Congratulations! You’ve finally graduated and paid your dues. If you were smart, you already have an offer lined up after killing it at an internship. Or, if you procrastinated like I did, you learned about the harsh reality of hearing back after submitting boatloads of résumés.
Sooner or later, you finally get your first real job offer. It usually starts with a phone call, then a follow-up email with a bunch of documents that have everything in writing. You may be feeling a combination of nervousness and excitement, but that will calm down after a while, and you’ll inevitably settle into a routine.
Here are 10 thoughts you’ll have — sooner or later — after you start working your first real job.
1. How is this place still in business?
As outsiders, we tend to see companies as well-oiled machines that run efficiently, especially if the one in question is well known. However, once you get behind the scenes, you’ll quickly learn that it’s messy — very messy.
There are office politics, understaffed teams, outdated technology and people who leave or get fired. You’ll wonder how things ever get done and how the place has been in business for so long.
I’ve left offices for new jobs, thinking that new places would have their acts together better. To my dismay, I’ve found some degree of chaos behind every scene -- always.
2. It’s not inappropriate to date a coworker… right?
Unless you’ve been with someone for a while before starting your first real job, you’ll likely be attracted to a coworker and at some point, will want to date. People do it. Sometimes it’s secret and sometimes it’s not.
Tread carefully here.
3. Are these people speaking another language?
“Ping me and we’ll circle back regarding the new innovate value-added, solutions-based protocol to see if we have the bandwidth to implement some of the action items that were on the agenda from last week’s pre-quarterly, weekly catch-up turnaround call…”
RFP, CPR, RPD, CRM, TPS, PST... Every company has its own internal lingo and acronyms. It’s really easy to get lost at first, and you will feel like an outsider.
Don’t worry, though. It’ll get easier and soon you’ll be spitting out all the jargon fluently.
4. No, I don’t really get it, but okay.
Some companies have formal training programs for new hires, while others are less formal and more on-the-job. Either way, it’ll be overwhelming and you won’t really get it. Your trainer will ask you, “Any questions?”
Of course, when I was asked that question, I answered, “Nope!” So when I started working, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You’ll be forgiven if you don’t initially understand something.
5. Everyone is really nice.
All of your coworkers will seem great at first. Give it a few weeks or months and you’ll see how there are small internal cliques. You’ll learn who gets along with whom and who to avoid. You’ll learn who pulls their weight and who doesn’t.
Don’t get caught up in gossiping about other people, but realize it’s quite normal. Don’t be surprised if your professional work environment somewhat resembles a high school cafeteria.
6. I went to college for this?!
Most entry-level jobs aren’t very glamorous. Your days might even be filled to the brim with menial tasks. You’ll also sit in on meetings and question why you need to be there in the first place.
Sadly, this is reality. Whatever your expectations are for you first job, they probably won’t be met. That’s not to say everything will be bad; some parts will turn out better than expected.
Whatever the case, do the best work you can and take advantage to learn as much as possible.
7. That person is intimidating!
This might be your boss’ boss, a president, or the CEO, but whenever this person is around, you sit a little straighter and try to be a little more proper.
I remember when I rode on the elevator with the CEO of the company where I worked; I tensed up the entire ride and didn’t say anything because I was afraid to say the wrong thing and get fired.
Of course, that’s ridiculous. Higher-ups are people, too. Don’t be afraid to say hi or have a little chat. You might even learn a thing or two.
8. Am I the only one who’s this tired?
Going into the working world after college is a huge adjustment. For the first few weeks, you’ll sit down at your desk after lunch and around 2 pm, you’ll get the sudden urge to put your head on your desk and take a nap.
Maybe it’s just because you like staying up late. Or maybe, it’s because you’re not eating well. Whatever it is, pay attention to your sleeping and eating habits. Adjust them over time so you won’t feel like you have to put your head down and nap in the middle of the day.
9. Wait, this isn’t enough!
The salary on your job offer doesn’t seem so bad, right? Especially after probably working some hourly-wage job during college. Yet, the first paystub is a surprise to most people.
Taxes, insurance, 401(k) contributions and more all take a good chunk out of your payday. If you have student loan payments, then that’s another couple hundred bucks out the door every month. Whatever you use for transportation, there’s another couple hundred bucks.
When it’s all said and done, that doesn’t leave you with very much. I had to lower the standards on my first apartment by A LOT after this surprise.
10. I’ve finally made it!
For me it was buying a new set of electric guitar pickups at Rudy’s Music Shop on 48th Street in Manhattan. For others, it might be a short weekend getaway, or maybe it’s ordering that appetizer at dinner for $9.95 and not sweating about how you’re going to pay for that AND dinner AND the tip.
At some point, you’ll buy something that was previously out of reach and you’ll think to yourself, "I’ve finally made it!"
You have a long journey ahead of you. Enjoy it.
Photo credit: Boiler Room