20 Things No One Tells You About Post-College Working Life


When I graduated from university with a shiny degree in engineering, I really thought working would be a piece of cake.

All one has to do is be charming and committed, and everything else will take care of itself, right?

Boy, was I wrong. Here are the 20 things no one tells you about working when you are in college.

1) It is not a fair world out there.

There will be people ready to rip you apart and bring you down. At times, due to no fault of your own, you will end up being humiliated or blamed.

Make sure you are aware of your surroundings, and play it smart, always!

2) High school politics never end.

If you thought the stupid ego clashes and cold wars were a thing of the past, I am here to tell you that they are not.

A large company behaves like a high school, with some teacher’s pets, the popular kids and the jocks. It is basically like a school where you get paid.

3) Competency will only take you so far.

If you do not know how to present yourself and you screw up work relationships, your career will become stagnant. After a point, your interpersonal skills matter a lot more than your expertise.

4) First impressions matter.

Not saying you cannot make subsequent impressions, but first impressions do stick -- especially with people who are really busy.

Imagine meeting the CEO of your company and not being able to leave a lasting first impression! The way you dress, talk, introduce yourself -- everything counts.

5) You have to be aware of the gossip chain.

You do not want to get stuck in some weird ego war just because you got in on the fun. If you are a gossiper by nature, then you might want to suppress that trait a little, or find a safe circle of gossipers.

At work, gossip could be lethal.

6) Raising your hand gets you further than where you are.

Even if you don’t know something, there is an opportunity to learn. Volunteer to do more or teach yourself a new skill. If you don’t ask questions, you'll never be able to think ahead.

7) Blocking people out is not an option.

Unfortunately, at work, you cannot block people out. They might be mean, or you might have bad blood between you, but pretending that they don’t exist, or ignoring them never works out.

In such situations, it helps to be super professional, no matter what is going on in the office.

8) Mentors are important in whatever you do.

Mentors are great; they provide you with a different, more mature perspective. They help you grow up. Having someone who supports you never hurts. In fact, mentors often equip you with the tools to be able to succeed.

9) You cannot be successful alone.

You have to learn how to be a team player and to take others along with you. If you ever want to start something new, you have to have a critical mass of people supporting you.

10) Ethics are relative.

Different situations demand a different set of ethics. Nothing is black and white, and ethics are a tricky bunch.

You will face a lot of tough situations at work, and sometimes, you might have to make a choice between your own ethics and the company’s.

11) You will never earn enough.

Unless you cap your expenses, your salary will never be enough. Blowing up everything you make might feel good at the beginning, but it is not sustainable.

You will always end up feeling that you don’t make enough if you are not smart about your expenses.

12) You need to dumb down at times.

Sometimes, you will work for someone who does not know as much as you do, or can't pick up things as fast as you do.

In those situations, you will need to tread a fine line between doing a good job and not making your boss feel like he is dumb.

13) If you are not having fun, you are in the wrong job.

Getting a job feels like the most important thing when you are in college, but if you work at a place or in a field where you don’t have fun, it doesn’t last.

So instead of spending two years at a place you don’t enjoy, start in a field in which you have an interest. Having fun at work is utterly important to your overall well-being.

14) Money is important, so are other things.

It is very easy to get sucked into doing long hours every day to get ahead and deliver faster than is expected of you, but that is more harmful than you might think.

Do not ignore your needs, or the needs of your loved ones in favor of your career. Striking a balance is necessary.

15) You are in the driver's seat of your self-worth.

Do not start seeing yourself in terms of the feedback you get at work. Self-awareness is what you need to succeed. Letting others tell you what you are and aren’t should never be an option.

You have the power to decide who can make you feel bad about yourself.

16) It is always people over processes.

No matter how automated the work seems at your workplace, everything still revolves around people. Following the process is good, but make sure you build robust relationships with the people you work with.

At the end of the day, it is people who decide, people who promote and people who innovate who come out on top.

17) Content is a must-have.

You might have killer presentation skills, but when you are working, you cannot just wing it. You need to have solid content in order to strike gold. Badly-presented, good content wins over bad content presented in a good manner.

18) Don’t ask; just do.

If you spend a lot of time seeking permission and covering your bases, you will never get around to actually doing anything meaningful.

Make sure, though, when you are going for it, you have a rollback plan in action. That way, if you hit the home run, there is celebration. If you strike out, there is no damage.

19) Personality is sought after, but draw the line!

You absolutely need to be yourself at work to be able to work at your efficient best; otherwise, half the time you would be spending your energy in keeping up a charade.

However, you need to draw the line between what you can do around your friends, and what you can do around your colleagues. For instance, cursing is unacceptable when at work.

20) If you think you are underpaid, find a new job.

If you think you are worth more, it is time to talk about a raise. If you don’t get it, time to find a new employer. Time wasted is time you will never get back. No one, and this applies to both individuals and organizations, is irreplaceable.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It