10 first job problems and how to handle them
MANILA, Philippines – Lucky are the folks who fall in love with their first job and stay for years, building a long and sustainable career. But more often than not, a first job is a pathway to the working world, the rickety bridge to help you transition from earning good grades to earning a living. It's a first relationship, not necessarily The One.
And so, like any hero's journey, it must be filled with obstacles – like lonely lunches, indecipherable pay slips, and terrifying team-building parties.
A recent Twitter conversation on Rappler had many social media users weighing in on those awkward and downright cringe-worthy #firstjobproblems, and I'm not certain that the discomfort of a new beginning will ever really be absent.
But the people who joined the conversation, despite their earlier troubles, seem to have survived just fine. And perhaps that is the innate function and hidden beauty of a first job – a painful first step into the dating pool that might someday find you that perfect match: a job that's the stuff of dreams, and a career you can grow old with.
If it sounds a touch too romantic, it might be because many of these stories about #firstjobproblems sound a lot like awful first date horror stories. But that doesn't mean true love is inconceivable, and it doesn't mean that a great job is out of reach.
Here are just a few of the first job problems that folks brought up – plus their advice on how to deal.
When it takes a while for folks to remember who you are:
I don't think there's any other way to get over that initial invisibility other than to go ahead and start pulling in your share of the work. Later, people will come to associate you not just with your friends, but with your role at work. And gradually, you'll cease being the new person whose name they can't quite remember.
When you and your new workmates aren't so tight yet:
Yung nahihiya ka pang makipag-usap sa kanila tapos ganun din sila sayo. Hays. #FirstJobProblems— Camille Faye Pariñas (@camillefaye09) January 22, 2016
Yung magkakakilala silang lahat tapos hindi mo alam kung paano sila kakausapin. NakakaOP. #FirstJobProblems— Camille Faye Pariñas (@camillefaye09) January 22, 2016
Everybody knows everybody and you feel like an outsider... #FirstJobProblems— Hawkey (@hawkey42) January 22, 2016
This jumped out during the Twitter conversation, manifesting in many a tweet. It's a universal feeling, being thrust among strangers, and knowing that you'll be spending a lot of time with them though you know nothing about each other.
@TishaDoris pointed out a wonderful thing that people eventually learn on the job:
And indeed, asking for help is a great way to break the ice with other co-workers. Many people reported experiencing the fear of looking foolish – but days, weeks, months into your job, as you work on a project, get feedback, start, stop, rest, and repeat, new relationships will start to form.
You'll have something to talk about over coffee. You'll meet people you identify with – and perhaps even find your work BFF.
Feeling more than a little overwhelmed by everything you're supposed to do:
cannot seem to accomplish daily tasks in JUST ONE DAY YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN #FirstJobProblems— Bettina Valenzuela (@tinkerbetts) January 22, 2016
#firstjobproblems you're a noob but you're not allowed to be a noob— mika (@mmmgrrl) January 22, 2016
...until you finally blow it at work, or slip up.
Takot magkamali. Takot ma-late at takot mapansin ng boss. Haha. #FirstJobProblems— kaloy (@mrbotels) January 22, 2016
Having now hired a few fresh grads out of school, I can confidently say that most people do not expect perfect work from new hires. It does sometimes seem that way because the role you're filling is so critical. And it is humiliating when a huge mistake is made and you feel like all the fingers are pointed at you.
When it does happen, it's important to keep your presence of mind.
Currently on my third job, I think feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of any job, even if it isn't your first, is part and parcel of work experience. But you must work hard to keep panic from taking over.
That means understanding the gap between what you know now and what you still need to figure out. That way, once you ask for help, you can be specific and direct, giving people the best chance to help you out.
But sometimes, when the work as well as the environment gets toxic, it can all be too much. Rappler social media producer Paige has this to say about those moments at work:
I hope it never gets so bad that you feel like crying. But when it does, it might be helpful to duck out, call a friend, and talk it over.
If not the bathroom, try the stairs, the corner of the nearest coffee shop, or a small, empty conference room – semi-private spaces to let it out just a little bit.
Not being given anything to do because you're new:
Awkwardly pretending to be doing something relevant while everyone else inside the room was busy. #FirstJobProblems— Naomi (@itsnaoorneverr) January 22, 2016
In some workplaces, there might be an initial slowdown, a lull between the orientation period and your first project. If the role is not as defined, this lull may last longer. It's important to try and shorten that time as much as possible.
Functional contributions to the company, your first major headway in a project, or the first results in one of your tasks, will slowly and surely pull you out of that rut and get you noticed.
Approach your first tasks with much gusto; how you perform will figure in how others see you. Your work will pile up from there, so how you handle your initial workload matters. If that takes time, spend more time getting to know how the company works – its operations, different departments, the general workflow. When the time comes, that will come in handy.
Wise words below from @capt_ejayz:
The first taste of that long battle between your work and your life:
...and sometimes, they encounter each other.
This really will happen as you progress at work and responsibilities pile up, and your projects get tougher and tougher. You really might have to miss a family dinner or date once in a while as you adjust. But what are your non-negotiables, your boundaries, the things you can't miss?
Forgetting you still have that old, old email address, your very first:
Uh-oh – get a regular, straightforward email address, stat.
Not having a work wardrobe yet:
#FirstJobProblems same formal attire set every week, and i only have 1 pair of leather shoes— Arnel Campos (@thisismebon) January 22, 2016
Some of the things you wore back in college might not do at the office. Check these links for how to update or grow a work wardrobe, plus these stories on how to do your makeup for work and building your office makeup routine, and what to wear to special occasions with your workmates.
The dancing. Or being made to do all kinds of small tasks just because you're new:
"pagawa mo nga sa bago..." -_- @rapplerdotcom— Wyatt Ong (@wyattcaraway) January 22, 2016
#FirstJobProblems ikaw yung utusan o runner lagi kasi ikaw ang pinakabata at pinakabago. Madali ka pa mauto.— JR Castillo (@jayrcastillo24) January 22, 2016
Ideally, new hires shouldn't be made to do all sorts of small tasks that aren't part of the job. But this does happen a lot, as can be seen through the featured tweets.
I've also done my fair share of Christmas party dancing, and the thing is, it likely isn't mean-spirited. It might even be fun – a way to bond with the other new kids on the block.
The smaller tasks, however, may take a while to get over. But when it's your turn, don't subject other people to that.
Rappler reporter Bea Cupin had some great advice for interns that works in this situation, too: "Act professional, be kind, and always remember that you're there to learn. No task is too small (okay, fine, some tasks are rather small but do them anyway) but you get the drift."
But through it all, remember it's not all bad – remember to savor the good things about your first job, too.
The joy of that first paycheck:
Finally making (and keeping) those friends:
Doing amazing work and relishing those successes:
Have fun and good luck at work! – Rappler.com
Wyatt is the Lifestyle and Entertainment editor of Rappler. Before that, she was the deputy editor of meg magazine. She's worked closely with numerous new hires and fresh grads over 5 years and is the creator of Rappler's Career section.
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