avigating the professional world for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, even completely terrifying at times. Most aspects of working full time might be new to young workers. Especially those who may have just recently graduated college, or for those who might be making the transition from a more temporary job to a salaried position.
Wherever you’re coming from, you’ll be in the same boat as every other young professional entering the workforce for the first time. There are many elements of working that are self-evident. You definitely want to be put together and friendly, and you absolutely want to establish good communication with your supervisor. And you always, always, want to show up on time.
However, when you’re just starting out in the workforce, there will probably be areas of your new professional life that you’re unfamiliar with. That’s where we come in. These tips are designed to help you keep in mind important parts of your budding professional career that you might not otherwise think of.
Keep reading for the best tips for young professionals starting out in the “real world.”
1. Know what you’re eligible for
Many full-time jobs offer additional compensation benefits beyond the paycheck that will hit your bank account every two weeks. These benefits might include health care assistance, 401(k) matching, and dedicated vacation time. While most employers are legally required to offer additional types of compensation for their employees if they work full-time hours, many might try to create boundaries that may make it difficult for you to access those benefits.
For example, an employer might set a date for when an employee needs to use their vacation days. If you’re not aware of when that date might be, you could potentially miss out on your vacation time. And that would be a tragedy.
To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your new job, you should be cognizant of the benefits that your new position has to offer. Speak to someone in Human Resources to go over what you're eligible for in terms of benefits either before the job begins or in the first few days of working.
The only person who loses from not getting your benefits is you.
2. Understand what the money will look like
The first time you get a salaried position is likely the first time you’ve ever seen a good paycheck. It’s an amazing feeling when the money hits your account every other week, and it’s an even more amazing feeling to see your hard work pay off in the form of cold, hard cash. (Or in a direct deposit, but you get what we mean).
With the growing number of zeros in your account, you may be tempted to blow your nice paycheck on things you don’t need—but don’t do it!
Of all the tips for young professionals, this is perhaps the most important one to keep in mind.
Before you even begin your new role, make sure that you know what your paycheck will look like and how you should responsibly divide the money in that paycheck. As an adult, you should (hopefully) be prioritizing saving money for the future while also taking care of your normal day to day expenses.
It might be a pain right now to spend a few hours working on your finances, but an older version of you will be eternally grateful.
3. Set boundaries early on
Starting a new job can be so exciting. You might be tempted to pour your entire life into that role, especially if it’s a role that you feel particularly passionate about.
But it’s important to set boundaries between yourself and your job.
You might want to work extra hours to stand out from the rest of your coworkers in order to secure a promotion down the road. Or maybe you just really, really love your new job. Whatever the reason, you could find yourself working around the clock.
And while that could be doable for a little bit, in the long run, you’re setting yourself up for major burnout.
Burnout isn’t fun for anyone, and it’s definitely something you want to avoid.
In order to set boundaries at work, make sure that you and your employer understand each other’s expectations. Try not to answer your email outside of normal work hours, and try to only take on projects you feel confident about completing in a timely manner (i.e., within working hours).
Sometimes setting boundaries can be difficult with an employer who expects you to be available 24/7. However, you should do your best to give yourself time away from work when you can.
Your free time is just as important as the time you spend working.
4. Start planning your career
With a new job secured, you’re probably not thinking too much about your next position, but you should.
Having a fulfilling career can take a bit of planning, and one of the best things you can do for yourself as a young professional is to take some time to think about where you’d like your career to go.
You might not be able to get a feel for your new job on the first day, but after a few months, you should understand the position and its expectations. Think about what your feelings are towards the role. Could you see yourself staying at your place of employment for the long term? Are you eying your supervisor’s position? Hate the job and want to do a total 180 to a different career?
Getting an idea of the direction you’d like your career to follow early on in your professional life is a great way to prepare for the future.
Knowing what you’re interested in and what you’d like to be doing for the long run can help you claim a sense of direction in your professional life to ensure that your job is working for you, too.
5. Stay out of work drama
This tip for young professionals is a big one. Drama is almost never a good thing, especially in the workplace.
It’s good to make friends with your coworkers if only to have a friendly face in the office, but if those friends bring drama, stay far away.
Drama in the workplace is like high school drama only worse. Because if problems escalate, you could lose your source of income which is (quite obviously) more serious than any consequences a fifteen-year-old might face. Drama is not worth getting involved in, trust us.
Do yourself a favor and stay a mile away from any workplace drama. You’ll thank us later when you keep your job and your sanity.
6. Find the planning method that works for you
If you attended university, you’re probably familiar with some type of planning for assignments. Maybe you loved it, maybe you hated it. But if you thought you could ditch the planner after graduation, we have bad news for you: having a planning system is absolutely essential to succeeding at work.
The good news is, you don’t have to keep up with that boring academic planner you rarely used. Keeping your workload organized can be done in so many different ways. From digital planners to color coding tasks, there are so many options to plan out your day.
Aside from figuring out a planning system that works for your actual work tasks, it’s also important to learn how to plan your days. If you figure out how to plan early on in your professional life, you’ll be much better off in the long run.
7. Ask lots of questions
It’s intimidating enough to begin a new job with a host of unfamiliar coworkers. You may want to keep to yourself and ask as few questions as possible. Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing is terrible, but everyone goes through it. So don’t feel inadequate if you’re asking questions. In fact, you should be asking tons of questions!
A new role likely requires you to learn a new set of skills in order to do your job correctly. Even if one of those new skills is simply understanding where the water cooler is in the break room or how to operate the printer correctly. Asking questions is a great way to familiarize yourself with your new role and the people who are around you, so make sure to speak up!
And if anyone tries to make you feel bad for asking questions, remember that they are the ones who should feel poorly, not you. Curious minds are always the ones who get farther in life than those who believe they know everything. It’s okay to ask questions—you’ll be better off for it!
Starting a new job can be stressful, but it can also be such an exciting new opportunity for growth and learning. But it’s also important not to get too caught up with the job and remember that you still have a life outside of work. Your mental and physical health should always come before a job.
If you keep these tips for young professionals in mind, you’ll be well on your way to success at work and beyond.