Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What were the best things you learned in your first job? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
My first job was at a management consulting firm. Though I did not particularly enjoy these two years, I learned a lot of things that have been helpful as my career has progressed.
- Early on, attitude matters as much or more than actual output.No one likes working with an a**hole, even if they are good. Sure if you are extraordinary you can get away with it, but most of us aren’t THAT good at any one thing. (say like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Alex Rodriguez)
- Until you are the CEO, regardless of your job title or job description, your actual job is to make your boss/supervisor’s life easier. The sooner you realize it’s about them, and not you, the smoother things will be
- Take performance reviews with a grain of salt, they will never be perfectly accurate – as with all things, there is human bias and irrationality built into the system. You are not as good or as bad as whatever your review explicitly says. Use whatever you get as feedback, that you can process and choose whether or not you want to make those changes.
- Attention to detail matters a lot, so learn to be detail oriented, even if that’s not your normal mode of operation. Because in groups of humans, it’s all about building trust. Having checked everything twice, and being really on top of your game is the easiest way to built that trust over time with people you don’t know that well.
- Be a net adder of energy to a room, not a net removed of energy. It almost always pays to be positive, even when disagreeing.
- No amount of money is worth being bored. If you aren’t engaged with what you do, switch it up unless you have some family obligations you can’t get out of.
- When you start off your work will mostly consist of 100% stuff you don’t necessarily want to do. As you get more senior and earn more trust, you earn the right to take on work/jobs that have a higher % stuff you like doing/enjoy and a lower % stuff you don’t like doing but have to do
- Culture fit/match is a big deal, you can be a total stud in one setting and a total dud in another, even while acting exactly the same. Be honest to yourself in looking for a culture in which you would enjoy working – For those of you that are very anti doing thing’s anyone else’s way, start something yourself!
- If you don’t tell your coworkers or boss what you want, they have no way of knowing. By just accepting all status quo, you are implicitly saying you are ok with the way things are. But be respectful and thoughtful when you do it, not entitled or greedy.
- You won’t figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life from your first job. (some people do, but it’s rare). Instead focus on A/B testing in your own life – try to absorb all the things you experience and figure out what you enjoy, what you don’t enjoy, what type of people you like working with, etc. Use the first job to get exposed to as many variations as possible, so you can make better choices going forward.