7 Creed for Every Career Person
Immediately I was done with my Bachelor’s degree and Youth Service, the young marketer in me wanted a space to practice her craft. At the time, I was faced with two options: get a job in the bank (most likely in the marketing department) or become a Graduate Assistant in a University. I went with the second, not just because I thought it was an avenue to build my knowledge and give me more time for self-improvement, but also because I dreaded working in the marketing department of a commercial bank, for obvious reasons.
More than two years later, I do not regret my decision. Honestly, I may not have garnered as much knowledge or money as I expected in the beginning, but the choice was truly worth it.
I think we do not talk enough about the first few years of a graduate’s life as an employee, and how it plays a fundamental role in setting one’s career pace.
You see, I recently went through a job switch, and I’m writing this article to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned as a young employee working her first job, now the second, for the sake of knowledge.
So here are a few things to note when you get your first job:
1. Your learning is your responsibility, not your boss’
After my first few months on the job, I was asked by the lecturers I was assisting to help design lecture notes for their courses, create course outlines, and mark student assessments, to name a few. I was initially confused because I expected detailed explanations for how an outline can be created, or the best sources to get notes from. Only one or two people did that, and their pointers were a bit shallow. I had to figure the rest out for myself.
You see, some jobs believe they are providing adequate training by shallow pointers, and it becomes your responsibility to learn the best way to do it. I had to watch some videos online about lecture note preparation and the best ways to structure course outlines. I also took a few other courses to learn about the subject itself, like digital marketing.
If you are working a job for the experience and the knowledge, then know that you mustn’t wait till your boss or whoever teaches you. The point is that your job pushes you to learn and apply new things, in both known and unpredictable situations.
2. Loyalty has to be to yourself first
It may sound like a terrible idea to be more loyal to your needs over the needs of the company. But if your needs are not fully met, you can’t serve your employer at full capacity. If you feel your work is not challenging enough and you’re stuck, make an exit plan and leave (or talk to your manager). Or if you have to take home a pay that just isn’t working for you, make that known to your boss and request that your needs be met.
Some employers claim that only loyal employees stay even when they are being paid less than normal.
If you fall under the category of a loyal employee, please don’t take any pride in that. Such employers pump huge amounts into other areas of the company which they consider more important, and use the word loyalty as bait to deceive young employees into thinking that they value your work.
If they valued you, they’d pay you your worth.
They would provide all the resources you need.
They would listen to your opinions where necessary.
Any employer/organization that does not seem to have your interest at heart, should never get any loyalty from you. Look out for yourself, first.
3. Save/Invest as much as you can
Don’t let the seemingly consistent nature of your salary fool you — it may not always come as you expect. After setting up my apartment, I started my first job with almost zero savings, and knew I had to build my savings back up quickly (I cannot stand the thought of being broke). Just 5 months after starting, Covid-19 was everywhere and the world temporarily shut down. If not for my employer’s capability to transition to online learning, I would lost my job.
Know that anything can happen to your job, and take up an aggressive savings culture. Build your emergency fund and put something aside in some kind of investment (stocks, bonds, a small business, real estate, whatever). Of course, you don’t expect to have a lot of money in any of these after your first year of work, but aim to grow your investing capacity over time by consistently saving.
4. Take note of your flaws at work
Most of us have to start our first job where our skills and time are exploited (a little or a lot). But the idea of working a slightly underpaid job is for the experience, right? And experience comes from applying your knowledge, decision making skills and critical thinking to diverse work situations, to solve problems better in the future.
But you cannot improve if you note the things you’re not so good at, and address them. Acknowledge your wins, but pay even more attention to your mistakes, things you need to learn, what you should have done differently and why. You can ask your teammates when you have to, your boss, or even do a self-evaluation periodically.
… and ultimately, improve yourself.
5. Be Proactive and journal your experience
It’s sad how we aren’t taught in schools the importance of journaling our experiences in general.
Journaling helps us to remember some of the things we have been through, lessons we have learned, and what we could have done differently.
I believe journaling is important for two major reasons. First, it makes you more aware about how you work. You may not be so fast at working in a group as you are when working alone. Or you may be more productive given a hands-off management style than when under close supervision. It is important to know these things so they can inform your choice of a new job.
If you’re not fully aware of how you function in various work/job settings, you may find it more difficult to get a better job.
The second reason is that when you journal your work experience, you have better chances of providing credible answers to future interviewers. You are better able to discuss your problem solving abilities and how you have approached different scenarios at your place of work. Especially, note those things your new hirer would want to hear.
6. Keep up with industry trends
One way to keep your skills and knowledge fresh is to keep up with your industry. No matter what space you’re in, there will be changes once in a while — laws or regulations, technological advancements, economic effects, environmental concerns, the list goes on. If you only know things about your current job and not the entire industry, you’ll be considered obsolete and limit your chances of getting a better job.
Interviewers will most likely ask questions about your industry to test your ability to work in a different scenario than you current job. It won’t be a good sign if you fail to properly respond to their questions.
7. Stick to your plan/exit strategy
You most likely started off at your first job with a career plan. Whether sketchy or detailed, you spelt out how long you want to stay at your first job. Depending on the nature of the job, you sometimes meet people who want to derail your plans a bit. So you may hear things like “oh you want to quit after just two years? But many people still don’t have jobs, why would you want to leave this one?”
As much as possible, learn to ignore such comments. In a few cases, you may decide to ponder a bit on comments that you deem relevant. But stick to your original plan, except something drastic happens and you have to change it.
Or you have a genuine, personal reason for changing your mind.
It’s normal for people around us to try to discredit our plans. Some may be from a place of true concern, while others may be out of spite or jealousy. Whatever choice you go with, remember that it is your own career path, and nobody else can make a better decision other than yours truly.
Thanks for reading!
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