Pardon my absence. Four weeks ago, I began my first real job. This means I began waking up at 5:45 a.m. and getting home after 6 p.m. Add in dinner, exercise, laundry, and exhaustion and there’s not much wiggle room to write.
Maybe you’ve recently joined the work world too. In that case, you get how I feel. There’s a mix of job-offer ecstasy, butterflies of transition, and mild horror upon realizing that there’s no syllabus for this course, business casual means you need a new wardrobe, and you’ve got a lot to learn in order to keep up with your seasoned peers.
I haven’t mastered everything yet—just learned how to use the fancy printer this week!—but here are my do’s and don’ts for your first few weeks on the job:
- Get new shoes
Style matters but it’s also important that you can walk in your shoes. Take it from someone who got way too many blisters from her heels on the first day. Bring and apply Band-Aids at the first sign of friction.
- Set multiple alarms
You will never naturally wake up at 5:45 a.m. Set and respect your bedtime.
- Arrive fashionably early
Wardrobes malfunction and oatmeal bubbles over in the microwave. They just do. Give yourself some leeway and ensure you make it prepared and poised to your 8 a.m. by setting out your clothes out and packing your bags the night before.
- Be friendly
The first day is the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone and start developing friendships with the people you work with. Smile and introduce yourself! Invite others to lunch. It will be more awkward if you try to play catch-up later on.
- Ask the dumb, important questions
Here are some good ones: Where’s the bathroom? How do I book a meeting room? What about an online meeting room? Where do I empty my desk garbage can? Oh and do you happen to have an org chart? Slightly embarrassing, but crucial to get out of the way while you’re still considered new.
- Own your mistakes
Rather than hoping they go unnoticed, acknowledge mix-ups and swiftly correct them or integrate them into a more innovative solution.
- Meet with your leader to discuss objectives
You are still learning what the day-to-day of your new role entails, but doing this shows that you are proactive and want to succeed. At the very least, you can talk about upcoming projects, how it’s going so far, discuss your strengths, and get to know one another better.
8. Buy a lunch bag you can walk confidently with
If you can’t rationalize spending $40 on a Vera Bradley lunch bag but also don’t want to look like an intern by carrying the tricked-out kids Superman bag from Target (by far the coolest one there), go for a semi-cute, socially acceptable bag off Amazon.
<< Exhibit A
- Learn to cook chicken
Once you learn how to make chicken tasty and healthy, you can make several pieces at once and put them on top of salads, quinoa, pasta, or veggies. Voila: minimal preparation, tasty, healthy lunches all week long! You’ll get svelte by eating well, and also avoid spending what’s left of your after-tax paycheck.
- Get in a workout groove
I used to think adults who had “no time to exercise” were just lazy, but the struggle is real. My advice: pack your clothes and a snack, and go straight from work. If you can get up to go before work, God bless you.
- Start figuring out your finances
The time has come. Set up your Roth IRA and/or 401K and start contributing now. Compounding interest is your friend! Also begin thinking about what percentage of your income you can give away to church and other charitable causes.
- Be well, wherever you are
Studies show that prolonged sedentary time is associated with negative health outcomes regardless of physical activity outside of work. The more frequently and longer we incorporate light physical activity into our everyday routine, the better, for preserving our health and boosting our productivity. So take advantage of your company’s wellness program in addition to developing your own tactics for being healthy at work. Some suggestions: take the stairs; go for short walks during lunch; request a standing desk; bring an exercise ball to sit on; stand up and stretch for a few minutes each hour. When you do sit, sit up straight and throw in some leg extensions under your desk. Drink water, not coffee, all day long. Get outside during lunch and give your eyes a rest from screens. Eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day. Smile and be positive! Get to know people.
- Put it in perspective
If you’re like me, it can be hard to leave work without finishing everything to the best of your ability. Prioritize the tasks and projects that are most important, and realize perfection isn’t attainable. Your job is part of your life, not your whole life. Tomorrow is another day to get things done. Stay committed to other activities that matter to you and engaged in relationships with friends and family.
- Make the most of traffic
Rather than hating all of the people who are, like you, just trying to get to or from work, listen to Ben Rector’s “Brand New” album. The song “Crazy” will spot-on capture your new life! You might also listen to Christian music, try the free You Version Bible app, or read books on tape via the Audible app or your Kindle on read-out-loud mode.
There’s a lot going on. And change is hard. Thank God for your new opportunity to grow and ask that He will see you through this transition as smoothly as possible. He will help you to do your best in your new role, to glorify Him with the skills and talents He has given you, and above all, to stay calm and confident that He’s right there with you through it all.
Well there you have it: my survival guide for your first few weeks in corporate America. Let me know what you’ve learned from joining the work world as well!