In a survey conducted by Graduate Careers Australia in 2017, 72% of recent graduates found full-time work immediately after graduation. So, if you’ve recently graduated, it’s more than likely that you’ll be in a full-time role by the end of the year. “Hooray,” you might say to yourself. Followed by “crap” as the anxiety kicks in.
Starting your first job can seem a lot like learning to swim — you’re thrashing about, taking short breaths, and feeling out in the cold. It certainly felt like this for me when I landed a role as a Digital Marketing Assistant at LEP Digital, a digital marketing agency, in January. Hell, I’ve only just had my graduation ceremony at UNSW! In my first week in my first real world job, I realised that it was time to trade in splashing around in the kiddies pool and head straight to the diving board. Having just passed my probationary period with flying colours, I’m here to share some practical strategies for keeping your head above water in those daunting first few weeks.
Learn to let go
As a University student, there’s a fixed to-do list that’s designed by someone else. If you were anything like me as a student, you worked in a linear fashion: typing away tirelessly on one project until it was done before moving onto the next. There was no deviation from this method: mixing my Marketing courses with my International Relations topics made my brain go fuzzy. Here in the real world, that fixed to-do list needs to be A LOT more flexible. Working in agency-side, for example, it will be regular occurrence to receive time-sensitive tasks that weren’t on your schedule for that day or that week. No day is the same, and you need to prepare yourself for the unexpected.
In the wise words of Mariah Carey, “letting go ain’t easy”, but in a fast-paced business, it’s crucial to learn how to manage competing deadlines and tasks. My tip? Assess your deadlines, create a list, and rank tasks in order of importance.
Don’t forget to do a little happy dance when you eventually tick that job off your list, but be prepared for it to pop up again, or be replaced by a bigger and more time consuming task. Worklife in an agency means new tasks coming in all the time, meeting with new clients from new industries, and a very movable to-do list. It’s both scary and exciting, but soon enough it’ll become second nature for you.
Asking questions is golden
You’ve probably heard the saying “silence is golden”, right? Sure, that may be true if you’re a run-off-your-feet Mum with three children under the age of four, but from the perspective of a graduate in the workforce, I challenge this notion. Asking questions is critical to gaining the knowledge you need to do the job you were hired to do.
Now, when I say this, I don’t mean you have to ask about everything all the time. Here at LEP Digital, one of our values is to “always learn”. This means being proactive about finding solutions to problems, which is an important skill if you want to succeed. In my industry, it’s also important to keep up with changing aspects of the digital marketing world. So, continuously learning helpful tips and tricks from relevant and credible sources, including your colleagues, is essential.
When asking for help, taking the right approach can define you as an employee who has the ability to work independently and rest on their own knowledge, but is humble enough to turn to their superiors for wisdom. Use the knowledge you have to source ideas and potential answers to your questions, so when you do you bring it to your boss, they see initiative and drive.
And remember, Google is your friend. It has been with you throughout your entire University journey and it still is. Google won’t leave you. Google understands. Treat your brain like a sponge and it will have positive effects on the quality of your work in the future.
Don’t expect perfection, but strive for it
… and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach it. Instead, accept that you tried your best and now have new knowledge on what not to do next time. Working life is about producing your best work to benefit yourself and the company you work for. Always put your best foot forward, but understand the balance between creating awesome content, and pushing yourself too far.
And, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Getting constructive feedback is a great way to learn new insights and skills and make better connections with your team. You don’t always have to go to your boss; I’ve picked up some great skills from my team simply because they’ve been working longer than I have.
This tip seems very simple and self-explanatory, but you’ll be surprised at how many students (*cough* me *cough) underestimate how long it truly takes to learn and master something. Resilience and patience are your greatest tools in this case. It takes time to understand concepts and practise in getting them just right. Remember that you’re allowed to have some leeway. Even the best movies on Netflix need some buffering time. #wisdom
Is the workforce for you? (Short answer: Yes!)
Like anything in life, the process of becoming accustomed to something takes time. Take it all in your stride and learn as much as you can. University seemed like the be all and end all during your 3am energy drink induced writing extravaganza, and now it’s merely a set of memories in photo albums and a constant reminder to not mix tequila and vodka ever, ever again.
You’ll always have good days and bad days at work, but the end result is definitely worth it. Think of the open days off, the path to financial freedom, and the goals you can meet now that you don’t have study looming over your head. My goals of getting a new car and buying 100 tacos are so close, I can just taste the bills from the mechanic and the spicy chipotle. Starting your career fosters your independence and ultimately sets you up for a rewarding life. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.
Have a little faith and enjoy the journey, you’ll be planning your weekend by Wednesday just like the rest of us in no time (kidding, sorta).
Are you looking for your big break?
Are you interested in getting a taste of sweet-sweet post University life? LEP Digital is looking for a creative, digitally-savvy and eager student completing their final year of study in Marketing, Communications or a similar course. The position will be one day a week for three to six months, with the opportunity of a role at the end (#omg). This internship isn’t about coffee runs and thumb twiddling. Instead, you’ll be engaging in brand and market research and planning, creative writing, social media scheduling and more. Expect regular team lunches, actual conversations by the water cooler, a bunch of new skills to take with you into the workforce, and the odd corny joke or two from some awesome co-workers… (if I do say so myself.)
If this sounds like the gig for you, we’d love to hear from you. Shoot through an email with your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org and wait for the intern(al) magic to happen.
We can’t wait to meet you grasshopper. Sensei (and former fellow panicked student) out.