7 Common mistakes fresh graduates make at their first job

Career Advice
09 January 2017 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Finding a decent job after university is hard enough, but what is even more frustrating is when graduates make silly mistakes that show they are not prepared for the real world.

Graduates seem to think that the hard part is over after they have made it past the hiring process - this is completely false. The hiring process really isn’t over until the probation period is over. Your probation serves as an extension of the interview, except now you are being judged on your work rather than your words. Graduates need to acknowledge the significance of the probation period and the consequences of not taking it seriously.

Employers find it difficult to trust fresh graduates with work and hesitate when hiring them. As a graduate, you have to put in that extra effort to earn their trust.

Making mistakes on your first job is inevitable but being aware of them in advance may help you avoid some of the most common ones and make it past your probation.

1. Not asking questions

So you managed to make it past the interview by letting everyone know about how great you are at everything. Fast forward to your first day at work and you’re dumbfounded by how lost you are! What went wrong? You were on top of your class in university, why can’t you make sense of this Retail Audit?

The truth is that once you join the real world, you really can’t use the ‘fresh out of uni’ excuse for too long. Your employer already knows you’re inexperienced yet you were hired. As a fresh graduate, your employer does not expect you to know everything once you have joined but they do expect you to ask questions that will help you understand your tasks. Asking questions shows that you are genuinely interested in what you are being asked to do and that you would like to do it well. Your boss has asked you to prepare a sponsorship package for tomorrow’s meeting? How can they expect that from you, you’re fresh out of university!

They don’t. Well, at least they don’t expect it to be perfect. What they do expect is for you to do some research and try and figure it out for yourself. Come up with a draft and ask him for his feedback. Your effort will be noticed, if not appreciated.

2. Not taking initiative

When you first start working unless you have a passion for your company and what they do, you tend to be indifferent to what is going on and choose to stick to assigned tasks. Although there isn’t much wrong with that, taking some initiative gets you noticed.

Being proactive and taking initiative at work shows that you are not relying on instructions from others. Instead, you are capable of thinking for yourself and making valuable contributions to your company without being told how.

3. Talking back to your boss

BIG no no! Young people being around other young people for 3-4yrs straight, develop a false sense of self-importance. Just because you’ve mastered the art of passing tests does not mean you know how things work in the workplace.

Although there are bosses that will entertain your input, many will insist on doing things their way. No matter what your boss is like, do not talk back at them. Do not argue if you’ve made a mistake. Be apologetic and state how you are going to fix it. You can have a civil discussion and but be sure to not raise your voice. All it is going to do is make you look terribly unprofessional.

4. Not attending work events

You may get a fancy ‘invite’ asking you to come but it is really just a memo telling you to go. Work events are not optional. Not attending a work event makes you look like a spoilsport and reflects poorly on your colleagues. Work events are your chance of seeing a different side of the people you work with and build relationship beyond your office. Work events are also great for networking, talking to the right people may help you advance in your career.

5. Letting your personal life interfere

As a graduate, this happens too often. The happenings of your personal life affect your time in school but they are not going to draw the sort of attention a meltdown at your workplace will.

Coming out of university and starting a new life is challenging. You might have to move to a place and leave old friends behind but the hardest part is always going to be managing your finances. Being a fresh graduate means you are most likely going to join the millions that are burdened with student loans debt. Don’t let this overwhelm you, be proactive and find yourself with a suitable plan to minimize your debt and help you pay it off as quickly as possible.

If you are having a difficult time in your personal relationships, do not let it sneak into the workplace. Arguments with your loved ones should not be happening over the phone in the office. Don’t show your colleagues you are going through a bad breakup with your bloodshot eyes, runny nose, and scruffy clothes. You will get little empathy and come across as highly unprofessional. 

6. Thinking you know it all

Yes, completing university is a great accomplishment but it does not mean that you’ve learned everything. You learned what was required for you to pass your classes but real life requires much more. Keep up-to-date in advances being made in your field by constantly reading up and maybe even taking short courses. Actively participate in seminars and conferences that will provide you with knowledge that will help you grow professionally and personally.

7. Getting flustered by the work

At university, you worked at your time. Most of us were almost nocturnal during uni. You could complete your tasks as and when you wished and if it was needed you could ask your professor for an extension on a deadline you could not make. However, in your professional life, there is little room for deadline extensions. It is best you get organised and learn to manage your time. Figure out ways to boost your productivity and pace yourself accordingly.

Starting your new life in the real-world is exciting and overwhelming at the same time but with the right guidance, you will persevere. Take these definitive years seriously as they will be a big part of framing your career.

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