Oftentimes, when we start a new job, it can be daunting, to say the least — new people, new responsibilities, a new space to navigate. Plus, where is the freaking bathroom?! Argh!
As a result, people often perform poorly in their first real jobs. This is because they are confused, anxious and unaware of what it is they are exactly doing there (and what is expected of them). They are like Dorothy in Oz. Straight up: Where am I? What am I doing here? And can I survive it all? The answer is yes, and no. Yes, if you know what it is that you need to know. And no, if you just show up after rolling out of bed with absolutely zero preparation whatsoever.
Before anything else
Make sure your résumé is an honest one. And no, not because God will strike you down for your absence of ethics. The reason for this is because you never know who is going to unabashedly fact-check your butt. Employers will either call your references, dig into your resume, try to catch you in a lie, or all three. So, if you have been honest, the truth will roll from off of your tongue like butter (read: don’t eat butter), but if you are lying, it is easy to trip up on your lies.
Don’t lie about any of these things: educational background, professional history or skills. Heck, don’t even lie about whether or not you like dogs. The boss might have a Yorkie, after all. Instead, showcase the skills that you do have, and things should go alright for you. Plus, lying is stressful anyway.
Your first job might be … first-job-like
That is to say, you should expect some grunt work. You don’t get to be outraged or indignant about this. After all, you have zero work experience. Therefore, you have no right to “deserve better” as so many people feel they do these days. Sometimes, in fact, all of the time, we have to pay our dues before we move onto something bigger and better. This is something many — especially millennials, it seems – have forgotten. So be humble and complete what is put in front of you, with enthusiasm and a strong work ethic! If it sucks… you might have to fake it until you make it!
W4? What’s a W4?
Before your first job, you should be sure to be aware of all the forms that you will come into contact with. Especially the W-4 form. This is the form that you will fill out at the beginning of your employment or anytime your financial situation changes so that your employer knows how much tax should be withheld from your paycheck. You should also have your ID and Social Security number handy for your W-4 needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either! Especially to the people in the Human Resources department. That is their job, after all!
Net versus gross
Gross income is what you earn before taxes, deductions and garnishments are taken out. You might make $5,000 a month in gross income, but if you pay $1,000 in taxes, $350 for health and dental insurance, and $500 in 401(k) deductions, your net income is $3,150 per month. Be sure you know and can compute the difference!
If your first job is at an office, then don’t go dressed looking as if you are the Billabong sponsor with fresh shades, a beanie and a tank top. Conversely, if you work at a coffee shop, the owner and manager probably will want you to look approachable. For this reason, it is probably not the best idea to be wearing a suit or tuxedo (read: never wear a tuxedo).
Prepare your direct deposit beforehand
Not only because it will be easy for you and more time-effective, but you will want to minimize all the possibilities for your competency to be undermined in the eyes of your manager or boss. Things like not knowing about all your forms is one way to undermine yourself. Another way to undermine your competency is to not have your direct deposit prepared. So, open up a checking account with a local or national bank or credit union and make sure you are able to be paid through direct deposit. You can also link a savings account and set up automatic savings transfers. Having a bank account will make the transition to full-time work easier. As for the savings account, let’s be honest, we all could stand to be saving more!
Know your commute time
If you drive, or take a bike, or roller skate, or ride a pony, or a dragon-like Daenerys Targaryen – it doesn’t matter. Just know how long it takes to arrive to work by each one of your rotating methods. If you fail to plan for commute time, you could risk being late during your first week, leaving a bad first impression. It’s another opportunity to look incompetent! Also. FYI. It is better to be too early than to be late. Always.
Two main qualities that every employer expects and desires from their new employee are positivity and professionalism. Especially true with a first timer, as their employment is essentially, for the employer, taking a leap of faith and sticking out their neck. You should be doing everything it takes to make your employer’s investment on you pay off, and make it so that your employer doesn’t regret taking a chance with you. Always do too much work rather than too little, and be too nice rather cynical. If someone treats you poorly, you should double-down on your kindness, not treat them in-kind. You can only lose by being petty and getting angry, defensive, or, dare I say it, making an attempt to undermine or embarrass them. Always take the high road. Keep your eye on the prize — your career.
Takeaway and looking ahead
Millennials should go into their first job with an open-minded, professional and positive attitude. They have a lot to prove, while those with whom they will work have less to prove. So always try harder, work longer and generally strive to be better. Lastly, always be forward-looking and ambitious. Always keep your long-term goals in mind. Without paving a road for yourself, how would you know in which direction to move, after all? Good luck!
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