12 Rules for Your First Job

Though in theory, university may be primarily about preparing you for future employment, it isn’t always the best training for what is coming next. University takes place in an academic environment, which is very different from the professional world of the typical job.

Whether you are preparing to take your first part-time job, to help you pay for your school expenses, or the big first job upon graduation, there are certain rules you need to be aware of before you do. And you should do everything you can now to begin adopting these rules so you’ll be prepared when the time comes.

1. Start Working On Punctuality

Different professors have different rules as to punctuality and even to attendance. No such flexibility will exist in the job world. Since an employer is paying you to be at work, you need to be there for the full amount of time expected.

Practice arriving everywhere you go 5 to 10 minutes early. 5 to 10 minutes late in a job situation can be grounds for dismissal if it happens too often.

2. Honesty And Integrity Matter

12 Rules for Your First Job
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Do what you say, and always be prepared to represent your employer’s interests. Every employee is an extension of his or her employer. Your employer will rightfully expect you to reflect this attitude in your dealings with both internal staff, and the employer’s customers and clients.

3. Learn To Listen – Carefully

At university, you can record a lecture or even copy another students notes. In a job situation, you will be given instructions – typically only once – and you be expected to get the job done with little more. When you’re given an assignment, you have to carefully listen to what you’re being told, and ask any questions necessary at the point of contact. That is a skill in itself, and one that you should begin rehearsing now.

4. Always Do More Than The Minimum – A Lot More

Some people do the absolute minimum in their jobs. They seldom get promoted, or earn pay raises, and they’re also the first to be eliminated in layoffs. In order to avoid this fate, always do more than the minimum required for the job. Even if you don’t particularly like the job, the work that you are doing now is preparing you for the next job you will have. Take it seriously and do more than is expected of you.

5. Put Yourself In Your Bosses Shoes

If you think of your boss as an enemy, you will be heading in the wrong direction from the get-go. Your boss is another human being, and if you want to be successful on your job, it will help to put yourself in his or her shoes from time to time. Your boss is often giving you an assignment that is absolutely necessary to the operation of the business, even if you don’t understand its relevance. Before getting upset over it, try to understand the situation from his or her standpoint.

6. What The Boss Tells You To Do Is An Order, Not An Option

University life often presents you with options. Work life is mostly a series of orders. They are not optional, and you should not face them with the expectation that they are. This is one of the issues that makes the transition from school to work particularly difficult. Young people go from an environment of options to one of requirements. You need understand the difference, and be ready to deal with it from the start.

7. Get Control Of Your Off Hours Lifestyle

There is an element of – let’s say, reckless abandon – that often accompanies university life. You may be studying by day and partying at night. While you may be able to “get by” in a school environment – through one method or another – that will be totally unacceptable in a job situation.

Related: Friends, Family, Freedom, and Free Beer: A Balancing Act

Though an employer may have no right to control your off-hours life, they do have a justifiable expectation that you will arrive at work alert and ready to go. That will mean that you will need to get an adequate amount of sleep and solid control of recreational behaviors when you’re not working. This can be a real hurdle for a lot of students.

8. Dress For The Job

Jeans and T-shirts may be the standard in school, but dress codes vary from one employer to another. Some, involving back office functions, may be perfectly okay with very casual attire. Others, dealing with the public, may require you to dress up for the job. Know the difference, and dress appropriately.

9. Your Personal Life Has No Place On The Job

No matter what is going on in your personal life, you need to leave it outside of work. Employment requires a certain amount of professionalism, and a big part of that is knowing how to separate your job from your personal life. Everyone goes through personal circumstances that can affect their work, but you need to keep that to a minimum. Personal drama in your life needs to be kept off the job.

10. Make Productive Use Of Your Time

Most jobs involve a fair amount of downtime. But it is important that what you do during downtime closely matches what others on the job are doing. You should never use such times to go sit down and relax, or worse – to take a nap. Avoid texting, and recreational web surfing is out of the question. As long as you’re on your job, find some sort of productive work to do, even if it’s “busy work”. Your employer is paying you to work, not simply to hang around until quitting time.

Related: Time Management Best Practices

11. Loose Lips Sink Ships – And Jobs Too

In this day and age of the social media, gossip has become the order of the day. Don’t bring it to work. And especially, don’t gossip about work while you’re at work. And never – absolutely never – discuss what happens at work when you’re on the web. Employers are increasingly monitoring online activity by their employees. Making an inappropriate disclosure, on or off the job, could lead to termination.

12. Learn To Take Criticism Constructively

Yes, there are some neurotic bosses out there, but most times when you’re getting criticism from your boss, it is because he or she is trying to get you to do a better job. Try not to take criticism as a personal assault, but rather as an attempt to improve your performance.

You will be criticized throughout your work life, and the sooner you get accustomed to the fact, the less conflict you will have on the job.

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8 years ago

More often than not college fails to equip students with some of the skills necessary to survive on the job. Punctuality is a big one, it sets the tone of how you might be percieved…come early and you are in your employers good books…late and you just started on the wrong footing. Secondly as fresh employees…try not to be the hotshot, the know everything…be cognisant of the fact that others were in college too and they have more experience than you do…instead, observe, learn, be of help. Finally, get a mentor…find your rocket ship in the company and fly to… Read more »

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