Navigating the workplace

The transition from uni life to the workplace isn’t always easy. There’s no set structure of modules and lectures here; you have to establish your own work pattern and work within a team without ruffling any feathers. Don’t panic though, this essential guide will help you settle in quickly.


Tackling the first day

The first day of a new job can feel pretty terrifying. You don’t know anyone’s names or how they like their tea, and what happens if you’re not good enough? We all get those day one panics, but just remember that you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t think you could do the job well, so no matter how you’re feeling on the inside, try and walk in with confidence.

Just remember that you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t think you could do the job well.

Sometimes the hardest thing is establishing yourself within the team. You want to feel comfortable around the people you work with and make a good impression, so here’s a couple of things you can do to achieve just that:

    • Don’t wait around for someone else to do it for you, go round the room and introduce yourself to everyone, finding out what all their roles are. They’ll appreciate you taking the time to do it and it’ll help you figure out who does what.

    • If you’re off to the kitchen to make yourself a cuppa, ask around to see if anyone else wants something. This will help you to chat to people and get to know them outside the work environment.

    • Literally as many as you can. You’re never going to integrate yourself into the workplace and get to know both your colleagues and the business if you don’t question everything. Be curious and you’ll soon be an expert.

    • Don’t just scurry off and have lunch by yourself, ask a colleague to show you their favourite lunch spot. You can can share with them any worries you’re having, and they’re bound to make you feel better.

    • If you think it’s appropriate, suggest grabbing some drinks after work with the team. You’ll be able to find out who they all are as people and it’ll make the work environment more relaxed. Just don’t get drunk and make a fool of yourself on the first day – not a good look!


Working the team dynamic

We’ve all seen The Office. A small group of people working in an enclosed space day in day out means a certain dynamic develops. And as a newcomer it can be difficult to know where everyone stands.

Every office will have some sort of hierarchy, and it’s important to learn this. Suss out the management structure, and who is ‘in charge’ of who, to make sure you aren’t stepping on any toes. Things might need to be ‘signed off’ by someone you might not expect, so always check before you plough ahead with something.

Remain switched on to who works closest to who, and (god forbid) if there’s animosity in the team. Knowing the team inside out will help you to make friends quicker and use the people around you most effectively, so stay switched on at all times. Similarly, under no circumstances should you resort to whining about a colleague behind their back – go home and have a moan to your housemate, but in-house bitching will only come back to bite you.

Every office will have some sort of hierarchy


Key workplace skills

So the first day is over and done with and you’re now into your work routine. It’s no longer about getting to know your colleagues; your focus should now be thriving in your role and impressing senior managment. There are certain skills and attributes that will definitely help you to succeed in the workplace, and maybe even put you in line for that next promotion. Here’s our picks:

    • You might have been used to working independently at university, but chances are you’re now part of a team, so you need to get used to working effectively with others. Always respond to emails, ask questions, get people’s advice and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    • Don’t go in there all guns blazing, but you need to show you’re able to take charge of a project and get results. Put yourself forward for opportunities if they come your way, and if there’s something you think needs changing, don’t be afraid to make some suggestions.

    • They won’t expect you to walk into the job knowing everything straight away but they will expect you to learn on the job. Even if you feel like you haven’t a clue what you’re doing (we all feel like that, don’t worry) showing a curiosity for what’s going on and actively working to develop your skills will go a long way.

    • Work can get pretty stressful, whether you’re dealing with difficult customers or struggling under the workload. It’s crucial that you learn to stay calm and deal with situations appropriately – temper tantrums won’t impress.

    • Emotional intelligence is one of the most sought after skills in the modern day workplace. You need to be able to judge situations and know when it’s appropriate to stay quiet, when you really need to speak your mind.

    • If you live your life too scared to try anything new in case you make a mistake, you’ll get nowhere, so put yourself out there and be bold. If you make mistakes, it’s fine – just hold your hands up and make sure you don’t do the same thing again. You learn and grow by making mistakes, so throw yourself in.


Finding your passion

No doubt you will have your role within the team. Whether you’re working in sales or marketing, you’ll have set responsibilities and tasks to complete every day. But what will make you truly love your job is finding your niche within that role, the one thing out of all the things you do that you’re most passionate about. This will help guide your future career path, and determine what you want to specialise in as you progress.

What will make you truly love your job is finding your niche within that role.

Take some time to reflect back on your work every so often, think about what you have achieved and what you enjoy most. You’re more likely to excel in stuff you enjoy, so don’t be afraid to ask your manager to assign you work in a specific area if that’s what you’re good at. It might not always be possible, but they’ll appreciate the fact you’re actively engaged in your work and you care about what you’re doing.


Being yourself

In amongst all the tips we’ve just given you, it might seem like there’s not much space to relax and be yourself. But one of the most important things to do in a workplace is to let your personality come across.

There is a perception, that especially in some corporate office environments, there’s a pressure to act serious and professional at all times, and that means not talking about what you got up to at the weekend or what music you’re listening to. In reality though, no matter how smart they’re dressed, everyone in your office is human and they’ll appreciate you more for showing the real side of your personality. This will give you more confidence to put forward ideas at meetings, you’ll be able to relax more and ultimately enjoy your job more. You might even find things you have in common with your colleagues that they never would have expected.

So even though you’re trying to impress, don’t be afraid to let your true self shine through – you’ll probably make more of an impression that way anyway.

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