Ask an Expert WORKPLACE / JAN. 02, 2017
version 8, draft 8

My first job isn't what I expected. What can I do now?

confused man looking at documents


I am very excited about the fact that I recently got a job as an accountant at a big firm. It is the kind of job I have always dreamt of having since I have finished school and there are many benefits to it; the pay is decent, and I am very lucky to have landed a job so quickly! Since I have started working for this company, however, I realised that things aren’t exactly the way I expected them to be.

My colleagues are way older than me, and I think that I am the youngest person in the office, which makes me feel like an outsider. I also didn’t get a warm welcome on my first day, and this made the situation worse.

Is this what working is supposed to be? To be honest, I am a bit disappointed because this is my first job and I am not sure if this is what I truly want to do. We work in an open-space office, but communication with other coworkers is limited, and for me it seems impossible. How can I handle this? Can you help? I just got the job, and I don’t want to give up on it too quick.

Kyriaki says:

You are right; giving up too early isn’t a solution, and it’s great that you want to give it another shot. First off, the transition from university to work is not an easy one, and people who tell you otherwise are lying. Usually, it takes a while to adjust to the new environment, and as such, you would expect to feel like you don’t belong in your new job. This is a common thing especially for recent graduates and people in their first job.

But, you don’t have to worry too much about it because there is always something that you can do to improve things at work.

What is that? Well, let’s find out…

Make Your Move

If your colleagues aren’t talking to you, who says you have to wait for them? Being one step ahead means going after what you need. Besides, do you really have anything to lose? From what it looks like, you have more to lose if you don’t talk to them. Making a move could start with something simple like asking your colleagues for help – or better yet, offering them your help.

Alternatively, you can approach them and find out what they are doing, what their role is in the company and what they are responsible for. These people can teach you how to do things and tell you what works and what doesn’t because they have been in the company longer than you have. So go ahead, introduce yourself to them and get their names. Who knows, in the near future you may need to work with them more closely. Once you feel that you know them well, you can suggest that you go out for drinks and get to know each other better.

Go the Extra Mile

You are the newest and possibly the youngest member of the team, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of that – well, at least not in the wrong way. There are plenty of things that you can do to prove your worth and gain more respect at work because this is what it seems that you lack right now. Besides every job comes with a certain amount of responsibility and you have to be able to support your boss and colleagues in any way possible.

If you want to make a strong impression and get yourself noticed, you will need to go the extra mile. You might want to consider doing the following:

  • Arrive early, leave late: Aren’t you happy that you finally got the job of your dreams? Then prove it. Be willing to take on additional work and job duties.
  • Smile and be friendly: It doesn’t matter if your colleagues are being rude to you, be friendly to them and the rest will come.
  • Stay professional: It’s important to set boundaries from the beginning to avoid getting into trouble and make sure that you dress appropriately for the job.
  • Listen carefully and ask questions: Show that you care about your job and the company and listen to what others have to say. Remember to ask questions because this is a sign that you have the willingness to learn more.

Doing all of this stuff might seem a bit overwhelming, but this is what’s going to get you out there and encourage others to want to get to know you better. It’s especially important at the beginning since it can also help to justify why you were chosen for the job.

Set Some Goals in Place

One thing is for sure. Doing nothing won’t change the situation that you are in. If you want things to improve at work, you will need to come up with a plan. In your case, it might not be so much about performing well - even though that’s important - but more so about bonding with the rest of the team. More often than not, however, these go hand in hand. So making sure that you are good at your job can also improve your relationship with your peers.

Since most employers set up a probation period for three months, you can create a plan that lasts three months to help you get some realistic goals in place. Here’s a suggestion:

1st Month:

During the first 30 days on the job, you are probably going to spend some time training until you learn what you need to do in your role. At the same time, you can find out more about the organisation – how it operates, what it does and how other departments work together to effectively provide a service.

2nd Month:

As soon as you start feeling more confident about your role in the company, you can start building relationships with your colleagues e.g. getting to know what they like, how they prefer to work. You can also look for potential mentors and plan to regularly ask for feedback from your supervisor. It’s important to have an open mind at work especially when talking with your boss and colleagues and to keep a constant eye on your progress.

3rd Month:

At this point, it might be worth researching the market, studying the best practices in the industry and finding out what you need to equip yourself with to become better at what you do. It might also be a good idea to test the efficiency of different processes and procedures that you are required to follow and make your own suggestions to the management. This can help you get your voice heard and initiate communication, helping to promote teamwork with the rest of the group.  

Finally, have you asked yourself why your colleagues aren’t friendly to you? Perhaps they feel the same way about you. The best thing to do is to give 100 percent to your job. It’s important to make an effort to get to know your new colleagues, but also to allow yourself some time to get used to what’s going on.

Hopefully, this has given you some tips and advice on how to cope with the situation. If you need help with anything else, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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