Five things you can do to thrive in your first job

Career Advice
08 November 2019 | Career Advice | Guest Author

After long months of job hunting, interviews and polite rejections, finally landing a job is an amazing feeling. However, walking into a new workplace for the first time can be equal parts exciting, intimidating and confusing, writes Sophie Phillipson, co-founder of student and graduate support site HelloGrads.

It can feel a bit like joining a new school in the middle of the year: everyone is already friends, you are playing catchup on all the work, and you can be left feeling a bit lonely. 

In addition, a national study found 86% of 18-34 year olds had experienced impostor syndrome – a psychological state where a person experiences chronic self doubt and fears being outed as a fraud. That rate for this age group was far higher than the national average of 62%.

Those first few months on probation are make or break as you navigate the social structure and get to grips with your tasks. To make sure no-one goes in unprepared, we have compiled five top tips to help you settle into a new job.

People watch

Spend some time gauging the dynamic of your new workplace before diving in with any jokes or personal stories. How do people speak to one another? Who lets their guard down and who doesn’t? Who contributes the most interesting ideas in meetings? Who’s the social secretary? Who’s the chattiest? A little bit of reconnaissance will help you work out the lay of the land, where you fit in, and who to emulate (as well as who not to emulate!).

Overcome nerves

The best piece of career advice you might ever get is ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. Remember that no one is the finished article, especially not those in their first-ever job. You were hired for your potential and positive attitude and that hasn’t changed. If you feel like nerves are getting the better of you, try faking confidence. You’ll find that it actually helps you to feel genuinely confident. 

All you need to do is keep smiling, take control of your body language to make yourself open and feel powerful and keep breathing. 

In her TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy said: “Don’t just fake it til you make it, fake it until you become it. Do it enough until you internalise.”

Also, try not to catastrophise when you make your first mistake; you aren’t going to get fired on the spot for your first stumble. Stay calm, approach someone that can help, and explain the situation. Remember that you’re part of a team.

Request feedback

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, and there are multiple skills required in every career. No one will expect perfection, but they will expect 100% effort.

A mark of dedication to your own progress is to request regular feedback. Some managers will offer performance reviews without you asking. Others won’t - but you can always request a progress meeting. Don’t compare yourself to others and instead, check-in every now and then to see where and how you can improve.

Get involved

Many workplaces have traditions, rituals, volunteer days and charity fundraisers. Get involved!

Whether it’s Taco Tuesdays or lunchtime Dungeons & Dragons, give everything a go. Gallup revealed companies with high levels of employee engagement have 59% lower staff turnover. So, the happier you feel and the more involved you are at work, the longer you’re likely to stay with the company. 

Have patience

Give yourself plenty of time before making any big decisions. If you sense the culture is terrible or the job just isn’t for you, give it some time before making the call. They say never quit on a bad day, and that’s usually good advice.

Learning the ropes isn’t easy: you will feel unsettled and there will be a period where you will be on the outside of every in-joke, but it will pass. Instead, focus on all the progress you are making, and use the opportunity to reflect, learn, soak things up like a sponge, and to make yourself indispensable to the team.



Sophie Phillipson - Hello GradsSophie Phillipson, 26, is the co-founder of HelloGrads, which she started with her mum Julie when they realised the extent of the problem today’s students face on leaving university.

The mismatch between the growing graduate population and the availability of graduate-level jobs, student loans, an unaffordable rental market, and a lack of financial know-how can make the transition into the real world feel really overwhelming. eases the transition from academia, with life skills, tips and shared experiences from grads and experts in-the-know. Covering personal finance, careers, renting, mental health, and more, it’s for anyone who feels underprepared for life after university.

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