Today officially marks one year since I began my first “big girl” job as a college graduate. Needless to say, there were many things I learned in this first year, and many challenges I faced. As I reflect back, there were absolutely a ton of things I wished I had known or done differently to make my transition a little easier. I began my job assuming that it would be like any other new job or internship I held in previous years. In many ways, UNC did prepare me to enter the real world, but in several others, there was a lot more ‘adulting’ I had to learn to do.
My attitude, for starters, had to go. I don’t think I have a bad attitude problem, but I also never cared about a job enough to feel the need to constantly check it. Having a full time job can be stressful and exhausting. Save for the very few people who seem to always be in good spirits, everyone comes in some days in a bad mood. When you’re the new employee, however, everyone is watching everything you do, consistently evaluating if you were truly a good fit for the company.
With a lot at stake (this being my first real job and all) I could not afford to allow any of my personal problems affect how I appeared to others. Unfortunately, this is not something I learned early on, and my anxiety, which manifests itself into a bad attitude, was called out a couple times by management. It annoyed me at first because I think it’s impossible to expect someone to come in everyday happy-go-lucky, but eventually I got to the point where I felt comfortable sharing my feelings with some of my co-workers and balancing that with leaving my problems at home. A fake smile can go a long way.
Dealing with a condescending co-worker who I genuinely do not get along with has also been a challenge. She is much older than me and does things like butt in on my conversations with other people and call me “sweetheart,” which I absolutely hate. On top of that, she throws everyone under the bus in an attempt to not get in trouble. She even lied on me to our supervisor and it took everything in me not to completely set it off in my office. For this particular situation, I turned to my mom, who advised me to involve my supervisors with every concern I had with her. I began requesting formal conversations with my bosses every time we had an incident so that my complaints would be documented. Eventually, it became clear who was causing problems in the office (she treated my other co-worker the same way) and she began to get reprimanded for her behavior.
I realized the importance of documenting. Document. Document. DOCUMENT everything. There is a saying in my office – If it isn’t documented it didn’t happen. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in or what kind of atmosphere is in your office. CYA (Cover Your Ass). I print and save emails, take notes on things I’m told, and never throw things away unless I’m absolutely sure I won’t need it in the future. It has saved me multiple times.
Politics will trump a lot of what you think you know. The local media, politicians, influential people, and big businesses either indirectly or directly govern many things that happen in my office. This is in part because my company is a non-profit that deals with government funding, but in Tampa, you notice quickly that everybody knows everybody and many people have a considerable degree of influence in various areas. While this may not be the case in every city, there are definitely forces beyond the board of directors or CEO that influence in-house decisions.
These were just a few things that have forced me to adapt my behavior or ways of thinking. I had to continue to work on skills that I knew would make me successful, such as showing up on time (yes, I consider that a skill), keeping my files and desk organized, and communicating effectively, but learning these new areas not only made my transition easier, but helped set up a solid foundation of knowledge for future jobs.