Getting your first internship, job placement, or job after finishing your degree is a big deal. It’s likely to be a great opportunity, and a steep learning curve.
Here are some tips to make it as successful as possible.
Get Prepared –
Before starting, check with your supervisor or manager if there is any preparation you should do, such as any relevant reading that will help you to hit the ground running. This question will also demonstrate your willingness and interest to your new bosses, helping you to make a good early impression.
Introduce yourself –
If you haven’t yet met the person or people who will be your supervisor or manager, make an effort to get in contact to introduce yourself – a quick phone call or email will go a long way. It will also help you to feel some sense of familiarity with them on your first day. Once you start, make an effort to meet and introduce yourself to as many of the people you’ll be working with as possible. Ask them about their role in the organisation, and you’ll probably find a few excellent ‘go to’ people for any questions or issues you have.
Take opportunities to observe –
One of the biggest opportunities of being new is the chance to observe others. Often after you are qualified there are significantly fewer of these opportunities, so make the most of them. Observing different people will help you to identify different styles, and therefore help you to find your own style. When we are starting out, many of us feel like there is “one right way” to do things, and we have to do it exactly the way our supervisor does it. The more different styles you see, the more you will realise that there are often several equally good ways to get to the same outcome.
Be prepared to feel out of your depth –
There’s a big jump between academic learning and applying that knowledge in practice, especially when there is a real client or patient in front of you. It’s entirely normal to feel out of your depth and to leave work feeling exhausted many days! Make sure to think about how you can learn from any mistakes, and be open to feedback you receive. Try to remember that you are not your work, making a mistake or doing something silly does not make you a bad or incompetent person.
Ask for help –
Also know that asking for help is OK. If you are feeling unsure, ask someone with experience whether what you’re planning on doing sounds about right. When asking for help and advice try to come up with a plan for what you think you would do, and then check your thinking with your supervisor or someone senior. This approach will not only be better for your learning but will also demonstrate your initiative and that you have ideas about what to do even if they’re not perfect.
Take responsibility –
If you make a stuff up, own it. We all make mistakes, and others – especially those senior to you – will cut you more slack if you accept your mistakes. Trying to justify or excuse, or even argue that no mistake was made, will likely make the situation worse. It is OK to say that you didn’t realise it was a mistake at the time, but now that you do, apologise and try to learn from it. If you do not understand how or why it was a mistake, ask with genuine openness to learning. You might try a sentence like “I really want to understand what I could have done better. Can you tell me what you would have done differently in that situation?”.
Take care of yourself –
Placements and first jobs are typically demanding, and most of us are keen to prove ourselves. In some industries it is also common for recent graduates to be expected to work very long hours. All these expectations can be a recipe for wearing yourself out. Make sure to prioritise some time to eat well, sleep enough, exercise, and relax. The earlier you start these healthy habits, the easier it will be to continue them throughout your career.
Finally, enjoy the experience! You’ve worked hard to get here, so celebrate that success.