5 Things I Learned At My First Job Out Of College

For four years (or more for many of us), we couldn’t wait to get into the real world. “I can’t wait to wear those heels I bought at TJ Maxx for no reason,” we’d dream. But postgrad work isn’t exactly the casual coffee breaks and sassy happy hours we all hoped it would be. Thanks, cable tv. While my personal situation may be very different (I graduated into working for the government), it is so important to be evaluative of yourself and your circumstances in order to properly succeed and also prepare for your future. For you seasoned employees giggling at my entry-level naiveté, enjoy!

1. I don’t know it all.

It occurred to me on my first day that I didn’t know squat. When I was a senior in college, there was a sense of confidence and security. But college can be a bubble, a false sense of reality. Transitioning into a corporate setting was a smack in the face that reminded me “You’re just getting started, kid!” Instead of sulking about being the noob, I asked questions about computer programs I’d never used, acronyms that didn’t sound familiar and the hierarchical organizational structure that seemed so foreign to me.

Advice: Don’t be too shy to ask questions. Accept the bountiful knowledge your superiors have, even if they don’t know how to copy/paste in Word.

2. I have a lot to offer.


Although I don’t know it all, I know something. Because of the era in which I grew up, I have knowledge of technology that seems brilliant to some of my coworkers. Although I was never boastful about my skills, I made sure they were known at the right time. If a coworker was struggling with a spreadsheet, I casually offered advice or help. Soon, when someone was having trouble with Microsoft Office, I was the go-to gal. Things I never thought would set me apart, really benefited me here.

Advice: Make sure your confidence is not cockiness. No one wants help from the know-it-all. After all, they could Google it. Take pride in the skills you have, even if they seem like second nature to you.

3. Everyone wastes time at work.


Spending eight or more hours in front of a computer can be hard on the eyes, painful on the tush, and bad for the brain! Once the excitement of a new job died down, I found myself thinking about other things while at work – laundry, bills, weekend plans, that new movie coming out. I overheard recreational conversations, noticed people huddling around the copier, and could almost hear the Candy Crush Saga theme on phones. But productivity wasn’t down. In fact, we were doing quite well. Everyone needs a little bit of an outlet. Read up on the interesting history of the 8-hour work day!

Advice: Don’t waste time. Spend it doing something constructive. Use that extra five minutes before beginning a task to make a list of groceries or to make dinner plans. Be productive.

4. Drama did not end in high school.


The workplace just might have even more drama than high school did. Can you believe it? With all the different personalities coming from different educational backgrounds, drama is bound to work its way in and infect the office.

Advice: Remain neutral. Try not to get involved. Do not to contribute to drama.

5. A smile goes a long way.

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I’m not exactly the most chipper person around, but I do smile often, even when I’m having an off-day. I realized smiling helps when a coworker asked me, “Did you finish that contact list?” I replied, “Not yet, but I’m almost done.” His silence was unnerving, but he followed with, “I’ll let you get away with it this once because you’re the only person who smiles at everyone in the hallway.”

Advice: Smile…even when you want to murder everyone around you. A smile says a lot about your attitude as an employee, a coworker, a subordinate, or a leader. People like happy people, even if the happy people are dying inside.

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Camille is living and working in W.Va. while debating going to grad school. She enjoys watching any NY team lose, cooking on the cheap, and living vicariously through her undergrad boyfriend.

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