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10 Things I Learned Working as a Young Professional


You did it. You’ve revamped your resume into near Shakespearean form, you nailed your interview and you landed the job you’ve been pining for since you started your undergrad. Congratulations!

But now what? Believe it or not, this is just the beginning. There’s a lot of work to be done. The next little while will teach a lot about yourself and the nature of humankind. This I can guarantee you. While I’m grateful for the opportunities provided to me by the co-op program at uOttawa, it has not been easy, and my experiences have been all over the map. I’ve fought through questionable managers, overwhelming workloads, those co-workers everyone just barely tolerates, and I would like to share with you what these experiences have taught me.

By no means am I saying that I’ve seen it all, or that I’m the messiah of the young professional world. These are just a couple of things I have picked up over the last couple years that I feel I didn’t know when I entered the world of professional development. I can only hope that they might help you down the road. 

1. Say yes and figure it out later. There will come a time when you will be asked to do something that you have never even heard of before. When this opportunity comes, just agree to do it. Opportunity you ask? This seems more like a career-ending death sentence you may think. In reality, this is one of the best ways to learn. Whether you are in a meeting and get asked for information you do not have or whether you are asked to make your first pivot table in Excel, the last thing you need to say is these situations is “no” or “I don’t know.” Instead, say “yes”, or “I’ll get back to you later.” The key part is to walk away and start googling. Google every possible key word about the assigned task. 99% of the time this will not answer all your questions, but what it will do is allow you to gain an understanding of how to do something and go back and ask the correct, targeted questions without taking up another person’s time. Resourcefulness: this is how you develop marketable skills. 

2. Don’t be afraid to say no. This might be counter intuitive to the previous point, but there also comes a time when you need to say no. There are managers, and even fellow employees who will try to take advantage of the fact that you are young and eager. If you get asked to do something you are not comfortable with, do not hesitate to stand up for yourself. The same goes for if you feel like someone is asking too much of you or you have enough on your plate. Although, it might be more mutually beneficial to negotiate deadlines or delegate work in the latter of these cases.

3. Working a bad job under good management trumps working a good job under bad management. This is by no means a universal statement. Do not settle for doing something you completely and utterly hate. The key message here is to work for someone who appreciates what you do. You do not want to be stuck in what at first seems to be your dream job  working under someone who controls all aspects of your work, does not delegate you work, or emotionally barrages their employees. In some of these cases a compromise may be reached with a simple conversation, but sometimes you can’t change people. However, good managers will delegate you work, ensure you’re busy, and take into consideration your opinions and innovations to make sure you are occupied and satisfied with your work. 

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You got hired because you are the best fit for the job, not because you know everything you need to do the job. Everyone needs help once in a while, and you would be surprised how eager people are to provide that help. Just be sure not to ask about every little thing; this can be annoying and can make your employer second guess their decision to hire you. Be resourceful, build on the skills you already have, and use the tools provided to you.

5. Make friends and find common ground. The struggle is so much better when it’s shared. This is why it’s important to find someone you identify with beyond water cooler conversation or a quick hi in the hallway. You will want to have an ally who you trust to share office gossip, discuss shared perceptions, and generally just catch up on your weekend with. It makes the office a lot more personable and comfortable. You also need a break once in a while and having someone in close proximity to go to lunch or coffee with is definitely a plus.

6. Go to events and get involved. This is important for networking and keeping your head on straight. You will probably be in one organization for a lot longer than you’re used to in school without a change in classes and peers every semester. Events, fundraisers, internal networks, these take the place of extra-curricular activities and give you something to do and people to see outside of your run of the mill daily work and the people on your team.

7. Take every opportunity presented to you. Again, take this with a grain of salt. But much like the point on saying yes and figuring it out later, if you are presented the chance to do something you have never done before, or something that will help you build your career, do it. If it means you’ll be taking on an extra workload for a couple weeks, it’s probably worth it. By no means should you exert yourself too much, but you never know where something unexpected might lead, especially if it’s something that you never even considered.

8. Widen your skill set. As a young professional you have to remember that you are here to learn and further your career. Don’t be afraid to ask to do specific things that interest you, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and most importantly, if you know something specific within your workplace interests you then be sure to ask if you can focus on developing that specific aspect. You’ll be surprised what you can learn when you are open to gaining a breadth of understanding.

9. A lot of work is better than no work. Trust me, being busy with sub-par work is better than being stuck doing the bare minimum or nothing at all. Being busy at work makes the day go by a million times faster. Sitting around and wasting your day staring mindlessly at the screen might as well be a death sentence. The sentence “you’re so lucky, you get paid to do nothing,” is something you never want to hear from friends or coworkers. Getting paid to sit there and try to keep yourself busy is tedious. Sure, a break is nice from time to time, but do try to fill your time with something that will benefit you and the company. 

10. “Don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thang.” Kevin G said it best. At the end of the day make sure you’re happy doing what you’re doing and don’t lose yourself in the process. If your work can’t appreciate who you are, it might be time to look into moving on.

So here you are. Good luck on your new journey, and please share your experiences with the HerCampus community! 


Picture References

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