is my preferred pick, but non-fiction is where I actually learn, and the latter is what pushed me to get back to more consistent reading.
This book was another one that was recommended on Audible. It’s about a young black girl living in London and touches on everything from heartbreak, mental health, life as a black girl from London and life with none British parents. I picked it out as I expected it to be something I could relate to, and I never had books growing up that I felt resonated with my actual day-to-day life. Did this live up to expectations? Kind of. It was a light, easy and enjoyable read. I wouldn’t say I completely related with protagonist Queenie, but there were definitely some funny elements of her life (e.g. her Caribbean parents (well, actually, grandparents), but substitute that for my African ones), that I could laugh and nod along to.
The only issue I had with the book is that the ending didn’t really seem like an “ending”, it seemed like the book just wrapped up very quietly than anything especially great or heart wrenching taking place, but then again, that tone fits well with the tone of the book, sometimes life just goes on at its steady pace instead of having this amazing, unrealistic fairy-tale ending. The book definitely served it purpose as a way to break up all the other stuff I’ve read recently that have sat more heavily on my mind.