When you're just out of college, having spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on your education, you probably have a vision in your head about what your professional life will be like. I know that for me, I thought that I would land a great job right off the bat and that my boss would be amazed and feel lucky to have found someone so amazing to work for them. I pictured rapid advancement and even more rapid salary increases. And really, how could I not? After all, I watched television and there were plenty of people with successful careers and lavish lifestyles on almost every show, and they never seemed to work very hard at their jobs.
What I didn't consider was that they are actors, who work very hard at their job - acting. A musical montage and a couple clips of working hard over a week or two doesn't turn puny wimps into karate superstars. It's all lies. For most of us, our first experience in the corporate world was eye-opening and dream shattering. The truth is that the workplace doesn't really have much in common with what we see on the big screen. In the real world, you'll work hard and still not get credit for it sometimes and other times, you'll have opportunities given to you that you don't deserve. It's just one of those truths that no one ever tells you about.
Here are 10 other things I wish I knew when I started my career:
- The career you have in mind when you start college or technical school isn't the job you're going to end up with - at least in most cases.
- A large portion of your day will be spent doing nothing or just trying to look productive.
- Even if it's never happened before, you will seriously embarrass yourself at at least one office party.
- The movie "Office Space" is funny because it's true.
- Trusting co-workers with personal information is almost always a bad move.
- There are more important things in life than your career. For most of us, a job is a means to an end.
- The 401K plan that your company offers is a great idea. In fact, most companies offer matching contributions. If you are young and new to the workplace, it's the very best time to get started.
- Some offices are just like high school. They are filled with some cliques and even have the token jock and mean girl.
- Always take a lunch break. You don't get bonus points for eating at your desk while you work and you make everyone else look bad. A lunch break will make you more productive and help keep you sane.
- Networking isn't something you do only when you are looking for a job. It's the most important thing you can do throughout your career.
It's really a much smaller world than you think. Your reputation is the most valuable tool you have.
What things do you wish you had known when you first started your career? Please share your thoughts in the comments.