6 lessons for your first job

Unless you are extremely lucky, your first job is usually not your dream job. Sometimes, it is a pain the neck. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much you hate it, this is where you will learn the ropes. The lessons – sometimes painful – you learn here will equip you with the skills necessary to land the job you want. Here are six key lessons, collated from real-life experiences, that helped youngsters get the best of their first jobs.

Success isn’t easy

And it is nowhere on the horizon, yet. Many youngsters tend to think that landing their first job is the end of a long journey; in reality it’s just the beginning of the journey to success.

While everything at your new office may not go the way you had envisaged, don’t let it make you lose sight of your ultimate goal. Soumya Auddy’s first job at Capgemini in Hyderabad came as a rude awakening. His salary was paltry and he had problems adjusting to food, language and some of his colleagues. Despite that he persevered. “I kept the big picture in my mind; I knew that my first job is not my forever job,” says Soumya, now a software analyst at Accenture, an information technology company.

Don’t hesitate to ask

You are a greenhorn, no one expects you to know everything. If you’ve been honest on your resume, your boss or seniors have a clear idea of your experience or lack thereof and are, in most cases, perfectly willing to help.

“Listen carefully to instructions and never hesitate to ask questions if you have any doubts,” says Kalyan Kar, head of InSkills, a Calcutta-based skill education company. “Some freshers tend to keep quiet and make assumptions rather than ask. They feel that they may be perceived as fools if they ask too many questions.” You will look more of a fool if you keep your mouth shut and do things wrong.

While asking relevant questions does not make you appear incompetent, make sure you don’t ask the same questions again and again. “Carry a notebook and pen and take notes. Review the notes at the end of each day to avoid repeating the same questions,” advises Paulomee Auddy, assistant manager (finance & operations) of Discovery Communications India, the global TV channel.

Say yes more often

Write endless memos? Yes. Run an errand for a senior? Sure. Send mails to 20 different people in half an hour? No problem. “You can’t afford to say no when you are a greenhorn,” says Paulomee, who started as a finance executive at sports channel ESPN, at the age of 23. She suggests that you don’t shirk unpleasant or dreary tasks – do them with a smile even if they suck. You may have to put in long hours at work to tackle them and give up time with friends or family but it will eventually be worth it. “If you quickly learn how to work under pressure and yet be meticulous in what you do, you won’t have any problem in future jobs,” she points out.

As a new employee, you must grab every chance you get for exposure. And if co-workers realise that you are dependable, they will willingly give you new responsibilities.

Keep your cool

Even if you think the company or your job sucks, maintain a positive attitude. Says Rajib Dutta, store manager at a Crossword Book Store in Calcutta, “You have to be doubly careful when you have to constantly interact with customers.” Rajib’s first job in another retail company was quite strenuous, yet he never lost his cool despite provocation. “I did not like many things there but kept my feelings under wraps. A humble fresher is always popular among colleagues and seniors,” he says.

Find a mentor

You may have acquired a job but remember that you are still learning. A person who can help and guide you will prove invaluable. Paulomee stresses the importance of learning from a long-time employee; he or she can guide you through the intricacies of the new office. “Even your boss can be your mentor. I approached him to help me prioritise tasks whenever I had a huge work load and he always guided me,” she says.

Patience is key

Sanjib Dutta’s first job was at Big Bazaar, where he learnt the value of patience. “On special occasions, such as pre-Puja sales, we often had to log in 15-16 hours at a stretch,” he says. “Also, we had to keep standing most of the time with only a few short breaks,” says the man who is now department manager at Pantaloons South City Mall, Calcutta.

Sanjib stresses the fact that those who join the retail sector must be prepared to lift heavy weights (such as cartons) in certain situations. “Patience and perseverance are both essential at entry-level jobs in the retail sector,” he says. “For these, one should also have a flexible attitude. You can’t say that this is not my job.”

It is this positive attitude that may get you your next job offer!