10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Stepping Into The Workforce

GIRLS / Amazon.com
GIRLS / Amazon.com
I have just resigned from my job of one and a half years. Looking back, I realize I would have been much better off had I known these 10 things before starting my job:

1. Watch out for colleagues who badmouth the people closest to them.

While it may be fun listening to juicy gossip about someone’s life during lunch, you need to stay far away from these types of people.

If they are capable of badmouthing the people closest to them in their lives, what makes you think that they won’t badmouth you as soon as you walk away?

If they are capable of saying such horrible things about the people they live with, then what about you, a mere colleague?

2. Learn to differentiate between being determined and being plain stupid.

I believe many of us are willing to work hard in order to show our worth. But at what expense? I was once asked to work late at night and ended up getting a call from my family informing me that my uncle was in critical condition in the ICU and might not make it through the night. I was asked to pay him a final visit, but at the same time, my boss was also asking me to complete a certain task to meet our deadline that night. I was torn. I wanted to show that I was willing, determined and hardworking, all of which I would be able to show my boss that night as it was quite an important deadline for us and I was the only one helping him. But for that moment, I stepped away and thought, if I were to miss seeing my uncle for a last time, I would never forgive myself.

So, for YOU out there, choose wisely. Step away from the situation and weigh it carefully. Many things in life are important, but not THAT important.

3. Don’t get too close to your bosses.

As I’ve mentioned, I believe we all have it in us to want to be the best we can be at work. That includes wanting to please everyone and make everyone like you. But be warned — this could also be a trap!

Being too familiar with your bosses often leads them to believe that they can use you however they want, whenever they want. They’ll dump you with all the unwanted jobs and get you to clean up after someone else’s sh*t just because they know that “you won’t mind,” and even if you do, that usually doesn’t stop you.

Similarly, becoming too buddy-buddy with your bosses can result in a lack of respect for them. Which will, in turn, limit the amount you learn at work.

4. Stand up for yourself when due credit isn’t given.

Particularly in Asian countries, advocating for yourself has always had a negative connotation and is often linked to words like “arrogance,” “self-absorbed,” or even “rude.” The Chinese believe that self-praise is no praise. But that’s not always right. Sometimes, self-praise is all you need to get that promotion. One thing I noticed when chatting to my colleagues about the self-evaluation system is that females typically rate themselves at average or below average, while guys typically don’t think twice about giving themselves a high rating. Might explain why men, in general, get promoted more frequently than women.

Know that it’s OK to tell your bosses how awesome, hard-working, and dedicated you have been if that’s really the truth.

5. Always save your own ass.

The corporate world is complicated, cunning and ruthless. There are people who will do absolutely everything to protect themselves. And you should too. This doesn’t mean being ruthless, but just being aware of your surroundings. For example, always discuss work openly in front of other colleagues, CC the entire team in email chains, and save ALL of your emails!

6. Talk less, observe more.

Many fresh graduates enter the workforce with the mindset that they are going to make a bunch of life-long friends, just like they did in college. Possible? Yes. But does it happen all the time? No. Be friendly towards everyone but always be careful of the content and extent of your speech. Find the ones who are really worth getting to know, and invest time in them.

7. Beware of those who are extremely nice to you or others.

I once sat beside a girl who was bitching and cursing about her boss to another colleague. I was shocked that she was so vulgar in her speech, but was even more shocked when I witnessed her make a complete 180 when the boss she was talking about appeared in front of her. She suddenly became the most friendly and nicest person I’ve ever known.

It is a blessing to have nice colleagues, but do not be too naïve about making friends in the corporate world.

8. Don’t feel bad about leaving work early.

That is, if you know you’re being efficient. Particularly in Asian countries, people like to associate working long hours with being a hard worker. And maybe this is true for labor-intensive jobs where long hours usually translate to more end products. But typically, long hours don’t equal a hard worker. I once had a colleague who worked late every single day. As we started working more as a team, I realized that her hours weren’t because she was working harder than everyone else but because she was just being very, very inefficient during the day.

So if you know you’re efficient and you can finish your work on time — leave the office on time.
In the end, nobody can say anything if you’re consistently delivering your work. Let your work speak for itself.

9. Work for yourself, not your bosses.

Work because it feeds you (mentally and emotionally). Work because it is getting you closer to your dreams. Work because you love your job, but never work because you feel obliged to do so for your bosses.

Many young graduates when they first enter the workforce feel a sense of guilt if they do not repay their bosses’ kindness with assuming more work.

But the truth is, your bosses will one day disappoint you. If you work for yourself and yourself only, then times like this won’t change anything because the job is still ostensibly making you happy and getting you closer to your dreams.

10. You don’t always have to be the bigger person.

You don’t always have to tolerate. You have your own rights as a human being, no matter how low you are in the corporate scene. You have your rights to travel, to take leave, to take a day off when you’re sick, to take emergency leave when there’s an emergency, and to get sufficient sleep. The deadlines are always going to be there, and so are your rights as a human being. The only difference is, many can come together to meet the deadline, but only YOU can exercise YOUR right as a human being. TC mark

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