Your first day on the job will be a lot like the first day of school. You’ll get all jittery and nervous the night before, agonize over what to wear, and hope to be well-liked by the people you’ll be spending so much time with from then on. The connections you form with coworkers are important in the working world; while you won’t be friends with everyone, the relationships you have with others will affect the environment you work in and your experience as a whole.
That being said, it can be a little tricky getting things off the ground with people when you first start working. Unfortunately, we all generally form judgments about people before we get to know them, because when you don’t know a lot about a person, you use what you do know to decide who they are. People will assume things about you throughout your career, especially in the beginning — and those assumptions won’t always be positive. You can do everything right and still end up making a less-than-ideal first impression.
To help you deal with this and stay true to who you really are, here are a few tips that have worked for me when it comes to overcoming common stereotypes at your first job.
What They’ll Judge: Your Age/Level Of Experience
If you’re starting a job right out of college, it’s likely you’ll be the youngest employee there. You can probably expect a lot of jokes about being the “office baby” and plenty of hearty laughter when TV, music, or movie references go over your head. This is all in good fun, but being young and inexperienced typically causes more than a few good-humored jokes.
Because youth is often associated with naiveté, coworkers may get the impression that you don’t know how to do, well, anything. They’ll hesitate to trust you with new projects because there’s no guarantee you’ll be good at what they ask you to do or even be able to finish the work on time. You may have had top grades in school and excelled in internships, but when it comes down to your first true work assignments, there’s going to be some level of doubt as to what your abilities are.
How To Get Past It: Excel And Ask Questions
No matter how anxious you are about doing things right, always remain cool on the outside. When assignments come, simply listen to the instructions, do the best you can, and ask questions when necessary. Don’t pay any attention to the fear in your head; concentrate only on the tasks at hand. The people you work with will love the fact that you’re asking questions because it shows that you care about doing things right. When you take on responsibilities with composure and confidence, people will start to relax more when giving you things to do. They’ll also listen to your opinions if you speak up and make sure your ideas are heard, even when it feels like no one is listening.
When it comes down to it, your attitude and level of maturity matter a lot more than how old you are or how old you look, and what you’re able to bring to your job outweighs the number of jobs you may have had previously. If you act the part, your colleagues will learn to trust you and your work before long. Keep pushing, little by little, until your voice becomes strong and well-known around the office. It may take some time, but soon you'll realize that people will believe in you as much as you decide to believe in yourself.
What They’ll Judge: Your Gender
Women have come so far and accomplished so much over the years (YAY US!) but for some reason, women continue to be seen as weaker and less aggressive than men in work settings. Whether it’s explicitly expressed or not, there are situations in which men are given more opportunities than women solely based on gender and the idea that the man is more likely to be able to “handle it.”
It doesn’t help that we get a bad rap for being overly emotional. We are assumed to be melodramatic and to cause office drama, which implies that we don’t work as well with others and are less productive. Stack being a woman on top of being fresh out of college, and there’s a chance you won’t be taken very seriously when first starting out.
How To Get Past It: Own Being A Woman
Being a woman is something to celebrate. Being conscious and proud of who you are will help keep you grounded and help you to avoid acting in the negative way others expect you to. After all, it's your job to prove to small-minded coworkers just how professional and serious you are about your job.
At all costs, avoid office drama. It’s easy to get sucked in, especially when others provoke you, but you alone are responsible for what you do and how you let yourself be affected by things. Leave high school habits like gossiping and holding grudges behind — I mean, you’re not there to talk sh** anyway, you’re there to build a career. Let your inner power shine so bright that no one is able to ignore it. Take notes from the female role models in your life and own being a woman. No matter what their initial opinion of you is, soon everyone around you will view you as their equal, rather than the newbie chick.
What They’ll Judge: Your Education
At some point, coworkers or supervisors will ask about your degree or where you went to school, and then they will use it as a way of defining who you are. Personally, I've been asked about my education many times after meeting a superior, and each time, my answer was met with furrowed brows or slow, vacant nods. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, and I didn’t graduate with a Master’s degree or PhD. I was, and still am today, the only writer in my department who doesn’t have at least a Master’s.
This hasn't heavily affected my ability to do my job — and it probably won't affect yours, either. But there were a few times when people were hesitant to grant me projects, promotions, or new opportunities simply because the people around me were better qualified on paper than I was.
How To Get Past It: Show 'Em What You're Workin' With!
It's important to make people understand that you're just as smart, hardworking, and persistent as anyone else, and to show that your degree, or lack of one, doesn't define you or the amount of knowledge you're capable of. I had to prove that I could do things well and that there was a lot more to me than my resume.
Once you're given an opportunity, do everything you can to make sure the people who hired you can be proud they did. After all, they hired you for a reason. You may spend a little more time researching and learning on the job than others, but that’s okay. Work and carry yourself in such a way that shows you're proud of what you've accomplished. Hold your own and prove that you can do great things, even if you don’t have a big Alma Mater backing you up. Your degree does not define your intelligence. Your work, your words, and your actions do. Accept now that you’ll have to work hard to get where you want to be, and then continue working hard to stay there. Decide that you can and will prove your own worth, then do it. Be the cream…and rise.