10 mistakes young Indians make on their first job
Sanket Dantara, author of From Cubicles 2 Cabins: A survival guide to your first job talks about the ten mistakes that we make on our first job.
Your first job is what gets you set for a long and fulfilling career ahead. Fresh out of college, eager to race ahead and make it big, you often overlook some small but nevertheless important items. Some mistakes can be costly some not. Here are some of the most grievous mistakes that young Indians make on their first job.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh and Dominic Xavier
Running after the moolah!
It is easy to get starry eyed with your pay package and dream about all the things you would be able to do with the extra money. No more asking for pocket money from parents, the independence, the freedom. But in this don't forget your long term objectives. The job which pays you the most right now might not be the best thing for you.
So think from a long term perspective. Once you have spent enough years doing one kind of work (not necessarily in the same company), you will be type casted and your next job will be in a similar setting unless you get another degree or start again at the bottom rung. So for your first job don't go after the job which pays you the most today, but think about what suites your skills, capabilities and interests. Go for the job with the maximum learning potential that complements your capabilities and skills and the money will follow.
Image: Don't run after money
Not sticking it out
In most cases, your first assignment will not be rocket science! You will not be researching the next wonder drug or developing the next smartest smart phone or cracking a huge deal. You will in all probability spend your initial days doing tit bits of routine, low end work. Your desk will be the magnet for all grunt work! This is a big let down for a lot of people. You would have been a topper of your class, but in the corporate world you are still a newbie.
You have to do the rounds, learn the tricks of the trade before you get the cream. A lot of people get disappointed by this and switch to a new job instead of sticking it out. Trust me, your next job will be no different. You can't escape this. You have to go through the grind once. Stick it out for at least one annual cycle if not longer. That is the minimum it takes you to figure out the real deal. By switching too soon, you miss out on the opportunity to get to the real work besides having nothing really worthwhile to show on your CV
Image: Learn to climb the ladder of success slowly and patiently
Being afraid to ask for help
No matter how much you know and what your background is, there will invariably be instances when you get stuck and don't know how to proceed. There may be things you don't know how to do, where to start even. The biggest mistake new comers make is to keep going at it without asking for help.
Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know' don't be shy of using the two words 'Please help'.
Remember you only have to ask and ye shall receive. Your seniors, team mates, work colleagues will be willing to lend you a helping hand if only you ask. Trust me, you will not be perceived as dumb or stupid. Everyone understands that you may not know everything so ask for help. So don't struggle alone, find mentors, ask for help.
Image: Don't be afraid to ask for help
Failing to watch your posts
In today's increasingly digitized world, it is easy to share every minute detail with your contacts via status updates and tweets. Even though you have not added your boss as a friend, but you don't know who is going to read it. Anything that goes online, stays online (residing in someone's cache or some server's backup) even if you delete it later.
So if you have to rant about your boss, or think you are stuck in a shitty job, refrain from posting it on social networking sites. Your boss may not read it, but your potential employers might or some friend of yours might like or share your update and you never know who it reaches. So be careful of what you share or say on public forums, social networking sites and your own blog.
Image: Watch what you post online
Being an island
The biggest asset you will develop while at work besides the monetary kind is your network. The people you work with, the clients you talk to, the vendors whom you employ are all potential doors to your next job, your next assignment. So while you are fighting it out with your colleague in the next cubicle to get that A or 5 on your appraisal, don't forget to forge good relationships.
Don't be an island.
Network and cultivate not only good working relationships but also genuine friendships. In the rat race, we often forget about this aspect and end up isolating ourselves. So while a little competition is good to heat things up and get you in the flow, don't be too competitive. And don't forget the gatekeepers, the assistant, the office boy, the liftman. They can open more doors for you than you can think.
Image: Reach out to people. Don't isolate yourself
Missing the point
While you are too focused on getting your job done, don't miss the big picture. Take time to ask how what you do fits in the grand scheme of things. Don't be too rigid about your job description. If occasionally you have to do work that goes beyond your job description, do it with enthusiasm.
This is your opportunity to show case your other skills and talents to your superiors. This is your chance to get some diversity on your CV, to get some experience that goes beyond your routine work and a good chance to get noticed. At the same time don't go overboard with it. Don't do everything extra that gets thrown your way at the expense of your regular responsibilities. Know where to draw the line.
Image: It's easy to miss the point. Don't
Failing to CYA
Whether you like it or not, office politics is a reality. The extent differs from office to office but its there at all levels. And whether you like to play it or not, you are in it. So failing to understand when you are being taken for a ride and not being able to cover your ae (CYA) when put in a spot for no fault of yours is one mistake you don't want to make.
Don't get me wrong. I am not saying you cover up your mistakes. If you make a mistake, own up, take a rap, correct it and get moving but don't be a scapegoat for someone else's mistake. Document your work, have approval emails saved, be careful what you put in writing.
Mind your water cooler conversations, be careful what you say to whom and use your own common sense before taking any grapevine seriously and acting on it. Seen the movie Corporate? Need I say more?
Image: Watch what you say before you end up in a soup
It's your first job, you still haven't seen enough, but that shouldn't stop you from planning your career. You may like to wing it, and take things as they come. This will seem a very good strategy now, but 5 or 7 years down the line you may regret it or if you are lucky maybe not. But why leave it to luck alone?
Understand your capabilities, your skills, your strengths and weakness. Figure out where your interests lie and take a call on your dream job. Then work towards it. Not to say that this plan has to be set in stone, it can and will change as you progress but have a broad outline in place. This will help you work towards getting the right kind of experience, building the correct skill sets and most importantly keep you alert to the right kind of opportunities which will get you where you want to be.
Image: Figure out where your interests lie and take a call on your dream job.
Not getting it done
In the workplace, timing is everything. There is no excuse for incompetence. 'Sorry the dog ate my homework' kind of excuses won't work. If you have been given a deadline, take it seriously and get it done well in time. If it means putting in extra hours, do it. Remember that unlike in grad school, a low grade on one assignment matters here.
Don't expect to get a free lunch. If you think the deadline is unrealistic, by all means approach your boss and seek guidance but do it in a professional manner. If you have too much on your plate and can't prioritise, don't be afraid to ask you boss to help you prioritize but not getting your work done in a timely and professional manner is not going to get you far.
Image: Not delivering is the worst mistake you can commit on your first job
Seeking immediate success
Unless you are very lucky or born with a silver spoon, chances are that you will not instantly become a top shot. There is no shortcut to success and the long cut is often filled with potholes and speed bumps. So be patient and give it time. Give it your best shot but be prepared for failure.
Set your expectations right! Very often, it is the first job which is an eye opener. Fresh out of college, we have high hopes and expectations which is good, by the way, but becomes a dampener when things don't go as we had hoped. So set your expectations right and be prepared for a few let downs. And if you do become a big success overnight, do remember to be modest and, don't burn bridges. You never know who you will need on your way down.
Sanket Dantara is the author of From Cubicles 2 Cabins: A survival guide to your first job. Visit his blog to know more. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Life isn't a party. Getting to the top will take a while.