So, when I started my first full-time job, everything was super exciting. I thought, okay, I will give 120% from the start. Hyped and ready to rock this show. But there are a few things that no one told me and I didn't expect. While my first job is already a few years older, want to share this for newbies as well as persons always on the search to improve. So, if I could travel back and time and tell my younger me a few things, it would be these.
It's just a job.
When I started, I had a 37.5 hour/week contract, the reality was a 60-hour week. Not because the company required it, but because something inside me felt it was the right thing to do. Having no real prior enterprise experience, it felt like there was a lot lacking. That needed to be compensated with more work. Lunch break? Took a bite besides work or talked about working during it.
Problems were a thing also following me after work hours, troubleshooting in my mind. Finding potential concerns and theories to fix it. It took me a good 7 months to figure out this was not the way. Has anyone told me this? — No. The corporate was happy that I was so productive. An entry salary and doing more than 3 devs at that time? — Why should they?
Establishing rituals, way to stop working also mentally was really challenging at the beginning. When you start it, start it right. Get used to stopping working. Learn to free your mind and enjoy your lifetime.
In my current company, Trusted Shops, there is one principal that summarizes this pretty well, “Be real and show yourself”. Having a corporate you besides your real identity is something that many people have. You act differently, behave differently. You try to be professional. I am a very open-minded person, always challenging the current conditions and trying to be better. Change and improve, inspect and adapt. It took me almost 3 years to get over this separation of my personalities.
A lot of time had to pass and courage to build up, to really show who I am. When you constantly challenge things, this won't get you numerous friends. That's what I was thinking, at least. Wow, was I wrong. Every so often, that's precisely what's missing, and when you apply for a job, the recruiting process includes these compatibility checks most of the time. It's validated if your personality fits the team and the role.
Getting over this and being the real me made me actually better at what I do. Felt more welcome and had a bigger impact on my work. People actually enjoyed this part of me and felt it made a difference in their daily activity.
You should get over that, “maybe that's what some people won't like”. There will always be a person not happy with you. Someone who sees you as difficult to work with. Get over that and embrace who you are.
Be clear about your position
Typically, we have a clear opinion of something. Show attitude for this and be clear about it. Most importantly, don't ditch if someone who eventually decides over your salary is challenging that. It's not wrong to step back from an opinion or change your view if there is a valid argument for it. But don't do that to please people.
Every so often, this also includes saying No, which seems like you are destroying someone's hopes and dreams, with this single word. Be clear about the why. If you make clear for what you stand, then people will begin to understand the thinking process. That makes it easier for people to understand it's nothing personally, but just the way you think about it.
Especially in my first role as a full-stack developer, there were situations where the business was asking for very hacky features, that retrospectively destabilized the application. Had a bad feeling, and it went against everything I believed in. Did I say no? Not really. It was from someone who felt like a boss to me. Too shy to say no, said, “of course that's possible”. A good 6 months later, had to remove the feature, just to find out no one had used it all.
If I had been clear about my position and said no, it would have saved me numerous hours of lifetime.
Ask for advice, always.
There's nothing worse than someone who doesn't ask questions. The right ones. If you feel uncertain about a topic or have some insecurity, ask. Speak up to a person that might be able to help out. In the early days, it felt like a weakness to not know something.
Moreover, when you are the person who people usually come to with questions about something, it helps to talk to others. Another pair's of eyes, just an impulse, can change a lot.
Asking the questions in a right way to get a good answer takes practice. Chances are higher than, especially when starting, you will annoy people. But they will let you know, so don't just assume they are pissed or annoyed by you.
And what's also a neat thing, especially in the job: When other people ask, you start to also understand the topic better. You see connections based on questions or while thinking about it, things snap together more easily.
Sharing is caring. That's something that I try to embrace with everything I do.
Be honest about inexperience
When you are starting something new, it's completely normal to not know everything. That will never really change. Every time you might think you know all the things in your scope, there is something new coming in.
Don’t pretend to be an expert. If you don't know something, tell them, offering a solution. A "This is something I have no experience with, I will get myself familiar with the topic and get back at you until tomorrow" is better than pretending to know everything, potentially taking a wrong decision.
At the end of the day, it helps nobody to pretend to know something. Some people, including my younger me, feel like it is a weakness not knowing something. But it's the biggest strength one can have to admit that. Know where your boundary of knowledge is, but try to push them further.
Socialize early and never stop
Due to some psychological problems, was not fantastic at socializing, what I did: I avoided it. A huge mistake. It's not just a lunch break with colleagues, this is the time when you build up to real connections. Where it's not about work, but the fancy new video game you are just playing or your colleague's kid's first football game. At the end, we are all just real human beings with our own emotions, problems and challenges.
This gives a lot to you, personally, emotionally and most importantly, it helps you to get along better with your colleagues. Everyone out there has this unique way of being. Understanding their type of being helps to interpret their behavior. Maybe the colleague you found rude is just a person who's really straightforward. They don't mean it in an aggressive or denying manner. Having that social connection helps to understand that and makes working together easier.
On the other hand, it also helps people to get you better, understand your way of being. And this way, maybe you will make some new friends along the way.
This not only applies to your first job, but your whole career. Try to socialize, speak up to people and break the ice. Take a few minutes before the start of a meeting and elaborate on something personal, not jumping right in to the topic. While this doesn't need to be the greatest story of your or their live. Just asking about the weekend, how their kids doing, or maybe if they had enough time to take a short break before. The possibilities are endless and bring a more human touch to the gray enterprise world.
While this is definitely challenging at first, it gets easier. Really started to enjoy this little chit-chat. As everything in life, practice makes better. So, never stop doing it, I promise it's fun!
Just because you are new, you are still allowed to speak up
Coming from outside an ecosystem, which a company is, at the end of the day, gives a different view. Especially when you are new to something, you see things others see as obvious and natural with different eyes. So feel free to speak up and involve in discussions early wherever you have something valuable to add.
It's not about being the loudest in meetings or conversations, but adding value when needed.
That's already it. Have you experienced something similar? Would you have any other tips for your younger self? I would love to hear your story, feel free to comment on this post. Sharing and feedback is also always welcome.